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The Late Movies: Vintage Christmas

Christmas has been the subject of film ever since film was invented. Some of those early shows survive, although you may not have seen them. Here's your chance to watch some rarely-seen Christmas cheer, spanning from 1898 to 1969.

Santa Claus

A visit from St. Nicholas is caught on film by G.A. Smith in 1898. Smith was a hypnotist and magic lantern operator before he became involved in film, and was one of the first to experiment with special effects in movies.
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A Christmas Carol

Scrooge has been on the silver screen for a long time! This silent film version was shot by Thomas Edison's company in 1910.
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The Night Before Christmas

A 1908 Edison film.
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The Insect's Christmas

This stop-motion animation was produced by the Russian Khanzhonkov Company in 1913. Director Vladislav Starevich won much acclaim for his films, including a decoration from Czar Nicholas II. This version has music from Danny Elfman added.
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A Christmas Dream

A 1946 combination live-action and stop-motion animation film by the Czech brothers Borivoj Zeman and Karel Zeman. Originally titled Váno?ní sen, it was dubbed in English for international audiences.
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Christmas Under Fire

A 1941 film about London celebrating Christmas during wartime.
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Santa in Animal Land

The animals are upset that Santa only brings gifts to human children. This creepy puppet show was produced in 1948.
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Suzy Snowflake

This stop-motion short was produced in 1951 for a kids' Christmas special on WGN-TV in Chicago.
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USO Christmas Show

Bob Hope entertains American troops in Vietnam for Christmas 1969.
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Next week: Vintage Christmas cartoons.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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