There is only one film that all Germans know and have developed a family tradition of watching every holiday season—Dinner for One. Though it’s only 10 minutes long and repeats the same two lines over and over (both of which are in English), it has been played on television more times than any other film in Germany, Austria, Norway, Latvia, Estonia and Denmark. In England, where the sketch originated, it remains virtually unknown.
American films shown in Germany are usually dubbed so it’s easy enough for non-English speakers to watch Hollywood films. That hasn’t stopped the German film industry from making a knock-off of Love Actually called Love is Everything (Alles ist Liebe), complete with a drunk Santa, a woman in a ridiculous present costume and several hideous Christmas sweaters.
The Eternal Song is a story about how the Christmas carol “Silent Night” came to be. The film contains precisely zero grains of truth but does show the class struggle between poor bargemen and their greedy employers. When the local priest steps in to mediate the conflict, everything is resolved and the town’s Christmas spirit is restored. It’s perfect for a cozy holiday night and worth a watch.
Literally meaning Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, this film is a Czech Republic-Germany collaboration and holiday movie for children first released in 1973. In the following years, the film became a cult holiday classic and is now shown every year on German television at least once. What’s not to love about owls who are best friends, ridiculous medieval headpieces and finding your one true love?
Krause, a police officer in a sleepy village outside Berlin, is getting ready for Christmas with his sisters. All is calm until the beautiful Marie has a breakdown with her car just outside of town. Krause is naturally responsible for helping Marie and her son, who have just run away from Marie’s husband after he becomes entangled in insurance fraud. The plot thickens when Krause helps Marie get back on the road but doesn’t want to let her go.
In Messy Christmas, a woman decides to invite all of her exes, her current husband’s exes and their respective partners over for Christmas dinner without telling her current husband. What could possibly go wrong? This mix of characters makes for an interesting bescherung, the German word for the present-giving time on Christmas Eve.
Another film from former east Germany, Auguste the Christmas Goose first came out in the mid-80s. Luitpold Löwenhaupt, an opera singer who loves to eat roasted goose for Christmas, buys a goose for the occasion a bit too early in November. His son names the goose Auguste and after becoming friendly with it, doesn’t want Auguste to end up on the dinner table. Lots of good music and gentle family humour follow this film to its conclusion.
Two Santas is the German version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and the film’s title is a pun on Weihnachtsmann, which roughly translates to “Santa”. In the film, a rich man and poor man are trying to get to Berlin in time for Christmas and end up being stuck with each other through a series of transportation-related mishaps before eventually making it home to their families.
The Flying Classroom is a 1933 novel by Erich Kästner that’s been adapted for the big screen more than once, most recently in 2003. In the book, an orphan starts at a boarding school a few days before Christmas. Though he gets along with his classmates, there is a brewing rivalry with the kids from a neighbouring school until one of the teachers decides to resolve the problem by having the offending parties put on a play called The Flying Classroom.
If you’re looking for a more dramatic Christmas film, then Stille Nacht (Silent Night) will be just the thing. A woman is pregnant but there are two candidates for the father. Both men decide that Christmas Eve is the perfect time to confess their undying love to the woman, but neither really achieve their goal—they spend the majority of the movie blocking each other’s calls to the expectant mother. Maybe the best Christmas present really is call waiting.
Kati, who works in advertising, has been dating Jonas, a doctor, for over eight years. Every holiday season, they avoid the hassle of spending Christmas with their families by taking a trip to Mauritius (an island in the Indian Ocean). Overwhelmed by her wishes to get married and Jonas’s resistance, Kati decides to spend Christmas with her sister and family, but things don’t go quite as planned and chaos ensues with the film’s medley of characters.