Twas the night before Christmas and there is no doubt. That Family (and Movies) are what this holiday is all about.
Of all the holidays people celebrate around the world, I don’t think that there is a holiday people associate movies with more than Christmas. It’s clearly become an important part of the holiday with some films getting 24-hour marathons during Christmas and some TV channels even put a different Christmas film every day until the big day comes around. The only question I have now is: why? What has made these films that delve into the holiday so impactful to people that it’s now basically become a holiday ritual.
Sure, it’s probably just something to put people in the Christmas spirit, but when you think about it, Christmas films tend to deliver impactful messages and characters that have stayed with different generations of movie watchers. When looking at Christmas movies as a whole, it’s almost like seeing a family of films that each goes towards a different generation. There are films that represent kids, siblings, parents, grandparents, and even the weird aunt or uncle that comes for the holidays every year.
So what better way to talk about what both movies and different family members bring to the holidays than to take a deep look at each one and see what they bring to the table.
I think the best place to start is where my family would start when giving out presents: with the kids. When it comes to kids, the easiest thing that fits with kids has to be animated movies. The colorful visuals and memorably creative characters make children’s eyes glimmer with joy. However, ironically, the most memorable animated Christmas classics tend to have characters that don’t share the holiday spirit.
Just look at the Dr. Suess classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas (or the 2018 remake); it’s main character is literally out to destroy the holiday for all of the Whos down in Whoville. But, that’s not what people, especially kids, tend to focus on as the story is meant to showcase how The Grinch learned what’s special about the holiday. Instead of Christmas being about presents, The Grinch learns that Christmas is about family and being together as the Whos stand around the town circle and sing after their presents are stolen.
Big studios, like Warner Bros. and Disney, have even jumped into the animated holiday spirit with some of their lesser known, and arguably highly underrated, films like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. The Polar Express follows the journey of a young boy as he learns what believing in the joy of Christmas truly means and A Christmas Carol tells the classic story of the crude Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to gaining the true Christmas spirit.
Both films, along with The Grinch, relate best with children because it actually teaches them what Christmas is all about. At a young age, most kids just see the holidays as a time to get rewarded with presents, but films like these help establish the holiday as something more. Not that kids want to ruin Christmas or spread messages of “Bah Humbug,” but films like these help make the holiday more than just gift-giving.
Next was brothers and sisters, the siblings, who relate in the ways of Christmas movies that some might have a love/hate relationship with the holiday. Maybe it’s that guilty pleasure film that got bashed on by everyone you know, but you still secretly plan to watch it when no one is looking or maybe it’s a film that everyone else loves, but you just simply can’t stand. When thinking of something that resembles that love/hate relationship people can have with siblings, my immediate reaction goes towards Disney’s Frozen.
Now, I can already hear the sounds of “click-clack-clackilingly” through plenty of people’s keyboards ready to sound off on how I could possibly hate Disney’s Frozen and I just want it to be perfectly clear: I don’t “hate” Frozen. Frankly, I just find the film to follow the typical Disney formula and the only reason it exists is to sell albums, merchandise, and that terrible Christmas short before Coco that I unfortunately had to sit through. However, when someone brings it up to me and says that it’s a film that’s a perfect watch right around Christmas time, I can kind of see why.
The animation in Frozen makes it a purely imaginative watch that makes you feel like you’re walking through a winter wonderland with Anna and Kristoff. There’s also some solid songs, that are always great to see in any Christmas movie, and some colorful moments that brings plenty of smiles to anyone’s face. I would even say that Olaf, voiced by the delightful Josh Gad, really encompasses a true jolly spirit no matter how much I honestly hate him and find him annoying. Regardless, just like any kind of love/hate relationship someone could have with their sibling, sometimes it takes the most joyous time of the time to find the things you love about those you might have issues with from time to time.
Now, we can’t forget about your good old parents and those “standard” Christmas films they represent. Parents always set the standards for holidays and what movies their kids see and the holidays aren’t so different. There’s always that film that people consider to be an absolute staple to the holiday and I think there’s no better film to talk about in this scenario than Elf.
I literally don’t think there is any person on this planet who didn’t fall in love with Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf when they first saw him. There’s an incredible child-like wonder felt throughout the film and its depiction of Buddy’s journey from Santa’s workshop to the North Pole to the hustling, bustling New York City in full holiday swing is iconic. Not to mention, there’s some absolutely hilarious moments in the film that bring the best kind of holiday joy.
The film is so much more than just some nice aesthetics and moments that any normal holiday film could bring as there is some touching family growth with Buddy and his father. For someone as cheery as Buddy, many would expect his father to be as jolly as Santa Claus, but his attitude toward the holiday resembles more of Scrooge’s. That’s why seeing his father grow into the holiday spirit and help Buddy and Santa complete their Christmas run is so inspiring and why parents continuously make an effort to keep Elf as a part of Christmas traditions. It’s really no wonder why Elf has now become the standard film to show pretty much anyone during the holidays.
Then, there’s that weird aunt or uncle that always seem to make it for the holidays. You’re always happy that they are there, but they never feel like they are a part of all the typical holiday traditions Now, you’re probably wondering what this could have to do with holiday films, but you can never forget those non-traditional holiday films. Yes, those “Christmas” films that don’t necessarily fit the mold of a typical Christmas movie, yet are stilled played right around the holidays.
Films like Michael Dougherty’s Christmas horror comedy Krampus and Disney’s Claymation classic The Nightmare Before Christmas are the first to come to mind – and yes I can hear you screaming Die Hard. However, there’s a more recent entry to the non-traditional that deserves some special attention, so it’s time to delve into the Scottish zombie Christmas musical, Anna and the Apocalypse. No, seriously, there’s a zombie Christmas musical out there and it’s awesome.
Coming out just a couple of weeks ago, Anna and the Apocalypse combines some charming musical numbers with both the colorful Christmas look and the disgusting gore of zombies. What makes this film so special, though, is the kind of message it brings about the holidays. Obviously, no one wants to be alone on the holidays and this film actually touches on that quite nicely with some deeply emotional moments about losing loved ones and wanting to spend time with them.
Seeing Anna and her father have their last talk and him giving her one last “Merry Christmas” cuts kind of deep and showcases the holidays in a new light. It’s really films like this that stray away from the norm that make you think about Christmas in a whole new way and make it just as special as a visit from your strange uncle or aunt.
Last and certainly not least, we have the grandparents that represent some of the best Christmas films out there: the classics. Now, we’re talking about some real classics here with films like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. However, no other classic stands out more than the iconic 1983 Bob Clark classic, A Christmas Story.
Peter Billingsley’s Ralphie is some that anyone can relate to around the Christmas time. There’s always been that toy or thing that you’ve wanted that always just seemed so out of reach. While it probably wasn’t a Red-Ryder BB Gun for everyone because, well, you’ll shoot your eye out, anyone watching Ralphie can undoubtedly remember a time they so desperately wanted Santa to grant their one special wish.
But even outside of Ralphie’s hunt for a Red Ryder BB Gun, there’s so many moments that just feel like Christmas as a kid. Getting that bunny pajama present from his aunt, having Christmas dinner be ruined, and even his father getting that leg lamp feels just gives me so many Christmas vibes. It’s no wonder A Christmas Story gets a 24-hour marathon every year across multiple channels. I, myself, actually make it a point to catch at least one full showing of the film every year. It’s one of classics that needs to be seen and like any great grandparent it’s full of charm and love that never gets old.
Now, there’s one more person I forgot about and no, I’m not talking about the family pet or anything like that. I forgot about, well, you. With so many movies now at your disposal to see, there’s plenty of way to not only get into the holiday spirit, but also think of a family member that your favorite Christmas story relates to. As for me, I think I’ll stick to the classics for now and end this look into Christmas films with a truly classic closing line. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.