Us Brits are fairly traditional when it comes to Christmas movies. ‘Love, Actually’. 'Elf’. 'Santa Clause: The Movie’. Whatever latest festive abomination Vince Vaughn has delivered in his considerable sack.?
Around the world, however, other countries have very different traditions for their preferred Christmas viewing.?
It’s not all ho ho ho…
Germany ? 'Dinner For One’ (1963)
Here’s a head-scratcher for you: this black and white, single-take, 18-minute sketch adapted from the stage in the English language somehow managed to enter the Guinness Book Of Records as the most frequently repeated TV programme ever, due to its phenomenal popularity across Europe.?
A mainstay of the festive season, it tells the tale of an upper-class English woman celebrating her 90th birthday with her butler, who adopts the roles of her long dead friends at the dinner table and winds up getting steaming drunk from the toasts.?
Up to half of the German population watch it every New Year’s Eve, while in Norway it is broadcast on December 23rd every year without fail.
Austria ? 'Die Trapp-Familie’ (1956)
Austrians famously dislike the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical of 'The Sound Of Music’ because it’s not entirely honest about the history of the real von Trapp family and doesn’t accurately reflect Austrian culture.?
Generally, they prefer the local version released a decade previously, starring Ruth Leuwerik as Maria von Trapp; the songs aren’t quite as catchy, but they did in fact directly inspire the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical after actress Mary Martin saw the film in Germany and approached the tunesmiths with the story.?
The Julie Andrews version, however, has never been well-liked in Austria or Germany, and families prefer to cuddle up and watch this version at Christmas. However, the sequel, 'Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika’, which relocates the action to the USA, is remembered less fondly.
Czech Republic ? 'Three Hazelnuts For Cinderella’ (1973)
Made in the former Czechoslovakia with a mixed Czech/West German cast, this fairytale is based on a bohemian version of the Brothers Grimm story with a distinct Eastern European twist.?
Libuse Safr?nkov? plays our put-upon heroine, trampled on by her wicked stepmother and step-sisters, but in this rather progressive take, although there is a handsome Prince, it is he who must pursue her.?
Also, in this version Cinderella ? known as Popelka in Czech and Aschenbr?del in German ? is an expert sharp-shooter and she has three magic nuts which she can use to make wishes. It’s massively popular at Christmas around the Czech Republic, Germany, Swizerland, Slovakia and Norway.
America ? 'A Christmas Story’ (1983)
It’s strange, because America’s Christmas movies are so often embraced as our Christmas movies, but ?A Christmas Story?, released in 1983, is one that has never really become part and parcel of UK festivities.?
It’s an anthology movie, steeped in American traditions, about the Parker family and young Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley, and his quest to receive the greatest present of all: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle (see, we told you it was super American).?
Now all grown up and a director himself, Billingsley is pals with Jon Favreau and cameos in 'Elf’ and 'Four Christmases’.
Russia ? 'The Irony Of Fate’ (1976)
This three-hour long New Year’s Eve romantic comedy of errors is as close to a Christmas tradition as Russia gets.?
It tells the story of a man, Zhenya, who goes out drinking with his friends and accidentally winds up in Leningrad, miles away from his new fianc?e, with whom he intended to sing in the new year. But, with a quirk of fate, he finds himself holed up with a woman who just might be even better suited for him.?
After its initial broadcast on Russian TV in 1975, it quickly became a holiday season favourite in the Soviet Union, apart from when it was briefly banned during Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol 'perestroika’ due to scenes of heavy drinking. Surely most Brits could get behind that kind of romcom hero.
Poland ? 'Kevin Sam w Domu’ (1990)
Don’t be fooled by that title: 'Kevin At Home Alone’ is just the Polish name for the 'Home Alone’ we know and love. What’s surprising is exactly how popular Chris Columbus’s Christmas caper is in Poland.?
Every year, 'Home Alone’ scores the highest TV ratings of the season: approximately four million of the country’s population of 38 million people tune in to see Macaulay Culkin’s antics. That’s one in every three people between 16 and 49.
Even aided by turkey bloat and a nation of sofa-beached chocoholics, even your traditional British Boxing Day Bond movie would struggle to match those ratings.
Italy ? 'Vacanze di Natale’ (1983)
The Italians have their very own brand for cheap, sweet, nutty Christmas movies: they’re called 'cinepanettoni’ and there are dozens of them.?
The series started with 'Vacanze di Natale’ in 1983, about a family of stereotypical Italians squabbling over the Christmas period. Starring Massimo Boldi and Christian De Sica (sort of like the Italian Cannon & Ball), new 'Vacanze’ movies have been released almost every Christmas since: watch out for 'Natale sul Nilo’ ('Christmas In Egypt’), 'Natale in India’ ('Christmas In India’) and 2004’s 'Christmas In Love’, featuring American guest star Danny DeVito.?
The appeal of the cinepanettoni is such that the Italian release of James Cameron’s 'Avatar’ was delayed until January to avoid that year’s offering.
Australia ? 'Bush Christmas’ (1983)
Naturally, snowfall doesn’t feature strongly in an Australian Christmas, so they have dramas set in the arid desert instead.?
1983’s 'Bush Christmas’ is a remake of the 1947 original, but both versions tell the same redemption story of rural family struggling to make ends meet, who put all their hopes on their horse winning the New Year’s Cup only to see it stolen.?
Nicole Kidman made her feature film debut as one of the two kids who saddle up to go get it back in a movie that sounds somehow even more Australian than the popular movie 'Australia’. Stick another mince pie on the barbie, mate!
Japan ? 'Tokyo Godfathers’ (2003)
This beloved animated festive tale from the Far East matches a traditional Christmas plot with something a little more modern (and depressing).?
It tells the tale of an alcoholic old man, a trans woman and an ex-drag queen who find a baby abandoned in a dumpster on Christmas Eve. Before the happy ending, there’s a yakuza wedding (complete with hitman disguised as a maid), a scene in which a dead homeless man is beaten up by teenagers and a car chase through the streets of Toyko ? but it does have a nice cozy conclusion, with themes of togetherness and forgiveness prevalent throughout.
France ? 'Santa Claus Is A Stinker’ (1982)
A French cult classic, 'Le P?re No?l est une ordure’ is the story of two volunteers working the Christmas Eve shift on a depression hotline and the various zany visitors who pay them a visit, including but not limited to transvestites, crazies and a gangster dressed as Santa carrying a gun.?
The plot was adapted by Nora Ephron into the US comedy 'Mixed Nuts’, starring a young Adam Sandler. To give you an idea of how mad the French version sounds, here’s the last line of the plot synopsis: “F?lix and Josette, a caricature trailer trash couple, end up struggling over the gun and accidentally shoot dead the lift repairman, whom they then butcher and feed to zoo animals."?
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Image credits: Amazon/Impawards