I come from a family that has always appreciated the science fiction/fantasy/superhero genres. We had Saturday morning cartoons and television superheroes, comic books and literature filled with everything from C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Le Guin, and more. We’ve seen many of the titles we loved as kids transformed on the screen into entire universes that continue to keep us enthralled. I am happy to say that these interests have been passed onto our children and over the years, have become part of our holiday traditions. Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate our love of the genre at Christmas time.
I love decorating Christmas trees, and luckily, I get to do the traditional red and green designer tree for my mom as well as a family tree for my children. Our tree has always featured kid-friendly characters and we’ve graduated from Bert and Ernie ornaments to things like a TARDIS and a Dalek. While I wouldn’t go the route of decorating an entire tree in genre ornaments, I always try to add a few for that certain touch of whimsy. Mickey and Minnie are a standard, and thanks to Hallmark, we can now add things like Harry Potter, Frodo, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and this year’s favorites: a LEGO Batman and Joker.
Comic books have always been a staple of our holiday traditions. They are a key item in Christmas stockings. I’ve always been an advocate of providing anything to my children that promote reading. Baby’s first Christmas even included an issue of the Powerpuff Girls (for later enjoyment.) I love visiting the local comic book store for just the right title for every interest and am not shy about going beyond DC and Marvel. This year’s batch will include authors like Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Joss Whedon, and more. (I will also never apologize for my Archie Comics phases. I always loved Betty and Veronica comics, and now we have shows like Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, so there.)
The latest movies are always a part of our Christmases. We have a movie game that is such a tradition that when I announced that I might not do it this year, there were protests. Christmas time has been a time to supplement our family DVD and Blu-ray library. I wrap a bunch of DVDs with a gift tag that gives a clue to the title by who it is from, letting the kids guess the title. The one who gets it right gets to open the package. For instance: Iron Man would be from Robert Downey Jr. or Jurassic Park might have come from Richard Attenborough. I enjoy when they get stumped by my bad clues. One year, I gave them Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and signed it from Doogie Howser. What a surprise to realize that none of my kids knew who Doogie Howser is. They are allowed to ask a friend (or Siri), but I do manage to stump them every year! This year is a little problematic because I’ve started buying digital movies and didn’t really want to then buy the physical DVD of the same title for this game, so to keep the tradition alive, I’ve had to be creative.
This is a no-brainer. In good years, the kids would get entire collections like The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings, and in leaner years they would get just the first title of a series or maybe the next installment. When I worked in the book business, I’d pick up new books at conferences and save them for Christmas. I lucked out and got to bring home Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when it first came out, and even managed to get a galley copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban. With an ultimate goal of promoting lifelong reading, books should be on everybody’s Christmas list.
The rise in nerd-culture is reflected in stores like Hot Topic, F.Y.E., and in local bookstores. You can even find merch online with sites like ThinkGeek.com and of course Amazon. There are toys, there are games, there are puzzles, articles of clothing and more. One year, everyone in my house got Funko Pops and action figures as well as mugs and tumblers. (Of course, I got The Flash. But the recipient of the Green Lantern action figure asked, “Why me?” Thank you, Ryan Reynolds!) Last year everyone got blanket throws from favorite genre titles. To add more fun to the festivities, we did it as a Yankee Swap which yielded surprising results: no one wanted to swap until the last person (male) ended up with a Wonder Woman blanket. I swapped with him at the last minute! (I have not given up on the Yankee swap idea, so this year I’ll try it with books. Hopefully there will be more trading this Christmas. I may even add in a bit of genre trivia to make it more interesting: you can’t pick a book unless you answer a question…still working on this part!)
Christmas at my house includes surprises, games, movies, reading, and lively discussions about pop culture, science fiction, superheroes and fantasy. Ultimately it’s not about the gifts and receiving things, but about creating memories, having fun, laughing out loud and enjoying each other’s company. I hope you enjoy your holidays!