Cinnamon Rolls Inspired by A Little Princess

AKA: More delicious goodies for your holiday gatherings!

As we make our way ever-closer to Christmas, we’ve been sharing our favorite literary-inspired recipes for the season. And, once again, our managing Heidi White is here with one of her tried and true recipes, this one inspired by A Little Princess.


It is winter, and Sara Crewe is starving. Upon her father’s death, Sara lost not just her only parent, but her fortune as well, leaving her orphaned and destitute. Miss Minchin, the headmistress of Sara’s exclusive boarding school, is cruel to her once-favored pupil, forcing Sara to work as little more than a slave while she sleeps in the freezing attic and eats table scraps. One winter’s day, Sara, clad in a thin, short dress and cracked boots, gazes longingly into a warm and cheerful bakery window at the fresh-baked bread and cakes. A kindly baker observes the thin, pale girl, clad so inadequately for raw London December, and offers her six currant buns. But as Sara gratefully gives thanks for the fresh bread and turns toward home, she sees a frail street waif shivering in an alley, "hungrier than I am," and she gives the child her own meager meal.

This moving vignette is from the childhood classic, A Little Princess. In the spirit of Christmas, I gave the baker’s currant buns an upgrade, adapting a cinnamon roll recipe to make sticky currant buns worthy of a more modern British bakery. This recipe makes two generous pans - one for you and one to bless a friend or neighbor as Sara Crewe, in spite of her many sufferings, blessed her neighbor. —Heidi White

Ingredients

Cinnamon Rolls

  • 2 1/2 cups very warm water 

  • 1/4 cup melted butter (for dough)

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (honey works just fine)

  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt

  • 1 generous teaspoon cardamom (TRUST ME - this spice is extra-special-delicious in this recipe)

  • 2 tablespoons high-quality yeast (I always use SAF. You may use yeast packets if you like.)

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (keep flour bag available in case you need more)

  • 1 stick melted butter (for rolling out)

  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided (or to taste)

  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided (or to taste)

  • 1 cup currants (or raisins), divided


Glaze

  • 4 oz cream cheese

  • 14 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 3 tablespoons milk

  • 3 cups powdered sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

In an electric mixer with the dough hook attached, pour in the very warm water (about the temperature of a hot shower). The hot water activates the yeast, so don’t skip this step! Never add the yeast directly into the hot water (it might kill the yeast instead of activating it), so add the melted butter, maple syrup, salt, and cardamom. Add 1 cup flour. Now add the yeast. Mix until just combined. Add the remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments, pausing between increments to mix until just combined. (Mixing while adding flour will make the dough tough - keep it soft by alternating.) After all the flour is added, mix for 10-15 seconds. If the dough pulls away from the bowl about halfway up the side, it is ready to mix. If it pulls completely to the center, add a tablespoon of water to soften the dough. If it is too sticky to pull away at all, add a tablespoon or two of flour, alternating mixing and adding, When the dough pulls away halfway up the side of the bowl, it is ready to mix for 5 minutes. After mixing, pulse in 1-2 tablespoons of water to make the dough very soft. 

Oil your hands. Divide dough in half. Roll out each dough half into a 12x18 rectangle. Spread with melted butter to the edges. Sprinkle brown sugar, cinnamon, and currants to the edges. Roll up jelly-roll style and cut into 1 1/2 inch rolls. Lay flat and place in greased 9X13 inch pan and let rise until doubled. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, with an electric or hand mixer, whisk together the cream cheese, butter, bourbon, maple syrup, salt, and milk. Slowly stir in powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments. Whisk until fully blended. The glaze should be thin enough to pour, so add more liquid if needed. Pour over warm cinnamon rolls and sprinkle with currants. Serve warm with coffee or tea. Voila!


More book-inspired holiday recipes in this series:


The March Family's Gingerbread Muffins and Cream

A delicious holiday recipe inspired by Little Women

When kind Marmee arrives home after visiting an impoverished family on Christmas morning, her four daughters greet her joyfully, having spent hours preparing a festive Christmas breakfast. When she tells them about the needy Hummel family, however, they relinquish their holiday cheer, pack a large basket, and offer their morning feast as a gift to the suffering Hummels.

Little Women does not provide a detailed description of the March family Christmas breakfast, although it mentions buckwheat, muffins, and cream. So leaving the buckwheat to spark another cook’s creativity, I settled on gingerbread muffins and whipped cream. I have never made just one single recipe of these gingerbread muffins —they beg to be doubled or tripled and shared! Tuck these muffins and a pot of cream into a basket and add, say, a bookmark with a Little Women quote on it or even a nice copy of the book itself for a creative gift. In honor of Marmee and the March sisters, these simple and delectable one-bowl muffins are convivial holiday shareables for neighbors, teachers, friends, and (of course) Christmas breakfast. —Heidi White

Ingredients

For gingerbread muffins

  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (substitute mashed ripe banana or applesauce if you prefer, but I like pumpkin best)

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • zest of half an orange (optional—but definitely do it if you can. The orange adds an unexpected citrus twist to the rich gingerbread.)

  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tsp ginger

  • 1/2 tsp cloves

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (I always double this because I’m crazy about nutmeg)

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 cup melted butter or oil

  • 1/3 cup molasses

  • 1/3 cup milk or leftover coffee

  • 1/3 cup white sugar

  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 2 1/4 cups flour

For whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 1/2 cup sugar (I know everybody uses powdered sugar, but I prefer granulated because I like the texture)

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and lightly spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix wet ingredients, spices (including salt), orange zest, and sugar.

  3. Add the baking powder and baking soda and stir.

  4. Fold in the flour into just mixed. Do not overmix.

  5. Use a cookie scoop to divide the batter in the muffin pan. Fill each liner 3/4 full.

  6. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 7-9 minutes. 

  7. Remove from the oven. Let the muffin tin rest for 5-10 minutes, then cool muffins on racks. 

  8. For the whipped cream: In a separate bowl, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Chill. 

  9. Serve warm muffins with chilled whipped cream (although they are delicious at any temperature!).


More book-inspired holiday recipes in this series:


Robert Capon’s Resurrected Fruit Cake

+ 4 Magical Works of Literature for Christmastime

Today in the 12 Days of FORMA: An unusually good fruit cake from noted writer Robert Capon + 4 things you should read this Christmas.


Robert Capon’s Resurrected Fruit Cake

When I explained to the silver-haired Trader Joe’s cashier that I was gathering ingredients for a fruit cake, he raised a quizzical brow to my youth and inexperience and said, “I thought the fruit cake was extinct—and for good reason.” I’ll admit I was of his opinion. Growing up, fruit cake was always shorthand for a good Christmas joke. But if anyone understood that Christmas is all about bringing new life to dead things, it’s the author whose recipe I was undertaking. This year the FORMA team, inspired by Sean Johnson’s beautiful apology for The Supper of the Lamb, decided to try Robert Farrar Capon’s fruit cake recipe. He originally published it as an article entitled “Fruitcakes: Solid Evidence for Christmas” in The New York Times, and I highly recommend you check out that article for yourself. 

With classic Capon good will, he explains that humanity has always had a way of going too far with a good thing. In the case of the fruit cake, when we discovered that we liked inserting fruit into a classic raisin cake, we then tried to cram in every varietal of fruit known to man. We forgot that other important contribution to its flavor: cake. Capon speculates that the modern fruit cake is subjected to “an internal pressure so great that the fruits and nuts adhere to each other by their own molecular attraction.” He recommends instead we strip down the recipe to its basics and simplify, simplify, simplify. 

Capon includes candied orange and lemon peels among the few fruits we are allowed to include in the cake. Unable to find them prepackaged, I was forced to try my hand at making them myself. To do so, I took all of the peels and boiled them together in water for 20 minutes. I then brought a sugary concoction (2 parts sugar, 1 part water) to a boil, drained the peels, and added them to the sugar water to boil for another 45 minutes. Finally, when finished, I drained the peels and threw down some parchment paper to coat them in, yes, more sugar. They then need to dry for a couple of hours before they can be used in the cake. 

Below are copied Capon’s own instructions. In the article he recommends finishing the cake off with a simple, confectioners sugar glaze. But I threw in a little of the Cognac to that glaze—I’m pretty sure Capon wouldn’t mind. 

By the way, the cake is delicious.

Ingredients:

1pound butter at room temperature 
2 cups sugar 
6 eggs 
4 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
2 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon vanilla 
1/4cup Cognac 
1 box (15 1/2 ounces, 2 1/2 cups) seedless raisins 
1 box (10 ounces, 2 cups) dried currants 
½ cup candied orange peel 
1/2 cup candied lemon peel 
1/2 cup candied citron peel

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and fold into mixture. Add vanilla, Cognac and all fruits and mix well.
3. Pour into well-buttered tube pan or into small loaf pans and bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until inserted cake tester comes out clean.
4. Allow to cool somewhat and remove from pan. Glaze while still warm with confectioners' sugar-and- water icing to which a little grated lemon rind has been added.

Yield: 1 large fruitcake or 6 small loaf cakes.


4 Magical Things to Read This Christmas

Letters from Father Christmas | J.R.R. Tolkien
Too many of history’s great men turn out to be bad husbands and worse fathers, but J.R.R. Tolkien seems to have been the genuine article—a warm and attentive pater familias. No other sort could have managed the whimsy, cheer, and meticulous detail of Letters From Father Christmas year in and year out. The book is a collection of Tolkien’s yearly letters to his children in the guise of Father Christmas, each featuring his distinctive, spindly calligraphy and elaborate color illustrations. Through tales of bumbling polar bears and the occasional North Pole goblin war you will sense his audience aging (each, in their turn, ceasing to write to the North Pole), but the love of this father for his children glows unmistakably through the very last letter. —Sean Johnson

“A Child's Christmas in Wales” | Dylan Thomas
I can’t prove it, but I’ve always had a hunch that Dylan Thomas wrote his poem,  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” as a kind of theodicy—an explanation of the impulse behind the Incarnation. He presents ten thousand petty, humdrum human details—“the snow and the postman and the presents”—through the eyes of a child who loves without guile or thought of gain—loves like God. As the years of memory accumulate like snow in the heart of Thomas’ adolescent narrator, a myriad of ordinary moments draw up into one night of “close and holy darkness” falling on a world about to see a great light. —Sean Johnson

“The Lost Boy” | George MacKay Brown
"The Lost Boy" is weird. My kids didn't really care much for it the first time I read it, and I can't promise yours will either. Honestly, I'm not sure it's good in the way we usually think about short fiction. It's probably too short. It needs to lean into it's own whimsy a tad bit more. And the characters are too lightly drawn. Yet there's a magic in it that makes it worth reading this time of the year. The weirdness plays in its favor, and it will leave you (and your kids) contemplating and wondering--a worthy goal in the days leading up to Christmas--about what in the world the whole thing is about anyway. I'm all for stories that leave my kids staring at me with that bewildered, eyes-wide look that says, "what in the world?". Awe is a great thing. —David Kern

“Dulce Domum” from The Wind in the Willows | Kenneth Grahame
The episodic nature of The Wind in the Willows allows each of its chapters to stand well enough alone. Why not, then, include Chapter 5 or “Dulce Domum” among your family’s Christmas lore? Marshaling the humblest of resources, Rat and Mole throw together one of the coziest Christmas celebrations in Western literature. Yet the prominence of the holiday somehow grows dim in context with the rest of the chapter’s happenings. “Dulce Domum,” as the name suggests, centers around a homecoming. Mole has spent long months expanding his horizons, but walking in the wilderness with Rat one day, he is irresistibly drawn toward the home he left behind. They find it empty and unkempt, and Mole despairs of acting the proper host to his new friend. But, turning the tables on him, Rat takes charge and pulls together a magical Christmas for Mole. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about, anyway? Powerless to Fixer Upper ourselves, we celebrate the Savior who came into our house and made for us a home. —Emily Andrews


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Mrs. Cratchit’s Crispy Roast Goose with Goose Gravy

You can do goose. Do not fear.

Roast goose is no longer the traditional main course of the American holiday table, but it remains a literary Christmas classic—particularly highlighted in Dicken’s iconic A Christmas Carol, where the roast goose takes center stage in the Cratchit family meal. What reader doesn’t rejoice when Mrs. Cratchit cuts into the longed-for, carefully prepared bird as Tiny Tim “beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried ‘Hurrah’ ”? Nobody from FORMA had roasted a goose before, but we had enough Christmas gumption to manifest the entire spirit of the season. So, yep, that’s right, folks: we roasted a goose. 

It turns out that geese are not easy to procure at a typical supermarket, but Whole Foods does carry a few in their frozen section, and your local butcher is sure to stock for those adventurous souls seeking a literary-themed Christmas feast. It felt right to make a trip to a specialty store and pay a few extra pennies for the festive bird since families in Victorian times would scrimp and save the entire year to grace their tables with the Christmas goose. For about as much preparation time and effort as your Thanksgiving turkey, a properly roasted goose with crispy skin and rich, peppered gravy is just the thing to lure (I mean gather) the family around the table for an unforgettable holiday extravaganza. Serve with buttered peas, creamy mashed potatoes, goose gravy, a colorful green salad, and, of course, plum pudding with hard sauce. Your family and friends are sure to rise up, call you blessed, and exclaim, “God bless us, everyone.” —Heidi White

Mrs. Cratchit’s Crispy Roast Goose with Goose Gravy

  1. Take the goose out of the packaging. Remove the neck and trim the skin around the neck. Remove the organs; either discard or reserve to make goose stock. 

  2. Using a paring knife, carefully make 1-inch slits in the skin around the entire bird. Be careful to slit the skin without piercing the meat. Make extra slits under the wings and legs. (These slits are for rendering the fat, which will keep the meat from being overly greasy and will provide the fat for your gravy, so don’t skip this step.)

  3. Meanwhile, boil enough water to cover the goose in a large stockpot. After piercing the skin, don heavy plastic gloves and dunk the bird under the water. Blanche for 1-2 minutes. If your pot is not large enough to dunk the entire goose, do not fear! Simply submerge as much as you can, blanche for one minute, then remove the goose, flip it over, and repeat. You may use any utensil to remove the goose, but I do not recommend metal tongs because of the risk of piercing the meat. Gloves work best. 

  4. Drain the water from the goose and pat dry.

  5. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons baking powder and 1/2 cup good quality salt. (I used French gray salt, but any high-quality sea salt, Himalayan salt, or kosher salt will work just fine.) Rub the salt mixture evenly over the goose skin. Be generous - this is what makes the skin crispy, so slather away! Make sure you sprinkle under the wings and legs. Transfer to a roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, for 12-24 hours. 

  6. After the goose has been dry-brined for 12-24 hours, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the oven rack in the lowest position. Remove goose from the refrigerator and place breast side down in a deep roasting pan or a V-pan. The goose will render a lot of fat so you will need a deep pan. Transfer goose to oven and roast for 1 1/2 hours. (I did not roast my goose with stuffing for the totally professionally legit reason that I don’t like it. Dressing? That’s a different story. Yum. I dig dressing. But stuffing is not my jam, especially in a fatty bird-like goose. But there are plenty of goose stuffing recipes available online for those of you who want to add it here.)

  7. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the roasting pan or V-rack to a work surface. Carefully spoon or pour off all but a few tablespoons of the rendered fat in the roasting pan into a heat-safe bowl or container, being careful to leave behind any browned bits. Reserve rendered fat. Return goose to the roasting pan and carefully rotate the goose breast side up. Return goose to the oven and roast until skin is puffed up around breast bone and tops of thighs, and skin is browned, 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer. Remove from the oven.

  8. Raise oven temperature to 400°F. Return goose to oven until skin is fully browned and crisp, about 15 minutes longer. 

  9. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and let stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer newly accumulated rendered fat from roasting pan to reserved fat. Scrape off the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan and add to the rendered fat. 

  10. For the gravy: Skim 1/2 cup rendered fat from the reserved fat. Place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup flour. Mix over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the flour is completely dissolved and the mixture bubbles slightly. 

  11. Slowly pour 1/2 cup reserved fat (through a strainer) and 1/2 cup turkey or chicken stock (use goose stock if you can find it or make it!) into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Repeat until the gravy is at your preferred taste and consistency. Once the gravy has boiled, it will not thicken anymore.

  12. Stir 1 tablespoon of salt and 2-4 tablespoons of pepper into the gravy. Sample and continue to season with pepper to taste. Remove from heat once you stop whisking. 

  13. Carve the goose and serve with gravy and all the trimmings. 

Enjoy!

(And don’t forget about our giveaways this week over on our Instagram page.

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Christmas Plum Pudding from Agatha Christie

+ four holiday movies for your weekend movie night

A Literary Plum Pudding

When a historic ruby is stolen from a foreign prince at an English country manor in mid-December, the powers-that-be recruit master detective Hercule Poirot to recover the jewel, unmask the thief, and restore order to the realm. The mission is delicate, and the cover story is . . . Christmas. The pragmatic Belgium sleuth is forced to leave his heated flat in London to partake in an old-fashioned English Christmas, complete with “all the same old things, the Christmas tree and the stockings hung up and the oyster soup and the turkey—two turkeys, one boiled and one roast—and the plum pudding with the ring and the bachelor’s button and all the rest of it in it.”

Ah, the plum pudding. Perhaps nothing is as emblematic of an old-fashioned English Christmas than the rich, plummy, fruit-laden dessert, delivered to the table wreathed in brandy flames, then slathered in decadent hard sauce. The plum pudding is the centerpiece of the English Christmas table. Making a plum pudding might feel like an intimidating undertaking for those of us who, like Poirot, are “foreigners,” but do not fear. If you have a bit of time and a lot of butter, plum pudding is in your grasp.

FORMA’s Christmas pudding recipe offers an authentic, old-fashioned English Christmas pudding with ingredients you can find at any American grocery store. Plan ahead—the pudding, like a great book, improves with age. Even if you do not find a valuable jewel hidden in your Christmas pudding, this rich dessert will surely become a beloved addition to your Christmas table. —Heidi White 

Ingredients:

  • Generous 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/8 teaspoon mixed spice (in Britain), or an extra pinch of nutmeg and ginger and a pinch each of cardamom

  • 1 small lemon

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (generous)

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs

  • 1 cup grated butter

  • 1 chopped tart apple 

  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins

  • 4 tablespoons chopped almonds

  • 2 tablespoons candied citrus peel

  • 2 tablespoons pitted prunes

  • 6 tablespoons raisins

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 3 tablespoons brandy, plus more for flaming

  • 1/4 cup stout (I use Guinness. You can also use root beer or cream soda.)

  • Hard sauce, for serving (see recipe below)

    • 8 tablespoons slightly softened butter

    • 8 tablespoons powdered sugar

    • 3 tablespoons brandy

Steps

  1. Butter the pudding basin (I used a ceramic bowl) liberally and press a round of parchment or wax paper into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the bowl/basin. 

  2. Mix the flour, nutmeg, ginger, mixed spice, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Grate the zest of the lemon directly into the bowl to capture the spray of lemon oil along with the zest. Add breadcrumbs, grated butter, apples, raisins, almonds, candied peel, prunes, currants, raisins, and brown sugar. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Either cover the bowl and let the mixture rest overnight, or just carry on with the recipe now…

  3. Cut and squeeze the juice of half of the lemon in a medium bowl. Whisk in the eggs, brandy, and stout. 

  4. Scrape the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to make a sticky lumpy batter. 

  5. Turn the batter into the prepared basin/bowl and pat it level. Place a round of parchment or wax paper on top of the batter. Cover the bowl with a large cloth napkin or square of foil. Let the napkin drape over the sides of the bowl; for foil, press down the sides to cover the rim with plenty of margin. Tie a piece of string under the rim of the bowl to hold the napkin or foil in place. If you have used a napkin, tie the ends as follows to make a handle: Bring two opposite corners to meet on top of the bowl and tie them together, repeat with the two remaining corners. 

  6. Set the bowl in a large pot and fill it with water about halfway up the sides of the bowl. Cover and steam 4 to 5 hours (or for 8 if you want to reduce final steaming time to 1 hour). Let cool and store in the fridge. Steam for another 4 to 5 hours before serving (or for 1 hour if you have already logged 8 hours). Serve hot.

  7. To serve, unmold the pudding onto a warmed serving platter. Peel and discard the paper liner. Ask someone to kill the lights in the dining room while you warm 2 to 3 tablespoons of brandy in a small saucepan. Set the brandy on fire with a match and pour it over the pudding before entering the dining room. Slice and serve with hard sauce. 

  8. For the hard sauce/brandy butter:

  9. Beat the butter and confectioners' sugar together until blended. Beat the brandy in gradually. If the mixture curdles, beat in a bit more confectioners' sugar or 1 or 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Refrigerate until serving.


4 Christmas Movies for Your Weekend Movie Night

The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)

Not just one of the best holiday movies ever, Billy Wilder’s 1960 film about a longsuffering schmuck who grows into a mensch, is also one of the great Rom-coms ever made. And, let’s face it, Christmas-time demands a dose of romance. C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lonely office laborer for a big insurance company who loans his apartment (sometimes without much agency) to his superiors for their various affairs and dalliances. He’s generally a decent guy, but he’s listless, drifting about like a roustabout. He’s got no code, no mission, no purpose. And then he falls in love with the elevator girl in his building, Fran (played by the wonderful Shirley MacLane), herself a bit of an existential nomad who is caught in a deeply unhealthy relationship with a company exec. It’s a rom-com, so the ending is more or less predictable, but the path to the final shot is marked with enough surprise turns and dramatic irony to make The Apartment a remarkably unsentimental movie about falling in love during the season when it’s most difficult to be alone. It’s a great film, holiday or otherwise. 
David Kern


The Muppet Christmas Carol (Jim Henson, 1992)

Nothing breathes new life into a well-worn literary classic like Jim Henson’s Muppets. They are an everlasting reminder that stories are fun, lest hoity-toity Mr. Dickens take himself too seriously. Enjoy Kermit the Frog as the gentlest Bob Cratchit that ever was, Miss Piggy as perhaps a more aggressive Emily Cratchit than Dickens dreamed of, and the not-to-be-missed Fozziwig Rubber Chicken Factory Christmas Party. Eminently quotable; songs that for better or worse will be stuck in your head forever; and could it be Sir Michael Caine’s best performance? We’ll let you decide as he takes up the mantle of Scrooge in this playful rendition of A Christmas Carol. —Emily Andrews

Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)

The house is dark. The kids are finally asleep. The presents are wrapped. A gentle snowfall blankets the world outside, and all that remains is to spend an hour or two basking in the calm before the morning storm.  Allow me to cast my vote for one of the great Christmas movies ever made: Die Hard. Now, I know that on the surface Die Hard has more in common with Neo’s escape from the Matrix than it does with Jimmy Stewart’s wholesome mid-life crisis, but at its heart this movie is about redemption, sacrifice, and faithfulness, and while John Mclane is certainly no saint, he is a hero. And let me remind you: peaceful manger scenes aside, Christmas is the story of a hero, standing alone against the odds, enduring torment upon torment for the sake of the love he bears for his bride. Remembering that, no matter the medium, is what Christmas is all about. So snuggle up, hold your spouse close, and yippee-ki-yay.
 —Ian Andrews

Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincent Minnelli, 1944)

For viewers who want a classic but not overplayed family film, try Meet Me in St. Louis. Released in 1944, the story follows the Smith family over the course of an eventful year. Through their various challenges and triumphs, the Smiths sing, dance, endure, and celebrate all the way to the World’s Fair in - you guessed it - St. Louis. In the tradition of Oklahoma and Kiss Me KateMeet Me in St. Louis offers rolicking song-and-dance numbers, heartwarming moments of human connection, and nostalgic reminders of a more innocent time. The film stars a young Judy Garland who debuts the time-honored seasonal tune, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” This holiday season, pop some popcorn, mix some hot chocolate, and cuddle up for family movie night with Meet Me in St. Louis. —Heidi White

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