Like most people, I have my favorite Christmas movies, the ones I can watch over and over again--It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol (any of the many productions), National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, The Christmas Story--the list is long. I actually remember watching the now-classic Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer the first time it aired on television. Wow! What graphics!
I have favorite Christmas books and stories I read each year too. My all-time favorite is Truman Capote's short story "A Christmas Memory." I always imagine the narrator as Dill, the little neighbor in To Kill a Mockingbird, since both characters are more than loosely based on Capote himself. This story is the most sensory Christmas tale, the funniest, and the most heart-wrenching. It begs to be read aloud, and for many years, I did just that in my classroom. (Yes, even high school students enjoy a little read-aloud from time to time.)
For a complete change of pace, nothing beats "The Santaland Diaries" from David Sedaris' hilarious holiday collection of stories Holiday on Ice. In this particular story, he recounts his experiences working as a Santa's elf at Macy's Department Store in New York. The story will make you laugh out loud. Do not--I repeat, do not--read it in a place where laughter is inappropriate, such as a church service--or a state-mandated English end-of-course test.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is another wonderful modern classic, and the story is presented on stage somewhere near you (trust me on this) every year. While you're looking out for Christmas dramatic productions, let me recommend The Sanders Family Christmas, a musical sequel to Smoke on the Mountain set in a rural Baptist church during the Christmas season right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Sounds serious doesn't. You'll be wiping tears, but they'll be tears of laughter.
I always forget how wonderful Dickens' A Christmas Carol really is, thinking that because it's so familiar that it may not bear repeating. It never fails to move me. A few years ago, I found a companion book, Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, written by Tom Mula, an actor who played in Dicken's classic and began to wonder if Marley, who took time out of his own torment to save Scrooge, might also have achieved redemption.
There are others--many others--I could name, but I would love to hear the stories and books to which other readers turn year after year to get into the Christmas spirit.