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Basking in the warm glow of the television.
December 22, 2009 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Sure, we all know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is broadcast every year in the US as a Christmas tradition, and that Sweden basically closes every year from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on December 24th to watch Donald Duck, but what about other countries?

Germany joins the party by showing an obscure British comedy sketch called "Dinner for One" (YouTube link) every year for New Year's Eve, famous enough that the phrase "The same procedure as last year?" will get you the response "The same procedure as every year, James," and that the parody "Dinner für Brot" ("Dinner for Bread" — YouTube links in German) was created with puppets, based on the original sketch.

Japan takes an approach less akin to Sweden and Germany's tradition of airing the same program year after year, instead opting for something more along the lines of the US's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, called Kouhaku Uta Gassen ("Red and White Song Battle" — Wikipedia link), featuring two teams of competing musicans, divided by sex. The show is by invitation only, and is such a cultural touchstone that when Jero, the African-American enka singer (Wikipedia link), was invited to perform at 2008's edition, there was hardly a dry eye in the audience when he talked about promising his late grandmother that he'd one day be famous enough to perform on Kouhaku.

And of course, in the United States, who could forget the annual broadcasts of such traditions as It's a Wonderful Life, the Christmas Episode,, Frosty the Snowman (and its rather more poorly regarded '90s sequel, Frosty Returns), and, naturally, 1984's A Christmas Story, based on the novel by Jean Shepherd.

A distinctly American cultural touchstone, it's been adapted from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash (Amazon link) into not only a movie, but also into numerous stage musicals and a 30–second reenactment by animated bunnies. The annual 24–hour marathon of a dozen nonstop showings of the movie for Christmas on TNT (and now TBS) has become famous, but this year it's got competition from one of the Swaziest movies ever made.

(Previously, and previouslier)
posted by DoctorFedora (33 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sweden shows "Dinner for one" on New Years eve as well. Tradition. :) Same as last year, you know.
posted by dabitch at 3:47 PM on December 22, 2009


Yeah, so does Norway. Wouldn't it be better to post this in the recent thread?
posted by Dumsnill at 3:48 PM on December 22, 2009


I wonder if Jen Shiman would do a 30-second reenactment of MetaFilter...
posted by davejay at 3:51 PM on December 22, 2009


I actually didn't realize there was another thread about this until after I'd written this all up…
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:52 PM on December 22, 2009


I actually didn't realize there was another thread about this until after I'd written this all up…

Sorry if my comment came across as snarky. That wasn't my intention.
posted by Dumsnill at 3:56 PM on December 22, 2009


Let's not forget the UK's (and my family's) tradition of watching the Christmas Day Queen's Speech. It's always unintentionally hilarious.
posted by multivalent at 3:56 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Naw, your comment makes a good point, snarklessly. On the other hand, I figure this would have probably all gotten lost in the shuffle in the other thread.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:58 PM on December 22, 2009


Nice post, thanks!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 4:01 PM on December 22, 2009


I think all of Canada's Christmas viewing traditions come from England: the Queen, Mr. Bean, and Alistair Sim as Scrooge.
posted by evilcolonel at 4:04 PM on December 22, 2009


....hey, what about the fine tradition of A Charlie Brown Christmas?...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 PM on December 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


For the record, I prefer this post, and the lack of calling this tradition "bizarre."
posted by jabberjaw at 4:11 PM on December 22, 2009


Oh god how did I forget Charlie Brown
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:22 PM on December 22, 2009


Oh crap, with that last link I was totally hoping that some Swaziland filmmaker had done an all-Swazi remake of "A Christmas Story". Damn!
posted by scrowdid at 4:29 PM on December 22, 2009


Let's not forget the UK's (and my family's) tradition of watching the Christmas Day Queen's Speech. It's always unintentionally hilarious.

To me, the one absolute compelling reason for voting Monster Raving Looney would be that if they should become the governing party, they would write the Queen's Speech at the opening of Parliament.

Could you imagine the glory?
posted by eriko at 4:35 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Snowman (1982), in UK, Finland (broadcasted 11:30 before the annual declaration of christmas peace, at christmas eve) and probably in many other countries. Unforgettable because of this song.
posted by Free word order! at 4:53 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


After being repeated endlessly every year, both It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story have become taken on Rocky Horror-esque meta performance aspects in my friends and family (and most likely, yours as well). Everyone knows every line before it's said, and you get points if you can nail the inflection or voice of the performer.

You can always get a rise out of people by running down a snowy street and yelling "Merry Christmas you old Building and Loan!!!!"
posted by thanotopsis at 5:21 PM on December 22, 2009


In Toronto, CityTV used to show Blade Runner every New Years' at midnight. It remains one of my favorite holiday traditions.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:25 PM on December 22, 2009


In Australia we have a tradition whereby unpleasant news that unfortunately has to see the light of day, but which the relevant politician or business leader would really rather not, is released on christmas eve.
posted by wilful at 6:22 PM on December 22, 2009


Free word order!, surely you mean this song.
posted by mkb at 7:05 PM on December 22, 2009


I used to wait all year for the episode of the Flintstones where Dino helps drive the sleigh and Fred takes over for a sick Santa.

Merry Christmas you old building and loan!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:11 PM on December 22, 2009


We all know, eh? Who could forget, eh? OK, whatever.

I liked the James Bond films in the UK.
posted by pompomtom at 7:20 PM on December 22, 2009


"Merry Christmas you old Building and Loan!"

And a happy New Year to you...in JAIL!
posted by Iridic at 7:26 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's interesting that Dirty Dancing has become something of a Christmas tradition. Because only Road House has inspired a Christmas carol. Well, you keep Christmas in your way, and I'll keep it in mine.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:18 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


After being repeated endlessly every year, both It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story have become taken on Rocky Horror-esque meta performance aspects in my friends and family (and most likely, yours as well).

Actually, one of my new favorite all-time Christmas observations involves Wonderful Life -- a theater company I've worked with frequently here in New York hosts what it calls an act-along version. They have a bunch of copies of the script printed up, with different parts highlighted in it, and they round up a bunch of props and some hats and coats for quick costume changes, and they open the doors to all comers -- and people draw names of characters out of a hat, get that copy of the script, and then we all sit in the audience and start off the show. When it comes around to your part, you jump up and on the stage and perform it, reading out of your script, and when you're done, you sit back down. There are absolutely no rules when it comes to who can play whom -- I've seen two men play George and Mary, a ten-year-old girl play Clarence, you name it. People end up using all manner of foolish things for props -- this year's Mr. Potter carried a stuffed toy monkey around with him as if he were suddenly Dr. No with his pet cat. It is GLORIOUSLY and DELICIOUSLY goofy fun, and I look forward to it every year.

(I got to be Zuzu this year!!!!)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 PM on December 22, 2009


My personal favorite is Christmas Vacation. I end up watching it three or four times every Christmas season. Although Polar Express is quickly becoming another Christmas favorite of mine.
posted by lilkeith07 at 11:09 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think all of Canada's Christmas viewing traditions come from England: the Queen, Mr. Bean, and Alistair Sim as Scrooge.

This is because all of Canada's Christmas viewing traditions are upheld by the CBC. None of the private networks give a damn about Canadian traditions.

Granted, the CBC also gives us an annual Rita McNeil special, which is probably why we stick with the British shows as our holiday traditions. Ugh. Rita McNeil.
posted by mightygodking at 11:17 PM on December 22, 2009


ilikeith07: Nothing like zombie tom hanks to put you in the christmas spirit.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:25 PM on December 22, 2009


Last year my BF admitted he thought A Christmas Story was hokey and smarmy. Thank god he's pretty.
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on December 23, 2009


The Yule Log is the ultimate Xmas program.
posted by emeiji at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Russia, a movie called "The Irony of Fate" is akin to "Life is Wonderful" in the US for New Year's Eve. It's about three hours long and tells the tale of how one Russian city is like the other and how after wandering drunkenly into the wrong one with the same address in the other city, a man can meet his true love.
posted by zizzle at 1:47 PM on December 23, 2009


I may have mentioned this before, but I have a tradition of watching Die Hard, then Long Kiss Goodnight, two of the greatest Christmas movies ever.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:56 PM on December 23, 2009


I came here to mention the Russian tradition of watching The Irony of Fate (Ирония судьбы, или с легким паром [1976]; you can watch the whole thing here without subtitles, but even if you don't know Russian I recommend watching the first five minutes, which consist of a wordless surrealist animation and a beautiful song over the titles), but since zizzle preempted me, I'll instead mention the Slovak tradition of watching Pacho, hybský zbojník (Pacho, the Thief of Hybe, a historical comedy/romance vaguely comparable to an Errol Flynn movie except more slapstick; you can watch a two-minute segment in which Pacho becomes the new leader of the gang here—again, no subtitles, but you won't need them, since the humor is visual). A Slovak friend explained:
tradition mandates that "Pacho" be watched on New Year's Day some time in the afternoon (that's when it usually airs on state TV). The hangover from the night before is optional, but should it occur, drinking games (one shot of slivovica/borovička every time a certain character says "oné") are highly recommended, in the spirit of fighting fire with fire. Many lines from the movie have become such a firm part of Slovak phraseology that they are often no longer recognized as movie quotes - "Frndžaľica", "Na kooooneeeeee! - A kde by sme ich vzali? - No tak utekajme!", "Zneuctiť ma chcela!", "To musí byť dáky väčší objekt, nie?" and, of course "Daj sem bičík! - Nedám bičík! - Daj sem bičík! - Riť Paľovu!"
posted by languagehat at 2:25 PM on December 23, 2009


Augh, I wrote a long comment about Kouhaku. Then Firefox crashed. Thanks, Firefox! I have a fever and am really tired (just in time for Christmas! Thanks, immune system!) so I'll only partly reconstruct. I just wanted to say that Kouhak a real mix of the good, the bad (totally talentless pin-up idols who can't even DANCE, let alone sing!), and the odd. One of the weird things about it is that the singers can, as I understand it, choose the song they want to sing--so sometimes they sing the same song year after year instead of actually singing their top hit from the preceding year. It airs on several US over the air channels, including KTSF in the Bay Area and KIKU in Hawaii (I used to blog it as it aired before digital TV destroyed my reception; now I'll be checking d-addicts.com). If you want to recapture some of the eye-popping highlights of Kouhaku, check these out:

Mikawa Kenichi
, a beloved cross-dressing enka singer known for his elaborate costumes--this one lights up. But he's totally outdone by...
Kobayashi Sachiko--this is an amazing multi-year overview of her "costumes," which put the Nutcracker Christmas tree and the Sugarplum Fairy TO. SHAME. It starts to get crazy around 3:00.
"Matsuken Samba" -- performed a couple years in a row; not a top-seller anymore so it won't be on this year, but...sequined kimono samba!

If you actually watch the show, keep in mind that it's HOURS long and best watched with snacks at hand while knitting or playing poker/Monopoly/Arkham Horror. And that it doesn't present the best of Japanese music, but the most popular/bestselling--and the top enka (Japan's version of folk/country) acts in all their kimono and ballgown glory for the middle-aged folk ... and comedy interludes, for which your Japanese must be much better than mine.

Also, this year there's going to be an anime-themed second Kouhaku, which I'll probably try to watch as well. There's a lot of good music coming out of anime these days: try Kalafina's "Storia."

Both shows are presented by NHK, Japan's equivalent of the BBC.
posted by wintersweet at 4:27 PM on December 23, 2009


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