For Christmas movies.

The “Holiday” season has never really begun for me until I allow myself to slip into the pop culture cocoon of movies, tv shows, and music specifically designed to activate the heart tingling part of us all that wants to give ourselves over to childish optimism. And nothing is quite as essential as the Holiday movie parade, those classics and not-so-classics of the silver screen that annually grace my home theater in the hopes of capturing some christmas joy.

I have a lot of Christmas movies, so this year I’m going to chronicle my way through them as I watch them. Christmas is a process for this half-jewish girl, that starts the day after Thanksgiving on my mother’s couch and ends on Christmas night at the movie theater. In between is a cornucopia of different films, in varying degrees of quality and belovedness.

The first movie on this year’s docket is Love, Actually. It’s purposefully a “new” classic. It’s one of those movies that I have legitimately watched over 15 times and it never really gets old.

It’s not that I think Love, Actually is one of the best movies of all time, or even the best Christmas movie of all time, although I do think that sometimes people refuse to see the excellent movie beneath the cliches. But the real reason why Love Actually makes this list is because of that the delightful mixture of old fashioned optimism with sometimes uncomfortable levels of reality that somehow makes Love Actually one of the most uplifting and hopeful movies of all time.

On top of that, it is a movie drenched in the popular culture infused wrappings of modern day Christmas, where pop songs and movies coexist with nativity plays at schools and private celebrations at home. It’s love is hard won, whether its the midlife itch of Alan Rickman or the brotherly love that is all that’s left for Laura Linney. And if at the end you’re not singing along with Uncle Billy as he croons, “So if you really love Christmas, come on and let it snow,” then you’re probably a grinch. Or possibly Jewish.