“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.”
This is the time of year that a lot of Christmas movies are shown on almost every television outlet known to humanity. Of course there are many that are absolutely timeless such as Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and its derivatives and It’s a Wonderful Life.
There are also ones of various religious themes, usually involving the birth of Jesus, like no duh, it’s Christmas. Unfortunately most of these films as classic as they are bore me to tears. Yes they have nice messages and tug at the heartstrings but without wanting to sound too much like Scrooge I get bored by them, frightfully bored.
I guess part of this is a generational thing. The ones set in the 1930s and 1940s are from a different era, an era that I know from history books and family members but not something that is a part of my life. It’s like the film The Bell’s of Saint Mary’s is about the Roman Catholic Church of a half century ago, not the one that I know or that exists now. They are fictional and while touching are indelibly tied to their time. The religious themed films tended often to be major productions of the Hollywood Gospel genre, not very faithful to Scripture or the teachings of the church, not that there is anything wrong with that. But it is certain to me that Cecil B. De Mille did not write the 5th Gospel, or the 6th Book of Moses (You have to know your Luther Bible for that one) thus I have a hard time with films that use the nativity or for that matter the passion of Christ for a quick buck.
However, every year, there are several Christmas movies and television shows that I cannot live without seeing. Of the television shows my all time favorite is A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As a kid I had a deep affinity for both Charlie Brown and Linus. The frustration of Charlie Brown with the commercialization of Christmas was something that resonated in me at a young age and still does today. If you want to see this just look at my articles on Black Friday. Likewise Linus’ reading of the Luke’s account of the Angel’s message to the shepherds always brings tears to my eyes. There is something about the sensitivity of Linus to the actual Gospel message that resonates in my heart.
As for the Grinch, and I mean the television Grinch where Boris Karloff voiced the part of the Grinch not the Jim Carey movie version, it has always been a favorite of mine. I find the plot of the Grinch to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville to be a masterful account of how the message of Christmas can touch even the smallest and coldest of hearts. Of course I absolutely loved the Grinch’s dog “Max” a dog whose loyalty to the Grinch reminds me of my dog Molly.
As far as movies are concerned I watch Scrooged staring Bill Murray and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation staring Chevy Chase with almost a religious reverence every year.
I relate to the main characters in both movies. That’s not necessarily a compliment to me. Bill Murray’s Character in Scrooged pricks my cynical nature and there are times that I almost need to cover my eyes when in Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold kicks the decorative reindeer and sleigh across the lawn when he can’t get his house lights on. His rants when his Christmas Tree goes up in flames and when his family tries to leave the house are so close to the way that I can act under the stress of the holidays that is scary. Since Judy says this is the case I know that I am not imagining this.
Three other films that get me are Home Alone and A Christmas Story and though it is not really a Christmas story Trading Places staring Dan Aykroyd whose Christmas season meltdown is at the center of a film about the greed of certain parts of the American financial sector.
These are what I grew up with and which were the films about Christmas as it takes place in the United States that I became an adult in that typify my era, not that of my grandparents. I think that is why they are my favorites and not the classics of a bygone time.
Of course there is the Festivus episode of Seinfeld that is almost scary because of how close to home it hits. There are times that I think we only lacked the “feats of strength” and the Festivus Pole to complete the picture. Sticking to Seinfeld I always feel a twinge of sympathy for George when makes up a fake charity called “The Human Fund: Money for People” to give to his co-workers at Kruger Industrial Smoothing. There are times that I am tempted, but thankfully never will do something similar.
Finally I like the X-Files Christmas episode How the Ghosts Stole Christmas where Ed Asner and Lilly Tomlin played ghosts in a haunted house that Agents Scully and Mulder get trapped in while investigating a case. When I go shopping anywhere this time of year I am quite fond of Agent Scully’s comment to Mulder: “Sorry. Checkout lines were worse than rush-hour on the 95. If I heard “Silent Night” one more time, I was gonna start taking hostages.”
Okay, so these are not the classics of a bygone era, but they are my classics and I will enjoy Charlie Brown, Linus, the Grinch, Clark Griswold, Frank Cross, the Costanzas Agents Mudler and Scully and the rest of my warped favorites as I continue to rediscover the joy and hilarity of Christmas as we celebrate it in the United States. After all, to quote Clark Griswold “We’re all in this together.”