Everybody has their Christmas Eve traditions.
Some people hit the shops for last minute panic present buying; others whisper sweet nothings to their yet-to-be-cooked turkey, begging it not to let them down in front of the family tomorrow; and the rest go to the pub and drink enough beer and/or mulled wine to ensure that, for them, Christmas won't start until at least midday.
That is, except me. And my brother. Because we spend every Christmas Eve indoors watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. There is no better way to kick off Christmas proceedings than this film, and here's why:
1. It's good to be reminded not to be a dick at Christmas time - and who better to do that than the Muppets
It is bad enough if you're in the habit of shouting at people - people who are the same size as you, of the same species as you - but it is another to yell at Kermit the Frog (sorry, Bob Cratchit). But Ebenezer Scrooge doesn't know that, he has to learn. He has to understand that shouting at the small, mathematically talented rats who work for him is out of line, that throwing a wreath at a freezing, homeless rabbit is no way to behave, and that when a charity supporting duo comes to your door to request a donation for the poor - and one member of that duo is Beaker - you do not say no. It's a lesson that does us all the world of good: be nice and nice things will happen (though sadly for most of us the odds of one of those things being Christmas dinner with the Muppets are pretty low).
2. It's in the singing of a street corner choir, it's going home and getting warm by the fire, it's true wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas
This film is filled with solid tunes. And they're not just songs, they're songs that teach you something - that Scrooge is a nasty customer, mean enough to deprive mices of cheeses; that Marley and Marley are now paying the price for their greed whilst being excellent at making puns about the limited activities available for a person/muppet who is dead; and that it is indeed possible to keep the Christmas spirit alive all the year through (which is why I eat a mince pie on the hour, every hour, every day).
But more than that, there are songs and scenes that are enough to bring even the hardest man to tears - even the Scrooge-meister himself. Yes, I'm talking about 'When Love Is Gone' which diehard fans will know was on the VHS version of the film but for some inexplicable reason was edited out when it was taken to DVD. If you've never heard it you are MISSING OUT, so here it is. (Fun fact: in our house, we pause the film and play the song at the precise moment where it should fall in the story, and I recommend that you do the same). Imagine having somebody break up with you to music. It's worse than any text, WhatsApp message or hand-scrawled Dear John anybody could ever receive, and it makes me cry every single time. Moral of the story: don't let your desire to earn loads of cash get in the way of loving and caring for an actual human being. Thanks for the warning, guys.
3. Tiny Tim - a remarkable child
If the sight of a tiny poorly frog wasn't enough to make you reconsider your refusal to give money to charity or let your staff have a day off for Christmas then I don't know what it would take. Seeing Emily (Miss Piggy) and Bob Cratchit talk about their small green son is enough to warm even the coldest of souls. And thankfully it works - you can almost hear the drops of Ebenezer's heart melting whilst he watches the little guy. And thank goodness for that; (spoiler alert) Tiny Tim gets to live on, and I get to enjoy Christmas Day - I don't think I'd be able to raise my head off the pillow if he didn't.
4. After all there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas
You can of course watch this film any day of the year - I'm not the boss of you - but it just makes most sense to watch it on Christmas Eve. And that's because of this song. When Bob Cratchit and the rat bookkeeping crew start packing up for Christmas and singing this tune, I know that the big day is just around the corner. It's also the only scene in any film that has ever made me think ice skating might actually be fun - who wouldn't want to glide around with a troop of friendly penguins?
So if you're in doubt as to what you should do this Christmas Eve, I recommend that you join us for this little ritual. It's festive, heart-warming, and it involves Michael Caine AND Kermit the Frog. OK, you can't drink it, but that is one combination that won't leave you reaching for the ibuprofen on Christmas morning.