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Christmas Movies

Betsy Hart 25 December 2007 One Comment

I have a few Christmas traditions that are strictly followed. A live tree; I “hide” candy in plain site, say on the roof of the gingerbread house, and see how long it takes for my kids to find it; and from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, we only watch Christmas movies, and we watch lots of them. That’s probably our most significant tradition of all.

A brief point of disclaimer: though I’m an evangelical, and while I think the move from calling “Christmas” to “the holidays” is as silly and unnecessary as the next person, I’ve long more or less followed the Puritans and I’ve not really thought of Christmas as a religious holiday anyway. (Actually, for a host of reasons many early puritan communities actually forbade its celebration altogether but that’s another column.)

That’s a long way of saying I love having secular fun during the season. And there’s not a whole lot that says “fun” to me more than great Christmas movies. Or, even not so “great” Christmas movies, if they evoke a memory or a mood that is part of Christmas. So, with just a weekend or so remaining before Christmas, I thought I’d share with my readers some top picks if you haven’t seen them already, or if you have but have just forgotten:

There are two movies “make” Christmas for me. They are sort of opposites, really. One is wholesome, adorable, just spirit lifting from the beginning. The other is cynical, completely hilarious, and full of ridiculous slapstick.

From the opening scenes of both of them, it’s like a physical switch goes off in my brain, and I am automatically happy. It’s truly a Pavlovian reaction.

The first film is “Elf” with Will Farrell. Happy, kind, sweet, so very funny. A human “elf,” Buddy, ends up in New York City and without realizing what’s happening, Buddy the elf gets the best of those Manhattanites. There’s also a wonderful scene featuring my favorite Christmastime song, “Baby it’s Cold Outside.”

Then there’s the opposite of “Elf,” really: “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase. (Interesting that both stars come out of a Saturday Night Live history.) The story of the Griswolds and their crazy Christmas, with the destruction and goofy family relationships in play has brought me unending smiles. Every year when I put up my lights, I think of myself as Clark. “Christmas Vacation” It’s a “do not miss.” (Note: it has some bad language and brief sexual suggestion. If you watch it with your kids, “pre” view it so you can avoid those brief scenes with them!)

A couple of great ones are “Scrooge,” and “The Muppets Christmas Carol” (the latter of which is hilarious and it includes strong religious references), the former of which I remember from being a kid and my mother sending my brothers and me out of the house on Christmas Eve so Santa could get organized.

Then there are the old fashioned “feel goods” of It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and of course, Miracle on 34th street, and only the original with that adorable little Natalie Wood will do.

Even my oldest children still love the animated holiday classics “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “Frosty the Snowman,” the Grinch and Charlie Brown (in which the gospel is actually read on stage, if you remember.) We watch them all.

New films like The Santa Claus and Polar Express are on the list, but they are the ones we get to after everything else.

Here’s one which doesn’t make my Christmas roster: The huge hit, Home Alone. Why? Well, the whole premise is the adults are idiots and the kid is the smarty pants. (He’s left behind over Christmas while his family is in France and he has to ward off intruders himself.) Never mind that in this film the adults ARE idiots – the premise bothers me. So that’s off the list.

And here’s a new entry. Last year we started a new tradition – watching the New Line Cinema film from last year, “The Nativity Story” on Christmas Eve. It’s an accurate telling of the story of the birth of Christ and where it “fills in” it does so in a way that makes sense given what we know of the time.

And Christ is clearly portrayed as the Son of God, the Savior. (An amazing feat for Today’s Hollywood.)

I guess there’s a part of me that is holding on to that religious celebration of the holiday after all.

Merry Christmas!


Betsy Hart, a Scripps-Howard syndicated columnist, writes this review exclusively for The Chicago Daily Observer where she serves on the editorial board. Betsy hosts ‘It Takes a Parent’ on AM1160 WYLL Thursdays at 2:00.

One Comment »

  • Elfie said:

    Thank you for this post ! I want to give you a link : http://santaclaushome.free.fr. There is a big list of all Christmas movies you can see ! Happy Christmas ! :o)

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