It's also time to trot out the holiday movies. Friends and family all have favorites, and we've built little rituals around the annual viewing.
My immediate family spends most of the year quoting lines from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which means we don't actually need to watch the movie anymore.
But I'm fairly certain my father would disown us all if we weren't able to prove we'd watched It's a Wonderful Life at least once during each holiday season.
One of my best girlfriends and I love to watch White Christmas together each year. The details of the ritual are hazy, mostly because it involves large quantities of wine and a requisite drunken commentary throughout the film.
But my favorite holiday movie of all is Love, Actually.
It's one of those movies you can watch any time of year, but the holiday theme makes it perfect for the season. It's a 2003 British romantic comedy featuring ten separate love stories intertwined. In case you've never seen it (or if you need a refresher) here's the trailer:
And here's what I love about the movie, not just as a holiday staple, but as one of my favorite films of all times – it's not simple.
None of the stories are the straightforward "boy meets girl" variety. There's the shy couple conducting polite get-to-know-you conversations while serving as body doubles on the set of a porn film. There's the foul-mouthed, aging rock star who realizes his longtime manager is the platonic love of his life. There's the socially awkward young brit who heads to America and discovers a bevy of beautiful women find his accent irresistible.
There are happily-ever-afters, and not-so-happily-ever-afters. There are tears and laughter and awkward moments that make you want to cover your eyes and pretend you've never, ever been that girl who blurts out profanity at an inopportune moment.
For me, the core of the movie is summed up in the opening monologue delivered by Hugh Grant's character:
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.
People ask me constantly why I choose to write romance out of all the genres in the world. It's tempting to tell them I do it because I'm a sexual deviant who gets her thrills writing sex scenes, but more tempting to want to hand them a card with that monologue printed on it.
What could be more universal than a love story? And what could be more fun than finding new and creative ways to capture that?
Well, besides acting out the love scenes you're creating. For research purposes, of course.
What holiday films are staples in your household? Got any favorites you've watched over and over again? Please share!
I need to go stop the dog from licking the cat's butt under the mistletoe. Love isn't always pretty, is it?