When it comes to the holiday season, many glorious and classic films have warmed their way into the hearts of Americans everywhere and have become a staple of many a magical family tradition.
Who among us is not emotionally moved, with a wondrous fire roaring in the fireplace and your family snuggled around while watching It’s A Wonderful Life, when Harry Bailey toasts his brother George in that classic final scene (“A toast to my big brother George: the richest man in town.”)?
And who can resist reaching out to tousle the hair of a young loved one when, during the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim looks around at the relatively meager Christmas dinner, raises his glass, and says “God bless us, everyone”?
Why, who could possibly be dry-eyed at the moment, in 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street, the camera pans in to show Santa’s cane standing in the corner by the fireplace, or the look in Susan’s eyes when she truly comes to believe in Santa?
My family members, that’s who.
My wife and kids, unfortunately for me, somehow do not appreciate any of those beloved Christmas classics, despite the fact that I’ve tried to force them to watch every one of these movies every holiday season for years.
One of my children—and I still secretly hold it against them—once described 1954’s White Christmas (starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney) as “cheesy.”
Um, hello? Did you or did you not just watch that bridge dance scene with Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye?
Other families, I know, are sipping spiced cider hot toddies and singing along to “Auld Lang Syne” at the end of
White Christmas or dressed in Victorian garb and acting out the Fezziwig party scene from A Christmas Carol.
My family is spending our December nights watching the following:
Christmas Vacation: There are three movies that, every single time we watch them, cause my wife Lindy to laugh until she starts crying and becomes unable to speak basic words or even to breathe in a way that sounds human. It’s disturbing the first few times you see it, to the point that I’m certain she avoided watching these movies with me until after we were married and had our first kid. It’s one of those things that—were you to have witnessed during the dating stage—could have been a deal breaker.
Christmas Vacation is one of those three movies. Luckily, Lindy’s laugh-crying gets more adorable each time you see it, and now, the family will make a point of watching this movie together if only to laugh along with Lindy when she physically shuts down at the scene when the squirrel jumps out of the Christmas tree. Or the scene where Clark carves that turkey. Or the sledding scene.
Elf: For one day during the holiday school break, Lindy lets the kids eat whatever they want, all day long. Cake for breakfast. Milk Duds for lunch. Cake and Milk Duds for dinner. One might think this is irresponsible parenting, and one would be right.
To enhance this tradition, the entire family usually watches Elf on the same day. Elf, for those of you who are not connoisseurs of classic cinema, includes scenes in which the lead character—a grown man dressed in yellow tights and a green elf costume—eats Lucky Charms covered in M&Ms, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, chocolate syrup, and crushed-up Pop-Tarts.
Then drinks an entire two-liter of Coke and burps for 11 straight seconds. That is not an estimate. I just timed it from YouTube.
This scene, when we play the movie, often coincides with the kids’ dangerously high sugar levels, and inevitably sends them all to the floor laughing until they start crying. They soon become unable to speak basic words or even to breathe in a way that sounds human. They get that from their mother’s side.
Die Hard: Because nothing celebrates the birth of Jesus like watching Bruce Willis kill a bunch of people.
Sure, we may be drinking Mountain Dew instead of spiced cider and Bud Light instead of hot toddies. We may be overdosing on candy and sprawled out on the floor with the dog lying on top of one of the kids, and laughing at an 11-second burp, or laugh-crying when Lindy gasps for breath during the turkey carving scene where cousin Eddie says “save the neck for me, Clark,” or cheering when John McClane lets Hans Gruber fall to his death from Nakotomi Plaza.
Either way, those things have become part of our family holiday traditions.
Sure, I may have to wait until my kids’ plummeting glucose levels cause them to fall asleep before I can tousle their hair.
But there have been a few of those moments where, looking at the family passed out, together around me, their faces covered in cake, I think the following:
God bless us, everyone.