I had fun compiling my list of Thanksgiving pop culture moments, and as I was thinking about it, I realized there are many (many) more for Christmas. So, herein, my very favorite pop culture Christmas gems:
Beth Gets Her Piano (Little Women): If you can watch this scene without tearing up, you have no heart. It gets me every time – I think it’s mostly because of the way Claire Danes plays the scene. Her reaction is just so spot-on, overwhelmed and confused and overjoyed, all at the same time.
“Just In Cases” (Love Actually): Well, first of all, this scene involves Colin Firth, so that’s pretty much enough to merit inclusion right there. But, in case you weren’t convinced – I love how this scene builds up – how he goes to her home and she’s not there, and then he walks through town (trailed by random Portuguese family members and townsfolk), and then he goes to the restaurant and sees her standing upstairs. And then afterward, when he says, “You learned English?” and she responds, “Just in cases.” Perfect.
Pam’s Teapot (The Office): This was at the height of the heartbreaking Jim/Pam dynamic on the Office, and it was yet another one of those moments that was so lovely but at the same time so gut-wrenching. Basically, Jim draws Pam’s name in Secret Santa, and he gets her the most perfectly sweet gift, and then Michael messes things up (per usual) and turns it into a Yankee swap, and Dwight ends up with the teapot, and Pam has to trade an iPod to get it back, but she does (because we know that she secretly loves Jim, even though she might not know it yet) (and that was the most run-on sentence I’ve ever written).
In Excelsis Deo (The West Wing): The season 1 Christmas episode still gives me chills, particularly the last scene. The burial part is just executed perfectly, and then I love how, in the parallel scene, the senior staff lines up one by one to listen to the choir. Not shown in the video I linked is another great little moment – when Josh gives Donna, who has been bothering him the entire episode about getting her a present, a book with a sweet inscription in it. Great moment. (And man, did it take forever for those two to get together or what?!)
All I Want for Christmas Is You (Love Actually): This is sort of the big climax scene, where most of the characters come together at a children’s Christmas show. I love when they sing “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” because the little girl totally kills it. I mean, even better than Mariah, I think (sacrilege!). Anyway, I also love how the curtain comes up on Hugh Grant and his assistant making out, but not for the reason you think. What kills me is Alan Rickman’s reaction shot in the audience – cheering and whistling. I don’t know why, but I always find that so funny. Maybe because I always think of him as a serious, stuffy British actor, but in this scene he’s anything but.
The Reindeer Jumper (Bridget Jones’s Diary): Okay, I believe this scene technically takes place on New Year’s Day, but it’s still the holiday season so I’m counting it (plus, reindeer clearly equals Christmas). This is the moment that establishes Mr. Darcy as a complete dork, and even though he’s kind of jerk in this scene, you just know he’s going to turn out wonderful. I also love that this scene introduces Bridget’s propensity for extremely awkward over-sharing (“Was at a party in London last night, I’m afraid I’m a bit hungover…Wish I could be home with my head in a toilet like all normal people…”)
Exchanging Presents (While You Were Sleeping): I think this is one of the most underrated romantic comedies (and movies) ever. It stars a pre-fame Sandra Bullock, and I just love it, even though it has basically the cheesiest setup ever. I particularly love the scene where she goes over to the Callaghan family’s home to exchange Christmas presents. I think the look on Sandra Bullock’s face is just perfect – she doesn’t have any family of her own, and so she feels both happy and sad at being included in this family’s tradition. Also, Bill Pullman is really cute in this movie (which is not something I ever thought I’d say).
Phoebe’s Christmas Song (Friends): I think Friends truly excelled during its Thanksgiving episodes, but it had some solid Christmas moments too. Because I always love a good Phoebe song, I have to give props to her Christmas song. I also love how, in desperation because their names don’t rhyme with anything, she just does a crazy amount of mumbling after saying “Chandler and Rachel.” (Earlier, to Rachel: “Do you have a nickname? Did your dad ever call you, like, Budolph?”)
Tim + Dawn (British Office): It’s natural to draw comparisons between the British and American versions of the Office, but to me, their approaches are so different that I just like to view them on their own terms. The Christmas episode was the last of this show, and it just wraps everything up wonderfully – you think Tim and Dawn are going to have a bittersweet ending, and then she comes back, and it’s just amazing.
Somewhere in My Memory (Home Alone): How could I leave this movie off my list? For any child who grew up in the ’90s, this was the essential Christmas movie. In particular, I love the scene where Kevin goes to church and bonds with the shovel guy, who we learn is actually a nice man. In the background, a children’s choir sings “Somewhere in My Memory,” which is one of my favorite Christmas songs. So beautiful.
Turn on the Lights (New Girl): Yeah, this show is brand new, but I already love it. New Girl is the king (queen?) of funny situations turned unexpectedly poignant, and the Christmas episode was no exception. To cheer up Jess, Nick drove her through a neighborhood with great decorations. The only catch? It was 4am, so everybody had their lights turned off. The gang got out of the car and started yelling “turn on the lights” – and, wouldn’t you know, one by one, everyone on the street turned on their lights. And it was a lovely little moment. (And on a totally different note, this episode also gave us Schmidt as Sexy Santa. Love it.)
Index Card I Love You (Love Actually): Yes, this is my third Love Actually Moment on this list; what of it? Anyway, one of my favorite things about Love Actually is that it isn’t a romantic comedy where everyone winds up happily ever after – sure, some stories do, but plenty do not. This story is one of the ones that does not, and even though Mark and Juliet reach closure, it’s still sad. This scene, where he knows they can’t be together but still tells her how he feels (“because at Christmas, you tell the truth”) is impossibly romantic and terribly bittersweet.
(above photo collage from here)
Christmas Football (Miracle): This is another severely underrated movie. I love this scene because it captures the camaraderie among the players so well and I think it also captures how much the coach cares for them, even if he can’t always express it. Also, I love the Carter speech overlaid with them playing football. So nice.
Caroling for Abed (Community): I could have picked a moment from any of Community’s three Christmas episodes – season one’s Christmas fight was great, and season two’s claymation Christmas was the epitome of brilliance. But I give the prize to season three, when the gang arrives at Abed’s apartment, singing a carol and preventing him from spending the holiday alone. An unexpectedly sweet moment, and one made all the more poignant by the fact that the show is on indefinite hiatus now (sob.)
What are your favorite Christmas pop culture moments?