If there is anything positive about 2020, its the number of Asian American lead holiday movies. Where most holiday films center around white characters, celebrating Christian traditions, these films feature Asian American actors and have cultural references that Asian Americans can relate to. Something that never spoke to us in holiday films in the years before.
By comparison, three isn’t much but it is a start. Here are 3 holiday films (and one bonus) highlighting the Asian American holiday experience.
Dash & Lily (Netflix)
Based on the Young Adult book series, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, Dash & Lily is a Netflix series featuring an Asian American family in New York dealing with family issues, love and the holidays. We’ve previously covered how the show made sure to include Asian American and LGBTQ representation. The show shines a light on multicultural and multireligious America as well as showing how Asian Americans celebrate Christmas and New Years.
The show features several Asian American actors including Midori Francis, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Jodi Long and Jennifer Ikeda. The show is also filled with subtle nods to Japanese American culture, such as the fact no one wears shoes inside grandpa’s house, mochi making and osoji, the Japanese tradition of cleaning the house at the end of the year as to “leave everything bad behind”. In another scene, Lily reveals that being Asian American was one reason why she felt marginalized by her classmates in junior high.
There is also a surprise performance by the Jonas Brothers (Nick Jonas is credited as one of the executive producers)
A Sugar and Spice Holiday (Lifetime)
In its first Asian American romantic comedy, A Sugar and Spice Holiday stars Jacky Lai as Suzy, a young Chinese American architect who returns to her small hometown in Maine for Christmas, reconnects with a boy from high school (played by French Chinese actor Tony Giroux) and participates in a baking competition.
The show is written, directed and cast by Asian women and features culturally specific references such as Suzy’s father wanting to learn English by watching Westerns to a meal featuring stinky tofu.
In one scene, Suzy’s co-worker says I didn’t know if Christmas was a big deal where you’re from” Suzy responds with “I’m from Maine”.
Actress Jacky Lai told NBC Asian America “I think it’s great timing for us for this movie to be coming out now during the pandemic with the perception of the Asian culture and the ‘flu’ and all,” Canadian actor Jacky Lai, who plays Suzy, told The Associated Press. “I really do hope that this (movie) — with our faces — is able to hopefully be welcomed by people into their homes and see us as just your American/Canadian friends.”
The Christmas Bow (Hallmark)
The Christmas Bow is about an Asian American violinist who, while recovering from a hand injury, finds love and hope during the holidays.
The lead character, Kate is played by Lucia Micarelli who is of Korean and Italian descent is an actual violinist trained at the Julliard School of Music in New York.
Like Dash and Lily, James Saito also plays the grandpa in this holiday film.
Bonus: Last Christmas
Although it isn’t Asian American, Last Christmas is a holiday romantic comedy set in London with Henry Golding as the romantic lead, opposite of Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones). Golding’s character plays a mysterious but perfect stranger that comes into Emilia Clarke’s life but is he too good to be true?
Released in theaters in 2019, Last Christmas brought Crazy, Rich Asians stars, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh back together on the big screen.
Let us know which one is your favorite and if we’re missing any other movies on this list!