My personal Christmas traditions have changed over the years (if only a little bit). I’m not going door to door singing carols for pocket money any more, for example.
However one thing that has never changed is my seasonal viewing habits. I’m trying to think back and there’s not a single Christmas movie that I used to watch as a kid but don’t anymore. I even watch the really really bad ones like Santa Claus The Movie. That film is so bad, John Lithgow is practically twirling a moustache in it… And not in an ironic way.
The whole idea and magic of Christmas is forged at a very young age. The feeling of waking up at 5am and being filled with excitement and boundless joy at what’s under the tree. Maybe that personal tie fuels the films I watch and locks them to a certain point of time in my past. In fact the most recent entry in my collection is Elf – and that came out in 2003! For me, there’s something nostalgic about Christmas, surrounding myself in the usual festive songs on the
radio iPhone, the usual seasonal movies on the TV iPhone, the turkey iPhone dinner.
One particular tradition that I have to do without fail is wrap presents while National Lampoons Christmas Vacation plays in the background. It’s become such a lynchpin of my routine that wrapping doesn’t feel right if I’m not watching it. Another movie I have to watch annually is The Muppets Christmas Carol. It was the first version of Charles Dickens’ adaptation I’d seen and probably not coicidentally, it’s my favourite. I love it as much as an adult as I did at 10 years old. I’d even say the darker moments creep me out more now than they did back then – that’s all on Michael Caine. He manages to bring a darkness to the story that’s hard not to be affected by.
Speaking of movies that have a darkness, It’s A Wonderful Life is incredibly dark and difficult in places. In fact, the first 90 minutes downright depresses me. Just when you can’t imagine anything worse happening to James Stewart’s character, the rug is pulled from under your feet and you’re left feeling happy… Very happy.
It’s funny that of the films I’ve mentioned, all of them have drama somewhere, creating chaos before things “get fixed”. In the last two movies, the drama is quite heavy but even the very slapstick Home Alone 1 and 2 (there are not other sequels) have their moments. In both Home Alone movies, they touch on the emotional weight of being alone and away from family. They don’t dwell on the point too much, but it’s there and it adds something, even though it’s quickly fixed as the happy ending comes in.
And in any other month of the year, I’d not be interested in the films that soak themselves in drama only to end on an emotional high, but these ones get a pass. They can do anything – because it’s Christmas. All they need to do is have a happy ending… Because that’s all the 10 year old in me wants – everyone to be happy and to receive a present for being good.