Sometimes, my job is pretty cool. This past Monday was one of those times because I got to preview the new Sony Pictures Animation film Arthur Christmas with my husband and my two girls. We got to see the movie at the Sony screening room, which was an experience in itself. (Big, cushy seating, super-loud audio, need I say more?)
After listening to Christmas carolers and drinking TO DIE FOR hot cocoa, we headed into the theater to watch the show. The movie centers around a highly-industrialized version of Santa and a sweet-yet-clumsy heir to the Santa throne. Within the first minutes of the film, we find out that the only way Santa can deliver so many toys on Christmas Eve is by using a super-stealth spaceship and a team of spy-like elves. Everything is automated, too, although the wrapping and the letter-reading (enter sweet-yet-clumsy heir) is still done by hand. Pretty neat idea, right? Until one Christmas Eve night when something goes wrong with the clockwork automation and a present gets left behind. Sweet-but-clumsy heir in particular is really upset that a child will be waking up on Christmas morning to no gifts — the same child who has recently written a letter asking if Santa is real. We leave our worried heir and a live Santa from Christmases past (you’ll get it when you see the movie) embarking on an old-fashioned sleigh being pulled by ancestors of the original Christmas reindeer. Their job: deliver the wayward package.
The movie was really well-written and highly entertaining. I laughed and smiled throughout until we got to the part when we’re led to think a child will go without gifts. That scene in particular gave me pause because the no presents thing really, really hits home. Yes, I always celebrated Christmas, but I can remember several years when, as a child, there were very, very few gifts under the tree. One Christmas in particular stands out. It was a few years after my dad died and we were struggling financially. That year, especially the mood in the house was pretty subdued.
On Christmas morning my mom was almost apologetic for Santa, saying he would do better next year. But right then, my brother, who was in a local fire department (he’s a decade older than I am), made everything okay. Looking out the window, he said he saw something in the snow. He threw open the front door, stepped outside, and — in the middle of me and my sister jumping up and down – came back inside carrying two big boxes of whatever the popular toys happened to be that year. The boxes were dented, so he told us they must have fallen out of Santa’s sleigh into the front yard, which made it even cooler. We wouldn’t have been more excited if Santa himself delivered our gifts.
I have never forgotten that day even though the memory of the actual gifts we got is fuzzy. (Was it a Barbie van? A Sit-and-Spin? I can’t say for sure.) To this day I think back and feel warm inside because of that incredibly generous and caring volunteer fire department (or maybe it was Santa!) who made sure people like us had a happy holiday.
We didn’t get to see the entire Arthur Christmas, so I don’t know exactly how the problem of the missing gift was resolved, but if it is anything like the experience I had as a child I am sure I’m going to be bawling my eyes out when I go see the completed movie in November. The movie and the memory of my own experience reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas (and Chanukah and whatever else you might celebrate): It’s not about the gifts, it’s about caring, something we should all remember.