Some of the contributors for Hollywood Jesus have been reviewing classic Christmas movies leading up to the holiday. I am not sure how well the Chronicles of Narnia movies are regarded as classics, but they were all released this time of year, and the first movie (and even more so the book) definitely has Christmas themes.
C. S. Lewis has been criticized for including the seemingly anachronistic Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The critics include HJ writers, back when Hollywood Jesus had a different look. (See The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.) Father Christmas seems out of place in Narnia since there is no birth of Jesus Christ to celebrate there.
Although such criticism certainly can be justified on one level, I think Lewis knew exactly what he was doing when he included the Anglican version of Saint Nicolas in the story, and I am glad the filmmakers decided to leave him in. Lewis, I believe, was attempting to combine the pagan, secular, and Christian aspects of the season. Even in Lewis’ day, the culture was fast becoming non-religious. However, many in the west who do not practice Christianity or other religions still make room for a Santa Claus figure, so there is an immediate recognition of what it would be like to have continual winter without the late-December celebration.
Lewis also understood the pagan background of many of the traditions adopted by Christianity. The ancient celebration of Solstice, when the sun was sinking to its lowest, was a celebration of the return of the sun and the promise of renewed life to come. Although there may be other good reasons to choose December 25 for the celebration of the birth of Christ, rebirth through the coming of the Savior certainly fits the theme of the rebirth of the earth and the coming of spring. The arrival of Aslan in Narnia at the time of the appearance of Father Christmas, and the coming of spring as a result, certainly indicate what Lewis was trying to do—not to mention the death and resurrection of Aslan in the early spring.
I don’t know if watching the Narnia films will ever become as much of a tradition as watching It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but there is certainly good reason to associate The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with Christmas. It’s worth considering this holiday season.