Christmas, for those who celebrate, is a holiday for everyone to get involved. While holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween are specifically geared towards lovers and children respectively, Christmas is largely for everyone. Children are busy putting together their lists or letters to Santa, while adults focus on things like work parties, cooking or baking, and assembling and decorating the tree. One of the most important things that binds these experiences together is the joy of watching our favorite Christmas movies.
We all have those movies that we go back to over and over again. Whatever the reason, they give us a sense of comfort and satisfaction that we can’t get anywhere else. This is especially true for classic holiday movies. When it comes to Christmas movies in particular, there are just a few that never seem to get old. When examined a little deeper than usual, it’s clear why these movies continue to capture our attention and why we still spend time watching them.
There are essentially two types of Christmas movies that never get old. There are those that appeal more to adults. These films make light of the chaos and sometimes frictional nature that can arise during this season. The second type consists of those films that are more geared towards children and by extension appeal to everyone’s childhood. Here we will consider some of the films that have been turned into Christmas gifts, two of which have even crossed generational boundaries.
Four Christmases: “My childhood was like The Shawshank Redemption.”
For adults, Christmas can be as stressful as it is enjoyable. Of course there are the trees, the lights, the favorite foods, the baked goods, the presents and quality time with the family. But then you also have to buy or assemble the tree and put up the ornaments and lights, prepare and bake the food, wrap the presents and, yes, spend quality time with the family. All these extra events and preparations can start to feel more like chores than fun. That’s why it’s so attractive to spend some downtime with some comic relief. Two popular movies in particular, Four Christmases and Christmas with the Krankarnagive that very feeling of relief.
Released in 2008, Four Christmases is still a holiday favorite 14 years later. Starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, this Christmas movie tells the story of a couple who, after having their vacation unexpectedly canceled, are forced to attend four separate family gatherings on the same day. Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Witherspoon) all have parents who have divorced and remarried. Because of that, they usually avoid going on any family vacations and instead spend their time on luxury vacations. They have no children, are not married, and despite constant comments about their lifestyle being weird or “alternative,” are overwhelmingly happy. But as the day progresses, and they move in and out of the different, challenging family environments, their relationship begins to falter as they begin to question their relationship and themselves.
Four Christmases provides a sense of comic relief for all the people who find family gatherings stressful, especially during the holidays. Family dynamics are often complex, intricate systems that are difficult to manage even on a normal day. As an audience, we can empathize, or at least sympathize, with both Brad and Kate in this film. What is even more important is that we can laugh at ourselves and our own circumstances by laughing at them. And laughter can be deeply therapeutic.
Christmas with the Kranks: “Never say hickory honey ham to me again!”
Another holiday favorite that’s always good for a laugh is Christmas with the Krankarna. Released in 2004 and starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, the film is based on the novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Nora (Curtis) and Luther (Allen) are an elderly couple who decide to forgo the usual Christmas festivities when their only daughter, Blair, joins the Peace Corps.
Luther and Nora decide to save the money they usually spend on Christmas and use it to buy a vacation just for the two of them. Almost immediately, they receive backlash from neighbors, community members, pastors, and friends for their decision. This recovery only deepens their resolve, and the two quickly become pariahs. When Blair unexpectedly calls and reveals that she is engaged to another Peace Corps volunteer and will be home for Christmas, the Kranks scramble to organize their annual Christmas Eve party before she arrives. With the help of their neighbors and friends, they make it in time, but not without some speed bumps along the way.
Christmas with the Krankarna speaking to those of us who have ever considered just checking off the holiday season for once. Sometimes the thought of Christmas and all it entails is enough to make us question whether it’s really worth the trouble. In some ways, we can live out that notion with the Kranks and get a kind of vicarious satisfaction from their antics. But in the end, most of us probably couldn’t handle it and, like the Kranks, realize that the stress of Christmas comes second to its magic.
A Christmas Story: “You’re going to shoot your eye out.”
For children, Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year. Christmas vacation from school, decorating the tree, visiting or writing to Santa, and waking up Christmas morning to find it laden with presents are all reasons children look forward to the holiday every year. The holiday season is a time of carefree indulgence and the epitome of childhood happiness. Watching a Christmas movie is often an added bonus, something that can be done surrounded by the whole family. That’s because adults, looking back on their childhood, can appreciate children’s Christmas movies as much as the children themselves. Christmas classics like A Christmas Story and Home alone mark this.
A Christmas Story is undoubtedly the quintessential Christmas movie. Released in 1983, this holiday favorite is one of the most popular Christmas movies ever made (according to Vanity Fair). Nearly 40 years later, it still has an annual 24-hour slot on at least one major TV network. The Christmas classic stars Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin as a typical Midwestern family going about their lives during a particularly eventful holiday season. Ralphie (Billingsley) wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas after seeing one advertised in a shop window. Although the adults in his life insist that he’ll “shoot his eyes out” if given a BB gun, Ralphie is diligent in his quest to persuade Santa to give him the gift of his dreams.
A Christmas Story will never get old because every child of every generation can relate to Ralphie’s longing for the perfect Christmas present. Nothing really compares to the feeling of being a kid during Christmas, and this movie expresses that fact thoroughly.
Home Alone: ”Keep the change, you filthy animal.”
Another classic Christmas movie for kids is Home alone. Popular child actor Macaulay Culkin stars as eight-year-old Kevin McCallister in this 1990 film written by John Hughes. Starring Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci, John Heard, Daniel Stern and John Candy, the film follows a young boy who is accidentally left alone in the days leading up to Christmas. Kevin, frustrated and annoyed with his family, wishes they would go away. Waking up one morning, he is shocked to find that his wish has been granted when his family unknowingly leaves him behind when they go on vacation. While on the plane, his mother, Kate (O’Hara), realizes that Kevin is missing and begins a long, difficult journey to get back to him. Meanwhile, Kevin enjoys his freedom by sledding down the stairs, eating ice cream for dinner, watching banned movies and ordering personal cheese pizzas. His fun comes to an abrupt end when he is tasked with single-handedly avoiding the danger of two burglars (Pesci and Stern) intent on breaking into his family’s home.
Home alone is a fun film for both children and adults. The film is full of laughs and relatable moments that keep the audience coming back again and again. It’s definitely a Christmas favorite that will continue to entertain for generations to come. These popular movies provide a sense of comfort and familiarity that keeps us coming back again and again. Regardless of age, they are there to provide laughter, sympathy and comic relief each Christmas season through both the hard times and the good times. That is why they will never grow old.