Here’s one of my cardinal rules, one which comes into great effect during my favorite month of the year, December—it is impossible to watch the movie Love Actually and not feel better about life by the end of the running time. I watch this film every Christmas and am always left in a mix of hysterics and eyes welling up all over, and so many of my friends and family feel the same. Not a bad reaction in America for a movie as thoroughly British in its own way as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s classics. It’s that characteristic which I’m using as the jumping-off point for my Christmas contribution to the Addison Recorder, one which fulfills our mission of bringing cultural singularity to your attention, for something not many people may realize is that one of the multiple plots in Love Actually involves a long-standing British holiday tradition.
The most purely fun section of the film, in my humble opinion, is near-forgotten, legend-in-his-own-mind rock star Billy Mack’s (the transcendent Bill Nighy) attempt to get back to the top of the pop charts with his cloying “Christmas Is All Around” single. Throughout the storyline, much is made of how Mack is dueling the real-life boy band Blue to have the number-one single in Britain on Christmas Day itself—which is a point lost on most Americans. We don’t particularly care what song is #1 in Billboard on Christmas week; it’s the same as every other week. But in the United Kingdom, having the #1 song on Christmas is akin to winning a Grammy award for Record of the Year or selling ten million singles and downloads of a song. Whatever song is #1 on Christmas is usually the biggest-selling single in the country that year, and small fortunes are won and lost as people actually wager on what song will take the top spot; not the usual subject for Las Vegas bookmaking.