Being an English teacher, I always look for the meaning behind the words. A song is not just a song, and a movie isn’t just a movie; it’s a script dripping with images and symbols to represent something deeper and is written to reveal something tender to the heart of the author. It drives my husband and students crazy! “Why can’t the wall just be yellow,” they might ask about a story. Nope. For me, there is always a reason. Even the authors of the most anticipated Christmas movies had a goal, a purpose.
Through laughter, tears, hope, and amazement, we can learn a thing or two from our Christmas favorites.
The Santa Claus: A story of forgiveness and second chances.
Divorced dad, Scott, has custody of his son until something magical happens and everyone takes him for a crazy man. He became Santa! He believed and his son believed, but the adults around him thought it wasn’t possible. Because of his “unbelievable notions,” he was outcasted, sent to seek medical attention, and eventually had the privilege of being around his son taken away. Because he couldn’t convince those around him, he was seen as “unfit.” This goes to show that everyone deserves a chance to be believed. What might seem inconceivable to you could be reality to someone else. Give others a chance; give grace. See life through their eyes, through their circumstances. This trilogy of movies highlights the fascinating effects of forgiveness, second chances, and unconditional love.
Memorable Quote: “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.” -Elf Judy
A Charlie Brown Christmas: The “make lemonade out of lemons” approach to life.
Repelled by the commercialism he sees around him, Charlie Brown tries to find the true meaning of Christmas. This story is all about perspective. Where your heart lies, there also lies your treasure. We need more positivity in the world. We need more “cup half full” mentalities among people instead of “cup half empty.” We need to take time for sacred things and say no to everything else. Charlie Brown reminds us that sometimes when love and grace are applied, the “situation” isn’t all that bad. It’s all in how you look at it and what you make of it.
Memorable Quote: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” –Linus Van Pelt
A Christmas Story: Quitting never gets anyone anywhere.
Blinded by his youth, masked as immaturity that adults see in kids sometimes, Ralphie’s family quickly dismissed his desire for the infamous Red Ryder BB gun. Oh, how much joy it brought Ralphie to dream of owning that gun. You might even say Ralphie obsessed over that little gun. There is something to be said for a kid who knows what they want and won’t let it go. Sometimes as adults we can also “obsess” over things that might seem insignificant to others. Moral of the story, don’t belittle others’ dreams and desires. Sometimes we just need a little encouragement to dream big, and you never know, you might just wake up one day and see that dream become a reality. Remember, perseverance is key.
Memorable quote: “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” -Ralphie
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer: Different is good!
We all remember the cutest little reindeer and that awkward few minutes on Misfit Island. I always felt so bad for the misfits because of how awful it feels not to be wanted by someone or to feel like you couldn’t be useful because you don’t fit a certain mold or expectation. I think we can all identify with either Rudolph or one of the misfits. Thank goodness that Rudolph kept a positive attitude and didn’t quit. He used his differences to encourage those around him and turned his mess into his message. The theme of his overall message—don’t hide what makes you special because we all have something that makes us unique. Find the right support that will allow you to use that something to contribute to a cause bigger than yourself.
Memorable Quote: “From what I see now, that will cut through the murkiest storm they can dish up. What I’m trying to say is, Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” -Santa Claus
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Don’t fake it till you make it.
Even now as the holidays approach, we all have expectations of what we want and think would contribute to the perfect Christmas season. Clark Griswold was no different. He had the ideal Christmas festivities lined up from the tree, the meal, the guests, the gifts, and the decorations. All this stuff was supposed to add up to the most memorable Christmas ever. And that it was! There were accidents, surprise (uninvited) guests, grumpy neighbors, tangled lights, selfish family, and broken promises that all contributed to the hilarious account of a family get-together. We watched Clark handle each instance with grace, patience, and optimism until he couldn’t fake it anymore! Moral of the story is to not set unrealistic expectations for the holidays. Don’t put on a dog and pony show just to try and create this dream of an experience, or what you think everyone else’s holidays are like. Be real. Be genuine. Make Christmas what it was meant to be about. Don’t let the stress of all the unintended expectations of the perfect season rob you of the joy that’s right in front of you. Oh, and laugh…a lot! I think we remember this movie and can quote it line for line at any given moment because it’s funny. No, it’s the funniest! Get together with your family, watch this movie, and laugh at the moments you see yourselves in this Griswold Family Christmas.
Memorable Quote: “I dedicate this house to the Griswold Family Christmas.” -Clark Griswold
Elf: A search for true identity.
Buddy the Elf is the best. Why? Because he’s always so positive and childlike. On a mission to find his dad, Buddy so innocently reveals his passion for Santa and the North Pole. Along the way, he faces a society full of people who have worked themselves into misery, lost the magic of Christmas and imagination, and ultimately don’t care about anyone but themselves. Sound familiar? In a very similar society we are living in now, it’s important to stay true to who you are. Search for who you are and where you belong in a world that will try to influence you to conform. Be positive, be imaginative, be childlike. Instead of being bitter and letting the pressures of this American Dream we’re all chasing drag you down, choose to find good where you are right now. The world could use more people who love the life they are living and aren’t afraid to show it.
Memorable Quote: “I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.” -Buddy
Through laughter, tears, hope, and amazement, we can learn a thing or two from our Christmas favorites.
It’s A Wonderful Life: It’s not what you have in life, it’s who you share this life with.
I’ll be honest, this was a hard one to consider a classic because it’s quite a depressing story. I think it’s a classic because so many people identify with George Bailey. We spend the months leading up to Christmas stressing about money, buying gifts, wondering where is the extra money going to come from. I remember vividly doing the “layaway” so that my mom could make a payment for our Christmas gifts even though I didn’t know it at the time. As a parent, we want the best and most magical experiences and lives for our families. We sacrifice and work to make life a certain way—a way that’s considered “successful.” Difficult times are inevitable in life. George Bailey falls on hard times and seriously questions his existence. The holidays have a way of putting our purpose, our achievements, and our past, present, and future in perspective. When George goes through a hard time, it was his family and community who rallied around him to remind him that he does, in fact, make a difference in others’ lives. He has more of an impact on others than he realized. When you’re struggling with money or just a difficult life situation, you’ll go a lot further with a support system around you. Whether it’s a good friend, your spouse, or a mentor, you need someone to talk to during the ups and the downs.
Memorable Quote: “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” -Clarence
Home Alone: Be careful what you wish for because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Kevin McCallister’s parents accidentally leave him behind while going on a trip to Paris. Before you feel too sorry for Kevin, he was the one who made a wish the night before for his “family to disappear.” Sure, a kid having free reign of the house was immediately a wish come true but that soon faded as he was forced to protect the family home from burglars. The tactful and witty eight-year-old defended his home with his savage skills and realized the true meaning of Christmas in the meantime—being thankful for what you’ve been given. For Kevin, not having his family around made him long for their presence in the place of presents for Christmas that year. The age-old cliché rings true in this movie that “sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.”
Memorable quote: “This is extremely important. Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys. Nothing but Peter, Kate, Buzz, Megan, Linnie, and Jeff. And my aunt and my cousins. And if he has time, my Uncle Frank. Okay?” -Kevin McCallister
Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas: Don’t let your past ruin your future.
Dr. Seuss was pretty cooky but had a way of captivating young audiences. He truly captivated the hearts of both young and old with this classic. This is a “gather the family around, eat some Christmas cookies, and decorate the tree while watching” kind of movie. It will make your heart grow three sizes as you welcome the spirit of the Christmas holidays. This story is a classic example of how sometimes our past, if not dealt with appropriately, can let bitterness and revenge dictate our future. I love how the lifelike adaptation of this cartoon gives a glimpse into the Grinch’s past and why he wants to ruin Christmas. He was hurt, bitter, and sought revenge. His past reveals the setbacks he went through as a kid in not being “popular” or “rich” or “accepted” due to circumstances beyond his control. Like many of us, unfortunate circumstances rear their ugly heads around the holidays; therefore, we begin to associate the holidays with rejection, never measuring up, and pursuing happiness through money. Money was never going to buy the Grinch happiness or anything for that matter because he didn’t have much. Being mistreated by the rich and popular kids, he mistakenly thought their character represented the hearts of everyone in Whoville. He decides to seek the ultimate revenge and ruin Christmas but in his quest to do so, he realized that maybe not everyone is all that unkind. It’s important to not let the few bad apples ruin the whole bunch. Sometimes we just have to reposition ourselves around people who will encourage us to embrace who we are meant to be and don’t try to make us feel less important if we’re not identical to the so-called standard.
Memorable Quote: “It came without ribbons. It came without bows. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.” -The Grinch
Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.” -The Grinch
A Christmas Carol: It’s always better to give than to receive.
Charles Dickens’ story about the bitter Ebenezer Scrooge—a wealthy, greedy man who has a complete change of heart and begins reaching out to the poor—is a classic story of redemption. We can learn a lot from ol’ Ebenezer, especially during the Christmas season. Scrooge is forced to take a hard look at his life and it horrifically changes the way he conducts life in the future. In order to not pass through your time here on earth having not accomplished anything of real significance, it’s important to continuously stop and reflect on how we are living. Just like Scrooge, we should take time to reflect on our past—the good, the bad, and everything in between. Our past isn’t something we can just pretend didn’t happen. Learn from the bad times, and be thankful for the good times. After all, our past has more impact on our present than we like to admit sometimes. Living life to the fullest is something we hear often but it’s important to figure out what it means to each of us. I always encourage people to get out of their context and see how other people, cultures, and parts of the world live. Use the present time to grow, learn, gain perspective, dream, and prepare. Don’t be the same tomorrow that you are today. If only we could step into the future to see all of life’s questions answered, that would change much of what we do today. Unfortunately, we can’t but we can learn from the magical experience Mr. Scrooge had. We have to take his experience and be warned, heeding the advice we are given today. Many times when we see life from someone else’s perspective, all of a sudden our problems and worries don’t seem so big after all. Because Scrooge got out of his context and stepped into the world of Tiny Tim and his family, his eyes were opened to a world that he could now influence and help. Tiny Tim’s perspective on life is a challenge to us all to take this one life we’re given and truly live with no regret.
Memorable Quote: “God bless us. Every one.” –Tiny Tim
For these Christmas classics, the authors specifically crafted the characters, events, actions, and lessons with which we walk away. This year, as you enjoy the sound of bells jingling, the twinkle of Christmas lights all around, and the familiar scenes in our favorite Christmas movies, watch with fresh eyes for the meaning behind the tinsel. Grab a cozy blanket, curl up with your favorite people, and soak up the season!
Feature image from IMDb.
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