From Thanksgiving to Christmas, Ray and I nightly watch sappy Christmas movies on Showtime or Hallmark about a straight man and woman who initially irritate one another but find love as they save the family farm, hardware store, or guesthouse in a snowy, picturesque town in Vermont.
We have three criteria in selecting a Christmas movie we wish was gay: 1. We haven’t seen it before; 2. the lead man is handsome; and 3. the lead woman is not so disagreeable that she makes us cringe. Last night, we got so wrapped up in a movie about a Norwegian woman bringing her Indian fiancé home to meet the family that we lost track of time and weren’t dressed for dinner and a concert when our friends who were driving knocked on the door. We quickly made ready, enjoyed the meal, loved the Seraphic Fire Christmas concert, and finished watching the movie, with ice cream sundaes, when we got home.
We lived in the Boston area for 16 years and don’t remember there being much snow at Christmas, but we’re not unhappy imagining a quaint, snow-covered village in Vermont that has a big Christmas tree in the center of town, and wreaths with red bows on every door and window. In these stories, everyone drinks hot chocolate, buys gifts at the outdoor Christmas village and enjoys the music of traveling carolers. The character who initially hated Christmas embraces its magic by the end and looks to the star-filled sky and sees a comet.
We don’t own any Christmas sweaters, socks or ties, and hope to never receive them. But it’s fun watching characters in the movies enjoy them. Nor do we have lights outlining our house’s rooflines and windows, but we have lit wreaths and garlands at the gate, and the inside has been decorated like Santa’s workshop. What makes the movies fun for us is their attempt to create romance in the midst of holiday magic. Love and wonder are a winning combination on and off-screen.
Ray and I each have happy memories of early childhood Christmases, which can never be duplicated because of the lost lens of innocence, but we’ve worked together over nearly 50 years to make each other’s Christmas, and those of our friends, feel like we’re in a Frank Capra movie. Critics called It’s a Wonderful Life “Capracorn,” and “sentimental hogwash.” And yet it has had a bigger impact on American fantasies of Christmas than any other film I can think of, save perhaps “A Christmas Carol.”
We don’t expect to experience in Hallmark and Lifetime movies the feelings we had watching some great holiday films from the past, and we don’t need an angel to remind us that we have wonderful lives, but we love filling the house with sights, sounds, and smells for this brief time of the year to help remind us of the possible feeling of benevolence of family and community.