A major factor in a Christmas film being festive is the atmosphere. Regardless of the plot and characters, if there are fairy lights and snow, it generates the perfect ambience to be classed as a Christmas film. Seeing the characters walking around a town with shops featuring wonderful Christmas displays, and there being Christmas trees and roaring fires in the house evokes the cosy, joyous vibe associated with Christmas. This can mean that certain films which aren’t necessarily about Christmas can feel festive, like Die Hard and even Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone.
A festive film isn’t complete without the plot featuring the magic of Christmas. Usually, it’s the Christmas spirit bringing a family back together, or helping a character’s development. There’s also the theme of believing in Father Christmas and magic, which reminds the audience of their childhood excitement over the festive season. A Christmas film usually shows the main character the power of their belief, which may involve an element of redemption. The Christmas spirit often plays a part in teaching the protagonist a lesson, helping them change their ways and fully embrace the most magical time of the year.
Whilst some Christmas films may have some emotional moments, a film that is too sad may not create the right type of emotions to be considered a Christmas film. There has to be a balance of happy and sad moments, with the ending possibly being bittersweet, but ultimately creating feelings of optimism and hope. Christmas also needs to be the central point of the film, because if it is merely something happening in the background, the theme might not be strong enough to class the film as being Christmassy. Considering it’s the spirit of the festive holiday which drives the plot forward, without this, the film lacks the element of magic needed to be Christmassy.
It’s easy to see why the classic Christmas films that are popular each year are the best of the bunch to this day. They perfectly combine the magic of Christmas with a fun, heart-warming plot. Their familiarity creates a wonderful feeling of nostalgia perfect for re-watching and they embody that cosy, merry feeling audiences seek when watching a Christmas film.