Is there anything not to like about Christmas? The answer is a resounding no, and I include the secular sham that goes with it, expensive trees and cheap pink paper and maddening shopping. The birth of our Lord Jesus came in handy on his 1,914th birthday, when the German and British troops called a halt to the slaughter and played football instead. (The high command should have followed the troops’ example, but they ordered the mayhem to continue from the warmth of their various castles.)

Even Hollywood used to – I say “used to” – get into the spirit of Christmas and made films that warmed the heart and spread good cheer. Has a movie ever touched us more than Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life? George Bailey, played by the great Jimmy Stewart, has given up on an impeccably lived life helping his fellow man and the community in general, while resisting temptations to sell out to the greedy tycoon played by Lionel Barrymore. Broke and disillusioned on Christmas Eve, he’s about to throw himself into the freezing river and end it all, when a “failed” angel, played by Edmund Gwenn, befriends him and talks him out of it. And makes him see all the gifts he already has, like a beautiful and loyal family and a townspeople who love and respect him.

It naturally has a happy ending and is a lesson to us all: appreciate what you’ve got and keep your spirits up at all times.

My favourite film about Christmas is the old classic Miracle on 34th Street. Eight-year-old Susan, played by the wonderful Natalie Wood (in 1947, when the movie was made, she was around that age), has been brought up by a no-nonsense mother, the beautiful Maureen O’Hara, and the child is in deep need of a little Christmas magic. Well, you know the rest: a department store Santa (again played by Edmund Gwenn), whose real name is Kris Kringle, persuades the company to adopt his policy of directing customers to other stores when their needs cannot be met by Macy’s, the store that employs him.

What follows is a miracle of sorts. The Macy’s Santa is challenged in a court of law about the veracity of his claim that he really is Santa Claus. Children all over the city follow the trial and Christmas itself is in danger of being called a fraud. But of course Mr Kringle wins his case, Susan is satisfied that her faith was right, the mother gets together with her boyfriend and everyone goes home happy. Seventy years later, young children watch the film and believe that Santa exists.

Well, some children. There are certain so-called minorities in New York, in reality majorities, who are much too busy, even if they’re under 10 years of age, scoring drugs and mugging people, but this is about Christmas so I’ll stick to the good ones who have faith.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection