Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas.” Freeform’s “25 Days of Christmas.” What do both of these iconic television events have in common? Christmas movies galore.
Santa Claus by George Albert Smith is considered the first Christmas movie, released in 1898. Little did Smith know, he started film trend of creating movies all about the Christmas holiday—from stories of Santa Claus, Christ’s birth, talking snowmen, and even to children getting left behind on family vacations. While these movies are dearly loved and often bring families together around the holiday season, do they have that same effect on those not celebrating Christmas? Which holiday you choose to celebrate is a personal choice, but does the media shove Christmas so far down our throats that we have no choice but to drown in gingerbread and candy-canes?
December is chock-full of holidays, the main events being Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. If there are several big holidays, why does Christmas get all the publicity and celebration? This could be due to the fact that while all three are religious or cultural based traditions, Christmas is the one most appealing to the general public. People who are not religious feel that Christmas time is still something to celebrate, the origins of it are sweet and fantastical, and it has been expounded upon to include tales of elves, red-nosed-reindeer, and a jolly man in a red suit. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are more traditional and do not seem to have the same appeal to others, even though some much prefer the concept of 8 days of celebration to one.
So it seems to be understood that the majority of people are happy to watch these classic and cringe-worthy films that are so often enjoyed with hot cocoa. Perhaps their history is not as marketable, but production companies may be missing a golden opportunity to write a romantic comedy about 8 crazy days ending in two people inevitably falling in love just in time for the last day of Hanukkah. Or what about an origin story of Kwanzaa, documenting Dr. Maulana Karenga’s journey to create a holiday celebration for African American heritage and culture.
None of these celebrations should be exploited for entertainment purposes without diligent thought and consideration. African Americans celebrating Kwanzaa may not want their celebration turned into a silly cartoon or made into merchandise. On the other hand, Jews may love that “Friends” decided to share the story of Hanukkah—even if it was through the “Holiday Armadillo.” It is a situation where choices need to be made carefully and with the community in mind.
The beauty of the Holiday Season is that somehow, people find a way to be together. If they come together to light a menorah, give gifts, pray, or celebrate the birth of a savior, people are still joining together to share something of value to them. And the beauty of media is that platforms share those stories that are close to our hearts in an attempt to bring people even closer together.
Many people, unless they celebrate the holiday, are unsure of what Hanukkah or Kwanzaa really is. Media influence is undeniable, and it might hold the key to unlocking a new form of learning. It may be a risk, but perhaps it is time for those platforms to give the new generation a feel-good movie all about a holiday that is brand new to them and celebrate an array of culture throughout the Holiday Season.
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