My son Quinn loves Christmas. Like—he loves it in a watch-How the Grinch Stole Christmas-on-the-Fourth of July kind of way.
Every year he bombards me with endless Christmas movies and TV specials during the month of December, and that experience has taught me one thing: Snow and eggnog aren’t the only things white during the holiday season (well, eggnog is kind of yellow, but don’t argue with me as I’m trying to make a larger point!).
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story—hell, Frosty the Snowman—these Christmas films and TV specials have one thing in common: They are all insufferably, excruciatingly white.
In fact, the Hallmark Channel has perfected the art of white people falling in love in front of Christmas trees while wearing sweaters and learning the true meaning of the season. If one were to look only at the Christmas movies and TV specials in heavy rotation starting the day after Thanksgiving, one might think that black folks don’t open presents on Dec. 25.
This hits home for me because:
- Quinn loves Christmas more than the average person. (He gets that from me; I start playing Christmas music the day after Halloween because, let’s be honest, Thanksgiving is the Iota Phi Theta of holidays: You’re happy it is there, but it does not have the storied history of the older, more established festive days.)
- I am a father who is intentional about my son’s cultural consumption. I think representation is important, and I go out of my way to find images that show that black people do, indeed, celebrate the holiday.
So If you’re tired of watching Christmas movies and TV specials that treat black people like Charlie Brown does Franklin in his Thanksgiving special, never fear; I got a beautiful, black blessing for you. Below, in no particular order, are 10 movies and TV specials to help you have the blackest Christmas ever.
Penny Marshall directs this modernization of The Bishop’s Wife (and I have a thing about white directors directing black movies), but that does not keep it from being the official Christmas film of black grandmothers everywhere. This has all of your Big Mama’s favorite black people—Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, Courtney B. Vance, Jenifer Lewis and Loretta Devine—and features original songs by the late, great Nippy, including the classics “Who Would Imagine a King” and her cover of “Joy to the World” with the Georgia Mass Choir.
This is destined to become a holiday classic. Based on the beloved Caldecott Medal-winning book by Ezra Jack Keats, this TV movie features the voice acting of Regina King and Laurence Fishburne and the singing voices of Boyz II Men singing a song that is their best Christmas song since “Let It Snow.” The fact that a major plot point in the episode is that the star ruins his grandmother’s baked mac and cheese and is afraid that he ruined Christmas makes this, possibly, the blackest thing streaming on Amazon Prime.
Christmas is not just for kids—and this is decidedly not a kids’ Christmas movie. But if you like melanin and gentleness in your Christmas movie, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better than this.
This movie starring Sammy Davis Jr. and the imitable Cicely Tyson can be hard to find on TV but is streaming on YouTube. Executive-produced by Eddie Murphy and featuring a great original score by Stanley Clarke, it tells the story of a social worker who helps a jazz musician who recently lost his wife adopt a child. It hits all the right sentimental notes: cute kid, handsome guy and good music.
The auntie: We all have one. She is more than just your mother’s sister; she is the family parliamentarian, spiritual adviser and life coach. This, in addition to the difficulty that the first holiday season after losing a loved one brings, is what Almost Christmas nails perfectly. Directed by David E. Talbert, the film features an all-star cast and tells the laugh-out-loud story of the Meyer family’s first Christmas without the matriarch. Mo’Nique steals every scene she is in as May, a foulmouthed, Jesus- and wig-loving black auntie.
Preston A. Whitmore II understands that for families, coming together during the holiday season can bring to the surface tensions that have been swept under the rug, and This Christmas tells the story of the first time in four years that all the Whitfields have been together. Idris Elba and Regina King are standouts in the star-studded film about the importance of family and unconditional love.
There were a number of Christmas episodes featuring TV’s Evans family, but this one is my favorite. It features a young Janet Jackson, who steals a necklace because she wants to give Willona a Christmas present and learns that presents are not what Christmas is about—it’s love.
Queen Latifah gives an inspired performance as a woman who thinks she is near death and decides to live with intentionality during her last holiday season. LL Cool J licks his lips ferociously in a supporting role.
Damn, I miss this show, and this, along with “Return of the King,” is a stand-out episode. Huey takes it upon himself to push back against the commercialization of the holiday and writes a play that is true to the genesis of the birth of Jesus. The result is the wokest Christmas episode of all time.
I almost hesitated to include this because, ya know: Cosby. But this was a staple in many black homes every year during Christmas, so … I’ll include it and throw my hands up in despair.
There you go: movies and TV shows that center the black experience during the holiday season. Don’t say I didn’t give you anything for Christmas.