What we love: Christmas
It's the most wonderful time of the year, enjoy our favourite Christmas recommendations for your reading, watching, and listening this festive season!
Mince pies and themed drinks at the ready, everyone! We’ve compiled a list of things we love to enjoy around Christmas.
We thought it would be nice to invite our friendto share her book suggestions as we often end up loving similar books. Makse sure you also check out her wonderful Substack .
Please let us know in the comments what you enjoy reading, watching and listening to at this time of year.
The Christmas Book Club by Sarah Morgan
It’s a bold statement but I’m going to make it anyway. Sarah Morgan is the Queen of Christmas. Nobody writes about the festive season quite like Sarah and her new novel this year is no exception. The Christmas Book Club follows three women to Vermont after missing their annual summer holiday in which they leave their husbands, kids and careers at home for a few days to spend quality time together. Erica is the one pushing for them to spend time at Christmas together, but little do Anna and Claudia know she’s harbouring one hell of a secret. This story is about family, and friendship and reminds us that not everybody’s life is as perfect as it may seem on the outside. If you need a feel-good novel to read beside the Christmas tree, this will leave you feeling warm, festive and maybe even a little teary.
Twas the Nightshift before Christmas by Adam Kay
I have a nursing background, so I might be totally biased with this one, but nonetheless, Twas the Nightshift makes for a great read at this time of year. Adam tracks his life as a junior in a way that will have some gasping, covering their mouths with sticky chocolatey fingers, and others, like myself, nodding enthusiastically, grateful that somebody has finally said what so many of us have experienced at the bedside. Adam’s writing is memorable in the way it’s both poignant and witty. Through the book, we join Adam on a series of festive nightshifts dating back to 2004 with a focus on obstetrics and gynaecology. These stories are a stark reminder of what healthcare workers go through, not just at Christmas, but all year long leaving us all wondering where we’d be without them.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
One Day in December is a book I read a few years ago that stayed with me for a long time. This book is about unspoken truths, friendships and, of course, love. I remember feeling all mushy inside when I first saw the premise for this book because who doesn’t want to believe in love at first sight? This story begins when Laurie and Jack share a look through a wintery London bus window and Laurie is sure he’s the one until her best friend Sarah introduces him to Laurie as her new boyfriend a little while later. We follow this trio over the next decade as Laurie, Jack and Sarah grapple with missed opportunities, fierce friendship and a whole lot of unsaid things.
Fairytale of New York by Zoe Folbigg
You might be sensing a theme here, and it’s true, I’m a big romance reader. Whilst I love a tale of two people falling in love I’m not a huge fan of things overly spicy. I prefer stories that dive deep into unpicking and understanding the many facets of modern love and the challenges the dating world brings us today. This novel does this beautifully. We meet our heroine, Charlie, just as she’s about to spend three months with her long-term in New York City, who's been out there on sabbatical. Charlie is filled with festive excitement and anticipation as she lands in the Big Apple but we watch her life quickly turn upside down when her boyfriend, Max, doesn't turn up, leaving her at JFK alone, with nowhere to go. We follow Charlie as she navigates New York at Christmas, heartbroken and ghosted, until she, of course, meets Pete.
Bonus: The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett
This festive novella sees us returning to the village of Lockwood, where the Fairway Players’ pantomime is crashed by a dead body in a Santa suit. Told through Janice Hallett’s characteristic ‘found documents’ form, this novella explores family secrets and the chaos of a community Christmas production. We enjoyed interviewing Janice for the podcast, which you can listen to below.
I think most people will agree with me that there seem to be two categories of Christmas movies. First are the classics and childhood favourites, like Home Alone, Elf, Love Actually, The Holiday etc. Second, are the Hallmark/Netflix original romantic films, set in small towns or fake European countries where they generally save Christmas in some way. Cheesy, fluffy, but enjoyable to watch. I’ve tried to stay away from those to hopefully offer you some fresh recommendations!
Your Christmas Or Mine?
Released on Amazon Prime last year, this is a really fun and fresh Christmas romantic comedy. Hayley and James are uni students who haven’t been dating that long when they say goodbye at the train station, heading home to their own families for Christmas. But at the last minute, they both decide to run off and swap trains to surprise the other and spend Christmas together. Cue awkward moments and shenanigans as they end up stuck spending Christmas with each other’s family. If their relationship can survive this mix-up, well, wouldn’t that be a Christmas miracle?
Last minute note: There’s a sequel! Very excited to watch that after it’s released on December 8. Plus, it features one of Michelle’s ‘listening’ recommendations…
A Moody Christmas
My top Aussie Christmas recommendation for sure! Originally released in 2012, this series follows Dan Moody as he returns from London to Sydney to visit his family on Christmas Day for six years. A lot can happen in a year or six, plus with a big family, a lot can happen on Christmas Day! It’s absolutely hilarious, and it’s so wonderful to see an Aussie Christmas on screen. From playing cricket after lunch to the year Mum & Dad finally put in the pool, it’s our summer Christmas, and I love it.
A fun action comedy, Christmas Ransom is an Aussie movie for the whole family that was released on Stan last year. Matt Okine plays a kind and down-on-his-luck toy store owner who’s so desperate to save his family business that he hatches a scheme to fake his own ransom on Christmas Eve. Miranda Tapsell plays a heavily pregnant security officer who, along with two shoplifting kids, get caught up in the whole heist and try to save Christmas for everyone. There’s nods and references to Die Hard and Home Alone, and I think Christmas Ransom is an enjoyable Aussie spin that will be a great watch at the end of a hot December day.
Love Hard & Single All The Way
Okay, yes, I’m breaking the rules by finishing with a double recommendation for two Netflix original Christmas rom-coms. I think these two break out from the rest of them. Love Hard explores what happens when you fly across the country to surprise a dating app match for Christmas, only to find out you’ve been catfished. Then that catfish offers to set you up with the guy whose pictures he used, and also, his family thinks you’re together. Single All The Way follows Peter, who convinces his best friend Nick to come home with him and pretend they’re together to avoid his family’s judgement for a year. But then Peter’s Mum sets him up with James, and the original plan goes out the window. But who are Peter’s family really rooting for?
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It’s hard to find podcasts about Christmas that aren’t somehow history-related, so please indulge my new love of comedy history podcasts here. Oh, and Maisie Peters. Because we couldn’t finish the year without one more Maisie mention.
‘Medieval Christmas’ by You’re Dead to Me
It’s fascinating to hear the very different approach to the festive season in Medieval England. This episode looks at the origin of some traditions we still hold, plus those that have long been forgotten. It looks at what food would have been eaten, how people celebrated, and how the season stretched beyond one day. You’re Dead to Me has also done episodes on Victorian Christmas and Christmas with Charles Dickens – where most of our modern traditions stem from.
‘Christmas Number Ones’ by We Are History
This episode of We Are History confirmed my suspicion that the obsession with what tops the music charts at Christmas is a uniquely British phenomenon – you might be familiar with it from Love Actually since it’s what Billy Nighy’s character is aiming for. This episode explores the history of Christmas-themed music (from Roman chants to traditional carols) and the evolution of music singles charts in Britain. A fun listen to give a bit of context to those oft-played songs (Wham! and Shakin’ Stevens, I’m looking at you…)
‘Father Christmas’ by Evil Genius
Okay, so I was terrified of Santa when I was a kid. Mainly because I couldn’t distinguish between Santa ‘Claus’ and ‘Claws’, plus I was scared by how he could break into our house. Evil Genius explores the good/evil nature of famous dead people, but every so often, they’ll throw in a fictional character. This enjoyable episode debates Santa and shares some insight into how he’s portrayed in different cultural contexts.
Together This Christmas by Maisie Peters
Finishing the year of Maisie with this cute Christmas bop. Conjuring up images of festive, snowy London, Together This Christmas is a lovely addition to your Christmas playlists. It was written last year for the film Your Christmas or Mine (see Caitlin’s recommendation above) but has only been added to Spotify for our listening pleasure.