Hello... | Q&A Time??

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Hello, dear readers. Here we are, after so many months. I've missed you. What do I say? Ooh, I have exams coming up, so I can't chat now really, sadly. Only, I just wanted to write a quick little missive on this poor neglected blog o' mine to say that Fullness of Joy is turning 6 years old on Monday which I'm so amazed and excited about - how the years fly! That said, I'm thinking that I'll be trying to do a Q&A post next week, once uni break starts to sort of celebrate and also I guess let you get re-acquainted with my life, and what I've been up to lately (literary and otherwise!) So please ask me all the bookish fun, or even thought-provoking (or random) questions that you can think of in the comments below, or send them my way via email, twitter, instagram (#fullnessofjoy16 or #dailyjoyfulness) or facebook using the hashtag #FULJOY6 and I hope to do a fun wee post in return next week Lord willing, once exams are over (ahh, trying not to freak out over those)! I know I haven't blogged in ages, but I'm excited to get back into it during the upcoming month-long uni break, & share all the stuff.

So ask all the stuff and I'll do my best to respond 😍
P.S. Also I'm a tiny bit stealing from the glorious Cait's (@PaperFury) idea for a Q&A for her blog-anniversary who has also just celebrated her 6th blog-anniversary (she's my blog-twin, really, only WAY more cool - check out her amazing blog, why don't you?!), so I am sorry about that, Cait, but you know... YOU ARE THE ORIGINAL GENIUS!

P.S.S. if you have a small moment, I'd appreciate your prayers for my upcoming exams the next two weeks. Lots of love, dear friends, and I'm hoping to get back to you soon!
Love and blessings xx

2016 in Review || Favourites

Friday, 27 January 2017

Looking back on the old year, it amazes me how many things change over the course of a year. Well, here we are, and by God's grace, one year is done and dusted, and a new one begins with a promise of new things. A promise of hope and God's unending faithfulness. Happy (belated) New Year, dear friends! I hope you had a truly beautiful and blessed festive Christmas season and a joyous start to 2017. It is at this time that we often pause to reflect on the past year, the events and things we have done and experienced, failed and achieved and learnt in. One thing I love to do at the end of one year, and at the cusp of the new, is to look back and ponder my literary progress for what I've both read, and wrote, and learnt through the written word, and through stories in art, music and film. How those stories and words and ponderous notes have influenced and inspired me in my own life, as a person, and as a young writer. Did anything challenge me spiritually, philosophically, or artistically? Is there anything I'd like to change in 2017 about how or what or why I did things in 2016? It's a good project to examine! 

I find it can be so easy to be swept up into looking at my achievements, or lack thereof, especially through the lens of figures, like how many books I have read, or how much I have written as the cumulative result of a year, and judge my growth purely on those standards. But that would be to undermine the content of what one learns, and diminish the value of the small and precious details. Those can be invaluable gems in one's life and strengthen the foundation of who you are and what you believe, feel and think. It's amazing! That's why coming into this year, I am very much determined to be purposeful with this gift God has given me - the gift of time and the ability to read and write and learn. 

I'll be up and honest here, I've only read a beggarly collection of 28 books - several of those were study-books for my examinations, in fact. When I compare this with my normal average of 50 books annually from past years, it feels pathetic. If I had been left free reign with time and energy and emotional strength, my reading list might have looked quite different and, to be honest, much richer and more satisfying. And yet, I can't beat myself up about it, because I learnt things, and experienced and developed a deeper understanding of words and literature and stories than I have probably in years. It's only been scratching the surface, but still, I have loved it and treasured discovering that deeper layer. I am excited for how much more I can tap into that this year, Lord willing!

In this light, I think of some of the memorable things of 2016, like sitting the Senior External Exams and learning so much through studying for them, finishing high-school at long last, traveling to the USA for the first time with my older sisters and attending the summer school with RZIM in Atlanta, making special new friends and reconnecting with dear and old ones; in writing, I did not write in any  of my novels, but I got to practice my creative writing technique in short-story and flash-fiction format, and learnt what it is like to write academic essays. It's made me grow :). Christmas was a true blessing, in its own quiet way, with my beloved family - resting and finding joy in the little things.

What memorable things stood out for you during 2016? I thought I would spend time reflecting below on the new films and tv shows, the art, the music and the books that stood out to me and were, in a way, the best of the year, things that I thought about a lot and helped shape me during this past year. 
Woman in Gold tells the true story of how Maria Altman sought to regain a world famous painting of her aunt plundered by the Nazis during World War II. Her quest is not only to regain what's rightfully hers, but also to secure some measure of justice for the death, destruction and art theft perpetrated by the Nazis. It's a very moving story and when I sat down to watch it with my family, I remember we were all brought to tears by the journey of Maria, and her pain as she recalled the loss of her happy life in Austria before the war.

The film is beautifully done, with an amazing cast, and an engaging true-life story, with beautiful music and a general feeling of art to the whole film. It's also very thought-provoking on the whole theme of the holocaust, memory and how the past should be regarded. There are some thematic elements, and brief strong language, but on the whole I highly recommend it!
I've heard different things from my friends regarding Thomas Hardy in general, however I was eager to give him a go in 2016, especially with the release of the film adaption of his novel Far From the Madding Crowd in 2015 starring Carey Mulligan. I picked up the novel during #booktubeathon and started reading it and was very quickly drawn to the lyrical style of the writing and its pastoral beauty. My studies got in the way of finishing the novel, but I did get to watch the movie, and with some reservations, I did enjoy it very much. It's a very beautiful film, and again, quite sad in some ways. I'm still trying to wrap my mind on how I feel about the story itself, morally, with Hardy's worldview in this novel and what the choices of the characters really represent.

In some ways, it has a "feminist narrative" with an independent and headstrong heroine that would normally irritate me in a story, doing foolish decisions and making a complete hash of her romantic-life choices. However, there were some things that I felt won me over to this story, and moved me, even. The characters were rich, and not stereotypical, portraying complex emotions. The themes were both post-Victorian, and yet not, and I was fascinated by how Hardy explored the nature of relationships, the role of men and women in Victorian England, as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through perseverance and faithful courage. The story is a romance in many ways, with a love-triangle at it's heart. . . but it is also about characters, and the choices we make, and what that means. And I loved the character of Gabriel Oak! :)

I can't vouch for how accurate this film is as an adaption, but I did love it on its own; it was fun watching a well-done period-drama and the music score by Craig Armstrong was gorgeous! I look forward to reading the book and seeing how the film compares.
Disclaimer: this film does have some mature romance content, which I strongly advice to be watched with care.
I was hesitant as to whether I should include this movie in this list, as it isn't a new favourite movie. However, it did leave a heartbreaking and deeply lasting impression on me, and it was beautifully filmed, so I feel it definitely deserves mentioning here. This is an autobiographical WWI film, about a British woman who recalls coming of age during the Great War - a story of young love, the futility of war, and how to make sense of the darkest times.

This story is heartbreaking. But also deeply moving and beautiful and just so sad. It has a beautiful cast of characters - some of those that stood out to me, personally were Alicia Vikander's Vera Brittain, and Colin Morgan's Victor Richardson. In its own way, this film is a piece of art. It looks at poetry and art, and the beauty of nature. It also gives a very chilling look at the tragedy of war. I really loved it, though it left me in need of lots of tissues!

TV shows/miniseries
Unlike most years, 2016 was highlighted with me watching some really great TV series' and miniseries adaptions. The absolute highlight, and my current favourite TV show, has absolutely been BBC's Merlin! This five-season series is a King Arthur-retelling that follows the story of the young legendary Merlin, discovering and learning to master his magical gift and finding what his true destiny is; he becomes a servant to the young crown prince Arthur in the royal court of Camelot. This series is full of adventure and heart and courage and sacrifice. Brimming with rich characters, this King Arthur retelling stirs something deep and epic, beautiful and heartfelt in you. I just love this TV series so much! <3 
itv's Victoria
I had been looking forward to this new adaption of Queen Victoria's life since the start of last year, and I must say it did not disappoint. While I truly love the beautiful Young Victoria movie starring Emily Blunt, this ITV adaption does an amazing job of taking a more intimate and detailed look at Queen Victoria's early life, from her accession to the throne at the tender age of 18, her early days of reigning with all her mistakes and her turbulent but close relationship with Lord Melbourne, through to her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. It's an amazing tv series, and I just really loved it! The cast was brilliant, especially in the leading roles of Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman), Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) and Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), and moved me quite deeply by the depth and emotion of the characters and their relationship to each other. So excited for season 2!
Doctor Who
While I discovered Doctor Who late in 2015, I continued my adventures in the TARDIS through 2016 as well, watching the episodes with the 12th Doctor, and revisiting old favourites with the 9th, 10th, and 11th and their companions. I absolutely love the Doctor Who show - despite its crazy, timey-wimey flaws and its absurd adventures, it has true heart and inspiration and it's just a good, fun ride! Hurry up and come, series 10!!
I only just started Robin Hood in December of 2016, and so far I'm still in season one, but I have so far loved this BBC adaption of the robber of Sherwood :D. 

Music 2016:
Days of Elijah - Robin Mark
When it came to music, 2016 was very much focused on instrumental movie soundtracks (I'm obsessed!) However, during a time when I was burdened with my studies, I found true soul-food and refreshment from Robin Mark's music, especially his album Days of Elijah. I remember frequently popping on my earphones, and playing the songs Be Unto Your Name and The Lion of Judah just before an exam and being so blessed and uplifted in my heart. Though Robin Mark's music is not new to me, I was so happy to rediscover him last year and listen and worship through those songs, at a time when I needed them most!
Refuge - Sons of Korah
I have raved about the Sons of Korah music team for a while now, but I have been especially thankful for their music over the past year with their 2014 album, Refuge. A diverse and dynamic album that covers a range of different genres of Psalms (this band put music to the psalms), with some intense and turbulent ones like Psalm 94, and others that offer praise and hope like Psalm 92 or Psalm 23. These guys are so talented, and it's amazing to hear the instrumental palette on this album of guitar and drums - with some beautiful and truly epic moments in Refuge, I have been just so blessed with hearing and singing the Psalms.
Merlin - Rob Lane
2016 was rich with my love and new-found discoveries of amazing movie soundtracks and scores for tv series'. Merlin soundtrack by Rob Lane, and Rohan Stevenson, James Gosling & Michal Paclicek, in much the same way that the show itself did, won me over completely and became an instant favourite. Sadly, they have never released series 5 OST, which makes me incredibly sad because there is some beautiful music in that season. But on the whole this series has truly an incredible and beautiful fantasy score - so inspirational and moving and epic. Rob Lane's music has a distinctive style, but he definitely borrows from the splendour that Harry Gregson Williams and Howard Shore created in their Lord of the Rings and Narnia movie scores, which is no bad thing, good readers! 
Doctor Who - Murray Gold
So I am a little bit obsessed with Doctor Who music, okay? It's just so magical and epic and fairy-tale-ish. . .  JUST GIVE ME SERIES 9 SOUNDTRACK NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU! #needthisverybadly I kept listening to Doctor Who music on repeat, especially during the first half of 2016 - so beautiful.
Far from the Madding Crowd - Craig Armstrong
I only discovered the music of Craig Armstrong last year, but he is so good! My favourite is the score for Far from the Madding Crowd. It is so haunting and beautiful, and just LOVELY!
Martin Phipps is a favourite film composer of mine, and like the film itself, the music for Woman in Gold is pure art! I especially love the last 3 tracks "Final Testimony", "The Language of Our Future", and "I Lived Here"... 

The Incredible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling 
- Maryrose Wood
This is a clever little book, and so adorably cute! My friend Annie Hawthorne recommended this series to me, and I totally enjoyed this first book. This book contains adorable wolf munchkins, a prim and smart and totally endearing Victorian governess, haunted mansions and the craziest adventures in a proper Victorian household. I loved it! I hope to continue the series sometime this year, for sure.
Agnes Grey - Anne Bronte
Anne Bronte is one of my favourite Bronte sisters. Now that I've read at last Anne Bronte's 2 novels, I can't help feeling a little sad, because I really love her writing and faith and her earnestness. She isn't quite like her sister Charlotte with her brilliant literary talent - however her writing is solid and good and edifying! Agnes Grey shares in its pages a simpler, quieter tale than other Bronte stories. I loved the Christian worldview of Anne Bronte's characters - and how she infused her writing with moments of faith and trust in God. This was so refreshing, reading it from a classic.
I loved this book so much! It's just perfect in every way. I remember taking it along on a weekend-holiday to the beach, and being completely glued to the pages, all the while listening to the glorious sound of the ocean waves crashing on the sand. This book is just solid gold, and I dare you not to love Psmith - he's the best chap ever.
I haven't read an Agatha Christie in ages, so it was with such a delighted surprise that I got swallowed up in this particular mystery. But oh the suspects are many and the plot thickens... this possibly is one of Christie's best mysteries that I've read/seen so far.
I've had Cathy Gohlke on my radar of "to-be-read authors" for a while, so I was really glad to finally read one of her novels. Saving Amelie was a hard-hitting, moving novel that I found to be both gripping and engaging. I fell in love with  the characters of Amelie, Lea, Oma and Jason - that is one thing I loved about this book: the vast array of characters and the richness of them. Gohlke deals with difficult themes of eugenics and the role it played in Hitler's Nazi Germany - it was very intense and emotional but also fascinating and rich, and heartbreaking, and I truly loved it.
The Great Divorce was amazing. And I mean, it really was so good! In allegorical style of a man's journey on a bus to heaven, this story tells of the separation of Heaven and Hell, of the glory of Christ, and the horror of sin, the murkiness and abject depravity of the human heart, and the wonder of the light of God and His grace in us. "Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light." 
My introduction to Wilkie Collins, the plot of this mystery novel completely engrossed me, and Collins' Gothic, haunting writing style and his humour made me fall in love with the characters so much! Marian is a new favourite heroine in classic Victorian literature, that's for sure. I cannot wait to read The Moonstone, and hopefully watch the new tv adaption - also Wilkie Collins has quite a bibliography that I'm keen to dig into by and by. But this novel was so good - possibly one of my favourite of 2016! Read my full blog review.
I knew next to nothing going into this book, so because I loved this book so much with all its pain and beauty, I won't give anything away or even attempt to describe the story or plot. This book was so sad, the ache felt tangible and horrifying at certain moments. It dug deep into the emotions, the heartbreak and struggles of the human soul, and it resonated deeply with me. It's one of those few books that made me cry out-right, big ugly heart-tears. Yet this book is so beautiful, I don't have quite the words for it. It moved me deeply.  I wrote a review of the book on my blog, in which I attempted to tap into the beauty of this story, so please check it out.

And thus, my dear friends, I've read my last of Jane Austen's famous 6 novels. Obviously she wrote more stuff, like Lady Susan and her Juvenile writings, but I think there was something about picking up this novel as her "last" proper novel, and just spending time savouring it with delight and awe. Mansfield Park, for always hiding within the shadows of its popular sisters, is actually one of Austen's most mature and beautiful works - a true masterpiece of writing and moral thought. The characters are wonderful too - well, I mean Fanny is! She's quite the underrated heroine, but brave and kind and steadfast and just the loveliest thing! Mansfield Park is now vying with Persuasion for my favourite Jane Austen novel... dear, oh dear.
So while I had fun reading The Lunar Chronicles series throughout last year, it mostly felt like a doze of light-hearted, slightly guilty-pleasure entertainment. The books were well-written and engaging, but I didn't feel like they were special favourites, or anything. Cress on the other hand, had a little something which made it truly delightful, and while I can't quite put my finger on one ingredient that made me love it so much, I can definitely say it was a truly enjoyable, and sweet story! It wasn't quite as dark as Cinder and Scarlet, and it had some special character and plot developments that were quite wonderful as well. I loved the  characters of Cress and Thorne! They were really a sweet pairing; Cress was so cute and awkwardly adorable and selfless, and Thorne made me smile in every page he was on... well, almost all. I really loved the Repunzel retelling of their story - it was just lovely!

Two favourite parts of the book were when Cress and Thorne crashed on the desert, and when the gang infiltrated the palace on the wedding day - really fun. 
2016 was dominated with me reading 20th century modern classics, like The Great Gatsby. And while I chaffed a little at not reading as much Victorian literature as I'd have liked, thanks to my English exam, I do feel grateful that I finally got to read my first Steinbeck last year, and fell in love with what he does with stories and simple tales, like his little novella Of Mice and Men. It's such a well-written story, but so sad and tragic. It was brilliant in the way Steinbeck made me invest in this two men, George and Lennie, and get so swallowed into their dream, that by the last page I was left breathless with a throbbing heart, and a tear in my eye. He's definitely a favourite American writer, and I'd love to read more of his novels in the future, like The Red Pony and East of Eden. Read my review on Goodreads.
I finally have read my first William Shakespeare play, and I can't explain just how much I loved reading and studying it, and even writing essays for it for my exam. Macbeth is such a rich tale, and I don't think I could even tap the surface of things I learnt and appreciated from it. But I did share one of my essays on Fullness of Joy a while back, which you might enjoy reading, flaws and all. Maybe I will post in another article some more of my thoughts regarding the moral dilemmas of this play, and the themes within it. But another thing I enjoyed in this play was... well, the writing itself! Shakespeare is pretty darn clever, with amazing turns of phrases and dramatic soliloquies. I have a feeling a lot of it went over my head, but what I did get amazed me with its brilliance. And sometimes just how profound he got. His writings had rich symbolism that I just loved, and was actually quite moved by!

Can't wait for my next Shakespeare!
This was another of those "study" texts that was a real joy to  read & study for my exams. I had heard so many good things about it, but it caught me unprepared for how emotional it would actually be. I loved all the political philosophies and ideologies presented in this book in the form of a simple fable. It was gold! It was a rather sad tale, though, and amazingly, I felt quite moved by the oppression of the animals. I think it was accentuated by the fact that it was an echo of Soviet Russia during the reign of Stalin and the Russian Revolution, and therefore real in every sense of the word!

Also Boxer and Clover, the two horses, and even Benjamin the donkey, won me over and made me cry... aww, Boxer! <3 *sniffs*
Ahh, this book was so good. I've not read many YA fiction books, much less ones that I've truly enjoyed. But I was delighted by how much I loved Red Rising, and frequently surprised by its depth and maturity. I loved the character of Darrow so much, and also the writing style and world-building was just phenomenal in a YA dystopian/sci-fi novel. One of the things I loved in this book was the Roman/Greek mythology based world-building of Pierce Brown's novel. My Roman-loving heart was fangirling all the way!

Content-wise, there were a few things I would have preferred to have had toned down, mostly language wise, and once or twice a small romance scene, but on the whole this novel was far more mature and rich and ready to deal with moral themes that I found fascinating. I hope to review this book, possibly when I've read the full series, but until then, I'd recommend you read Suzannah Rowntree's review on Goodreads, as she basically says everything I ever could about this book. It was her review, in fact, that made me pick this novel up, so there's that too... :)
And thus, dear friends, I've listed in this giant post, some of my favourites of 2016. Please tell me some of YOUR favourites in the comments below, or if any of these books/films/shows/music caught your eye. I'd love to have a conversation! Stay tuned for my coming posts, including one with some reading, writing and study goals for 2016, which may or may not include something of a TBR.

Further up and further in!

Last Minute List | Favourite Christmas Movies

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ahh, we're seriously counting down till Christmas Day! You know, for me this Christmas season feels unique to all previous Christmas times before, possibly because I am in a new era of my life, not just for me, but also for my entire family. Things feel uncertain, different, exciting, and scary some days. It's a dull, painful ache. At the same time Christmas, true and real, feels like an anchor of joy and hope in God that strengthens me through the changes, something so old and familiar and yet awe-inspiring - something too precious for words! "God with us". Learning that the hope and joy of Christmas is not in what we do or buy or how happy our circumstances are, but rather in the love of Jesus Christ our Saviour, and in the celebration of His birth! It's the reason, out of so many other reasons, that makes December my favourite time of the year.

Meanwhile, my sister Sarah set up our Christmas tree and fairy-lights earlier this month 🎄. It's so sparkly and cozy, it spreads all the cheer! I'm constantly listening to Christmas Carols as I do the Christmas baking (aka homemade ice-cream). I've also started watching all the Christmas movies! Which leads me to the topic of this blog-post. Below, I'd like to share with you my all-time favourite festive movies & episodes from beloved shows. Some are old favourites, some are really quite new. In my excitement to do this post, I asked some of my friends on Facebook what were their favourite Christmas movies. I got some classic recommendations, but also some new ones I had never watched. I ended up watching 3 the other week and totally loving them! So, today I want to talk about some of these films that warm the heart, make me smile, or remind me of the true heart of the Christmas story. Some are hilarious and comedic, some are light romantic Hallmarks, and some are dramatic and exciting adventures, while others are deep and truthful and beautiful. I hope you enjoy, dear friends!

    The Heart-Warming & Inspiring
The Nativity Story
More than any other film, perhaps, this is my favourite Christmas movie, because it tells beautifully the story of the birth of Christ. It does it in a very intimate, and personal way, taking us with Mary and Joseph on the long journey to Bethlehem, and allowing us to glimpse their struggles and faith and trust in God in a dramatic narrative, imagining what it must have been like for them. Despite its drama, at its heart, it is a poignant look into the wonder of God's love for us in the glorious birth of our Lord, born in the most humble of circumstances, and among the humblest of hearts. It's beautiful!

About accuracy of story, the film follows the very traditional storyline regarding the birth of Christ, with the Wise Men coming to Christ at the manger, just after He was born. However, considering other films about the birth of Jesus, this one actually tries to capture in great detail the historical setting and situation for His birth, and depicts scenes and moments often missed in other films. I was a little annoyed by the portrayal of Mary, mostly in the beginning. I found I disliked how they showed her as initially a modern moody teenage girl, upset with her parents for the "arranged marriage" to Joseph, who she did not know at all. While she  was definitely quite young, I don't think Mary the Mother of Christ would have been rebellious or sulky about her situation! I believe she was a truly godly young woman who feared God and loved Him with all her heart. So that upset me a little, but what redeemed  the depiction of Mary's character for me  was  that after the Annunciation, when the Angel of the Lord appeared to her, she definitely matured and became more sensitive and prayerful and both awed and humbled at the calling of God in her life. So in that way, this was especially beautiful to watch! My favourite portrayal was Joseph's, by far! I love the character of Joseph in the Bible! He was such a man of faith, who feared and obeyed God, against all human understanding. He was a humble vessel in God's redemptive work, yet He was so faithful to care for Mary and baby Jesus and protect them. He was wonderfully portrayed in The Nativity Story, and I just loved that! Another thing I loved in this film, was the time the filmmakers took to show us the long journey - the dangers, the hardships, and the faith it took. On the whole, this a very special Christmas film that I love watching, if possible, on Christmas Eve, just as it is getting dark... :) <3

As a side-note, the music score in this film is GLORIOUS! Just listen to the Christmas Carol harmonies within the orchestral/voice choirs; it is so awe-inspiring and CHRISTMAS-Y!

Jesus of Nazareth
This 3-part film about the life of Christ, based on all Four Gospels, begins with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and ends with His Crucifixion and His Resurrection. For many Christians, especially evangelicals, watching films portraying Christ is a controversial/sensitive thing, so I totally understand if you feel uncomfortable about this. However, I really appreciate this film directed by Franco Zeffarell in the 1980s, in that it is very respectful of the Biblical Story, with reverence and awe, that is beautifully portrayed by the actors, with most scenes and words, especially of Christ, taken directly from the Gospels. Filmed largely in Morocco, the set-designs and landscapes, and even the choice of actors are all very Middle-Eastern and give a sense of the Jewish culture at the time of Christ. As a visual picture of the life, works and words of Jesus, I highly recommend this three-part series as it immerses you in the life of our Lord, reminding you of the wonder of His words and deeds and the glory and suffering of His ministry on earth. Perhaps, my personal favourite is the whole first part with the birth of Jesus - it is so special and beautiful. Again, the portrayal of Joseph is very special in this film! Also Mary the Mother of Jesus is beautifully acted by Olivia Hussey - unlike The Nativity Story, this Mary is much more thoughtful and respectful. I sometimes found her a bit too sad, sometimes though :).

 I recently re-watched the entire 3 parts, and I was again deeply moved and inspired. Also the music is so deep and beautiful, ahhh! I get chills every time I hear the theme music: Jesus of Nazareth Soundtrack

Ben Hur
This was not one of the first films that came to mind when I was thinking of favourite festive films, however, as it is such a long 3-hour movie, I've usually always watched it with my sisters during the summer/Christmas break, so I have huge fond memories of that, and just treasuring the Christmas-feelings of seeing a huge, glorious epic like Ben Hur! Ben Hur's first ten minutes or so covers the Christmas story as well, so that is special. Basically I love watching Biblical and Ancient history films during this time, and Ben Hur 1959 is a huge favourite of mine, so it just had to be in this list.

The Christmas Box
This is such an underrated film, but it is so beautiful and special and perfect for Christmas. It's definitely one of my all time favourite Christmas movies, and really touching. Starring Richard Thomas (John Boy from The Waltons) as the dad, it's basically about this ski-shop owner who with his wife and daughter, move in with an elderly widow who needs help; he then starts to suffer recurring dreams of an angel. I highly recommend it :).
A Princess for Christmas
This is a new favourite actually! One of my friends recommended this film to me on facebook, so like an obedient child, despite frequently turning my nose up at corny Hallmark romances, I trotted off to youtube to see if I could watch this Christmas romance. Low and behold, I found it and to my surprise, really enjoyed it! For one thing, the cast was really great, especially Jules played by Katie McGrath (she also plays Morgana in Merlin, and is just a wonderful actress). I loved Jules' sweet, spunky character, and I think the inclusion of an English country-estate, and children, and themes of grief and treasuring Christmas and love in our hearts made this fun, silly movie really special. :)  

The Bridge
You know how I was saying I am usually kind of a movie snob when it comes to Hallmark movies and chick-lit romance stories? Well, I have definitely found a few sweet exceptions, that have broken a few of the typical tropes, or at least do them well, and make for a sweet, cozy entertainment on a December evening. The Bridge Parts 1, and 2, based on Karen Kingsbury's story, definitely was one of those sweet specials that is just perfect for the Christmas time! The story is about two new students at Belmont University. Ryan, an aspiring musician, and Molly, a deep lover of literature, meet the first day of classes and become study partners. The Bridge, a local bookstore, becomes a close part of their lives, as their relationship grows. I really connected with this story for so many reasons - perhaps because its about a bookstore, music and literature, and about two young university students, trying to navigate life and be better people, and finding companionship in each other, something I can relate to. Molly and Ryan were both endearing characters, and were really developed, which I found a refreshing change to many contemporary romances. Basically it is a very sweet, feel-good movie, and I'd recommend it if you were looking for a sweet Christmas tale :).

Treasures of the Snow
My sister Sarah reminded me the other day of Treasures of the Snow film, and while the movie skips some of the more Christmas elements, the story is set in the Alps of Switzerland, in winter, so it really fits I think. The novel by Patricia St. John actually has a beautiful section set during Christmas-time that is so special and beautiful. Speaking of which, Patricia St. John wrote several novels set during Christmas time that are so good. Treasures of the Snow is one of my favourite, and this adaption (1980) is very close to the book, and an old childhood favourite. It's basically about 12-year-old Lucien, a boy who is traumatized and ostracized by Annette and the whole town for causing her little brother Danny to fall off a cliff. As he finds solitude in the nearby woods, Lucien comes across a woodcarver who helps him find the peace he was looking for, and Annette must learn to find true forgiveness. It's such a good story, both the film and the book!
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

I think most of us are familiar with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, a story about four children who travel through a magical wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it from the evil of the White Witch who trapped Narnia in endless winter (and no Christmas), with the guidance of a Lion called Aslan. The 2005 film adaption by Disney is truly special and magical, and remarkably close to the book. This is a beautiful film, and especially wonderful to watch during Christmas, I think, as it really highlights the hope that comes with Christmas - in Narnia, it is Aslan himself and it is beautiful. Ahh, I love this movie! 

A Christmas Carol
No Christmas movie recommendation list would be complete without A Christmas Carol adaption, and so far, this is a huge favourite of mine. An animated retelling of Charles Dickens' classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions (The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, The Ghost of Christmas Future). It is a lot of fun with all the animation! And ever so Christmas-y :D.
The Holly Jolly Movies
Part 2
Arthur Christmas
This is a new favourite based off a recommendation from a friend on Facebook. It's an animated movie that is a lot of fun and full of the Christmas spirit of cheer and gift-giving and care. Santa's clumsy son, Arthur, gets put on a mission with St. Nick's father to give out a present they misplaced to a young girl in less than 2 hours. It's a great romp!

 Rise of the Guardians
I'd heard this movie being mentioned several times the last few years, and to say  the least I was interested. But I had forgotten about it till this Christmas when a few friends recommended it to me, so I watched it one evening. I thoroughly enjoyed this Disney Christmas-fantasy story! When an evil spirit known as Pitch lays down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal Guardians (or...ahem, fairies)...must join forces for the first time to protect the hopes, beliefs, and imaginations of children all over the world. Among those guardians Santa Clause is the leader, and is surrounded by the Easter Bunny, the Dream Sandyman, the Tooth Fairy, and the lonely Jack Frost. It's good fun and quite moving in fact!

Also please tell me I am not the only one who ships Jack with redeemed Elsa from Frozen? :D

So I guess there had to be a cheesy movie or two in this list, and this film and the next are TOTALLY cheesy... silly, weird, childish cheese. But it's kind of fun! Actually the main reasons why I love both Nativity! and its sequel Danger in the Manger is because of the choice of lead-actors for the main character. I remember watching Nativity right before seeing first Hobbit movie, and just by watching Mr. Maddens (Martin Freeman) as the miserable teacher of those primary school kids, I knew he'd be amazing as Bilbo. Haha, anyway! The story is about teacher Paul Maddens who is charged with producing the school's nativity play for Christmas. He has to compete against the posh rival school for the honour of best reviewed show in town, so he idly boasts that his ex-girlfriend Jennifer, a Hollywood Producer, is coming to see his show with a view to turning it into a film. Problem is he hasn't spoken in to her in years. His eccentric assistant Mr Poppy fuels the lie and gets the over-excited school ready for Hollywood to come to their school. It is a weird, childish comedy, but Freeman's performance really helps make it memorable, and the ending is kind of sweet. 
(P.S. note that I don't really care for the jazzy Nativity songs, and crude Christmas jokes in this film, especially used by Mr Poppy)
Of the two, this is actually my favourite! It is so much fun, and has a really sweet, beautiful ending. Also I love the family themes of this movie - it is so very Christmas-y! This sequel to the British comedy sees a new teacher Mr. Peterson (David Tennant) take over instead of Mr. Maddens. When he enters his school in the National "Song for Christmas' Competition", he and his pregnant wife, and the schoolchildren, led by the ever eccentric Mr Poppy, "embark on an epic road trip that ends up with a birth and a donkey, where he must embrace his fears and become a hero." The jokes and songs in this one aren't as lame as Nativity! though the story-line can be a bit more childish and there are still a few songs in the concert that I skip. However, I actually loved the way the story focused on the heart of Christmas! It's a lot of fun and I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for a silly, fun but sweet Christmas movie. Also Tennant does wonderful job at acting a vulnerable, kind-hearted teacher in juxtaposition with a famous hard-faced musician! Oh, and the supporting cast are great too!

... Speaking of of which, this naturally reminds me of Doctor Who, and since last year I've fallen in love with BBC Doctor Who's annual Christmas specials that have been aired since 2005. So far, there are 10 episodes, and I am highly looking forward to this year's one as well...

Doctor Who Christmas Specials:
Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion
This is a truly fun episode! The newly regenerated Doctor travels to present day London and Rose is happy to be home in time for Christmas with her mother Jackie. The Doctor isn't well suffering from post-regeneration effects. While he is in a coma-like state, the people of the Earth are in danger of the Sycorax who threaten to destroy one-third of the planet's population if they don't surrender. I love this episode for several reasons - one, Harriet Jones is Prime Minister and is pretty cool at that too :D. Jackie is just as wonderful at being sassy and in-the-way, and for once I actually really related to Rose. This episode really ties for my favourite post-regeneration episode, right there with Eleventh Hour. It has a lot of suspense with the aliens, the threat of invasion, and the Doctor being so sick, while Rose has to adjust to this beloved doctor with a new face. Best of all though is the inclusion of the Christmas tree that spins out of control. Jackie's one-liner "I AM GOING TO BE KILLED BY A CHRISTMAS TREE!" is positively gold. A wonderful Christmas special :D
Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride
Donna Noble is one of my favourite Doctor Who companions, so I definitely loved this Christmas special! In this episode, the Doctor is baffled when a young woman is transported to the TARDIS on her wedding day, and attempts to find out how she is connected to an alien plot to destroy earth. There are some elements in the story that I do not appreciate as much, like when the Doctor takes Donna back in time to "the forming of Earth", which was quite evolutionary. Also the Racnoss monster was pretty ghastly looking. However, as a space adventure, and a story between the Doctor and the introduction of a companion & her first encounter with the TARDIS/Doctor, this episode is so much fun! I love Donna so much, and seeing what good she does to the Doctor - but also her spunk and humour is just delightful. And as with Christmas Invasion, this episode throws off a few Christmas jokes, like when to Donna's horror she realizes that "Santa is a ROBOT!!!!"
Doctor Who: The Voyage of the Damned
This is really one of my all time favourite Christmas specials! In this story, the Doctor finds his TARDIS colliding with a spaceship based on the RMS Titanic during a Christmas party. With the help of a waitress named Astrid, the Doctor must take on the race called the Hosts as the lives of the Titanic crew and those on Earth are in danger. This is a really sweet, classic Tenth-Doctor Era episode, with the strong characteristics that define Tennant's Doctor - the hero, come to save the day, but becomes too attached to someone special, only to loose them in a heartbreaking way. But in a way, I loved that, and it moved me deeply and it was really well-written, with an amazing cast & script. There are many edge-of-your-seat moments, and also it is quite a Christmas-y story!
Doctor Who: The Next Doctor
A fun, Victorian Christmas episode! The Doctor arrives in London on Christmas Eve in 1851 where he encounters the Cybermen and a man who claims he's a Time Lord called the Doctor. This is quite the quintessential Victorian Christmas story, but add time-lords and science fiction and Dickensian-orphans and hot air balloon and it's just wonderful :).
Doctor Who: The End of Time
This is the Tenth Doctor's last episode, and in some ways the Christmas-y feel of this episode is overshadowed by the threat of the Doctor's nemesis the Master, and the Doctor's growing fear of facing death. Yet in another way, this episode is so special and beautiful and heartbreaking, it captures something of that brave pain and hope that comes with Christmas. Oh, and there is Wilfred. If anyone can make you in the right Christmas mood, it would be Wilfred with his Antler hat :') <3.
Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol
Ahh, the first Christmas episode for the 11th Doctor is simply perfect and captures so many beautiful things about Christmas. Most specifically it's a time-travel space retelling of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and it is done brilliantly, and so beautifully! Featuring a crashing space liner, shark-rides, Michael Gambon as the wonderful Ebenezer Scrooge of this story, and the ever-funny, full-of-hope 11th Doctor attempting to warm the heart of Gambon's Kazran by showing him Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. It's lovely and has some of my favourite 11th Doctor moments!  
Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
If A Christmas Carol was a Dickens' retelling, than this episode is the C.S. Lewis Narnia retelling! It's Christmas Eve when Madge comes to the aid of an injured Spaceman Angel (aka the Doctor). He promises to repay her kindness. Three years later, a devastated Madge escapes war-torn London with her two children, for a house in Dorset. Despite terrible news, she tries to give her children Lily and Cyril the best Christmas ever, but is surprised to be greeted by a madcap caretaker (aka the Doctor again!) who attempts to give them the biggest Christmas gift by leading them into a magical wintry "fairy-land" :D It is so sweet, and another huge favourite of mine. The 11th Doctor is hilarious, but also this episode has the makings of a tear-jerker on a Christmas night! :)
Doctor Who: The Snowmen
Continuing the fun of the specials, The Snowmen introduces a new character, Clara Oswin Oswald, and it is one of my favourite companion introductions, hands down. The way the TARDIS was introduced was truly magical and the Victorian Christmas-y feel of this story, with all that brooding snow is perfectly wonderful! It's London, 1892, and the snow is feeding off of the nightmares of little boy. But the Doctor has given up on saving the world, so it is up to a young governess named Clara to convince him, with just one word, to save the day. This is just the perfect Christmas episode!
Disclaimer note: this episode contains two characters whose lifestyle choices I do not condone at all. There is no questionable "scene" material though, just in the conversation. So in this episode, if you simply mute the first minute or two of Madame Vastra/Jenny's conversation with Professor Simeon, there shouldn't be an issue.
Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor
This is my all time favourite Doctor Who episode... so it wouldn't be a huge surprise if it may just be my favourite Christmas episode too. The Doctor's worst enemies, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Angels, and the Silence, all gather together against the Doctor as a mysterious message echoes across the stars, even as the Doctor's Eleventh life draws to a close. This is a heartbreaking episode, but ahh, so moving and beautiful! *sobs in a corner* It stars out with a bit of sweet humour, with the Doctor's sweet and funny companion Clara Oswald calling on the Doctor to help her save her Christmas turkey. What follows is an emotional and deeply epic war set on an island called Christmas in which the Doctor has to face an ultimate sacrifice. This story IS set during Christmas, and is in a heartbreaking way, all about the heart of Christmas, I feel. Just go get into Doctor Who, and watch it, okay? 
Doctor Who: Last Christmas
This is probably my 2nd favourite Christmas Doctor Who ever. In this story, the Doctor and Clara face their last Christmas. Trapped on an Arctic base, under attack from terrifying dream-sucking creatures, who might just help them out of their ditch? The mythical Santa Claus! This episode has so many beautiful moments that truly remind me of why I ever liked Steven Moffett's writing (haha, sometimes I doubt!) ... Jenna Coleman's performance of Clara in this episode was truly beautiful and heartbreaking, and I think this was the first episode when I actually knew that I loved the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) almost as much as the others. That theme of "every Christmas is last Christmas" is such a sad tearjerker, but this episode incapsulated beautifully all the fairy-tale, hopeful Christmas elements while still maintaing a scary, adventurous Doctor Who odyssey. 
Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song
This is a special episode for anyone who loves the character of River Song from the episode Silence in the Library. For me, this was just so happy and moving and beautiful to see the arc of this character and her relationship with the Doctor in an episode with just the two of them loving each other! There is a lot of corny, funny humour in this episode, but I think best of all is finally seeing the 12th Doctor laugh with honest warmth the way he does in this story, after a really tough 9th season. Ahh, but that ending though... with the fairy Christmas lights and River Song's dress and the Towers of Dilirium. . . *sniffs with emotion*.
On the side, I am positive those antlers the Doctor is wearing actually once belonged to Wilfred, Donna's granddad!
Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett): The Blue Carbuncle
Jeremy Brett is my favourite Sherlock Holmes, okay? And somehow, watching Sherlock Holmes during Christmas sounds like a lovely idea! This episode "The Blue Carbuncle" is amazing, with Brett at his peak in his performance of the famous sleuth. This also happens to be a Christmas-themed episode too, so that is extra special! On Christmas Eve, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson try to determine how a fabulous blue carbuncle found its way down the gullet of a Christmas goose. It's hilarious and wonderful and has some brilliant deduction scenes between Sherlock and John, you'll just love it!
Sherlock: His Last Vow
Carrying on the detective theme, His Last Vow is a very special Christmas episode for any lovers of the Sherlock BBC tv show. Now obviously, you need to have watched the rest of the episodes first to enjoy this, but if you have, I highly recommend this episode! It's possibly one of my favourite in the whole show, which is funny, considering I actually didn't like season 3 of Sherlock very much. But this episode has so many things that I loved about it, most notably is the characterization of each person in the story, from Sherlock Holmes, to Watson, to Mycroft. This story is intense! Sherlock investigates Charles Augustus Magnussen, a master blackmailer who knows the weakness of every prominent figure. In his pursuit of clues, Sherlock may just discover a mystery surrounding Mary Watson that may threaten her future with John. The reason I've included it in this list is that it is set during Christmas, and gives you many of the feels of Advent time...!
Little House on the Prairie Christmas episodes:
Little House has some truly lovely Christmas episodes, starting from The Pilot film, the story features the Ingalls family gathered lovingly together during Christmas, and they're just so sweet and special to watch any time of the year, but especially during Christmas. Christmas at Plum Creek is all about a young family and how they all try to sacrifice and do things for each other on their first Christmas in Walnut Grove. It's super delightful! The Christmas They Never Forgot occurs much later in the show, in season 8, when both Mary and Laura are married, and the whole family gather together for  a snowy Christmas, and recall Christmases of long ago! It's sweet, and a bit of a trip down memory lane. Bless All the Dear Children is one of the specials in the last season of Little House on the Prairie (season 10), when baby Rose is kidnapped, Laura and Almanzo along with Mr. Edwards and stowaway little orphan boy go seeking their little baby during Christmas. Focusing on the children, this is a Christmas story you might not forget in a hurry :).

Well, that's it, dear friends! That was a long list, and hurrah to you, if you read to the end of this post. But do tell me in the comments below what YOUR favourite Christmas movies/episodes are? Have you seen any of these? What are your thoughts? Meanwhile I hope you have a most blessed and Merry Christmas!