Every year as soon as the 1st of December rolls around (and sometimes a little bit beforehand) I begin my round of Christmas movies. A lot of the time I find myself saying to others 'I know they are terrible, but I love them'. There is something so innocent, predictable, and comforting about these movies.
And, almost classically, they all seem to leave us with a little lesson - and a warm fuzzy feeling - no matter how clichéd they might be!
So - in no particular order - here is a round-up of some of my favourite Christmas movies and the wisdom that they impart!
1. Home Alone
Don't underestimate yourself
One of the intended lessons was probably to teach kids not to wish away their loved ones. Kevin tells his mother; "I don't want another family, I don't want any family. Families suck!." and then wakes up in the morning to find his family gone. I find this moment in the movie more than a little unsettling as, rather than comforting her son when he claims that "Everyone in the family hates me", she answers with "Then you should ask Santa for the new family."
Home Alone teaches us that no matter what we think of ourselves, we are often more capable than we believe. The start of the movie sees protagonist Kevin Mcallister scrambling around asking his parents, siblings, and cousins to teach him how to pack a suitcase. They make fun of him saying that he doesn't even know how to tie his shoes.
However, when Kevin is left alone for a few days, we quickly see him learning how to take care of himself. He buys himself food, does his laundry, and overcomes his fear of the basement. Not to mention warding off two intruders!
Also, the chaos of the opening scene reminds me of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles coming to stay for Christmas when I was younger, and I loved it - even if it meant getting turfed out of my room for a few days!
Spread Joy and Don't Give Up
For me, Elf is a modern classic. Will Ferrell is the elf from the North Pole that travels to New York to find his real father. There are many funny and poignant moments in this movie; with Elf leaping onto the Christmas tree to put the star on top, his four main food groups being candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup, and him experiencing the revolving door like a fairground ride.
The main, and more obvious lesson, that Elf teaches us is the importance of spreading cheer and not giving up - even when others are pushing back against that. "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." is repeated a couple of times throughout the movie and is embodied by Buddy the Elf in his escapades through New York. His birth father is grumpy, slightly bitter, and focused on his work, but no matter the push back he gets, Elf is on a mission to bring him some Christmas joy.
The other lesson that Elf imparts is the importance of letting life excite you. As we grow older it is easy to take things for granted, but if you try to see the world through a child's eyes, the world can be a pretty great place. Imagine waiting for the Tube or a train. This is a pretty standard thing for most people, especially most commuters, and can be a rather mundane or even frustrating experience.
Now, imagine you are a young child - or Buddy the Elf - waiting for the same train. They might experience this as waiting for a fairground ride - that little carriage that comes to take you on an adventure. The most mundane things excite Buddy the Elf; for example, when he goes to pick up his half-brother from school he excitedly tells him "Good news! I saw a dog today!"
3. Arthur Christmas
Embrace your differences and the joy of Christmas
Arthur Christmas follows the adventure of the youngest child in the Claus family saving Christmas for one child. Older brother Steve runs the operation to military precision and it's almost perfect.
After discovering that one child has been missed, Arthur overcomes his fear of heights, his hesitance at leaving the North Pole, and the fact that his Christmas slippers "aren't meant for outdoor use" and travels to England to deliver a bicycle. He understands that Christmas isn't just about going through the motions, but about the joy of each child that wakes up on Christmas morning.
Older brother Steve is satisfied that almost all of the deliveries made it under the Christmas trees, Father Christmas is quite oblivious to what is going on and puts too much trust in Steve, and Grandsanta is out to prove a point that he isn't obsolete. But Arthur is in this adventure for the magic of Christmas, for the joy of one little child, and possibly because he understands what it feels like to be missed by Santa.
Throughout most of the movie, we hear Arthur listing his fears, his anxieties, and the things that he feels holds him back. He is told by the elves that he is clumsy and should stay out of the way. However, at one point in the movie, he embraces his anxiety claiming "Let's do it with worry", allowing Grandsanta and Bryony the elf to use his concern for the missed child to overpower his fear of heights.
4. The Family Stone
All families are a little crazy and the importance of being yourself
Despite some criticism, The Family Stone is one of my favourite Christmas movies. I love the chaos in the house and the idiosyncrasies between all of the siblings. It just makes me feel really nostalgic - despite not discovering it until I was at least 15 years old.
One of the life lessons is that all families are a little insane. It might be a little comforting to know that it isn't just your own family that isn't picture perfect - even at Christmas. Their mum is judgemental and more than a little rude to her son's girlfriend, their dad is a little clueless as to what is going on, and spends a lot of time getting high with his son, and the movie is filled with little squabbles and arguments. And this is all made to feel okay because, at the end of the day, they all love each other and wouldn't actually change anything about each other.
Something else that this movie teaches is that trying to be someone you aren't - trying to be perfect - is exhausting. Almost immediately, the family make fun of eldest brother Everett's tie. Throughout the movie, we get hints that he isn't being his usual self. He starts to tell a story about visiting a monastery, but his girlfriend interrupts with "he never made it of course". We later see him talking with his girlfriend's sister about her travels and we can see that he is enthralled. He slowly starts to become more relaxed, and stop wearing his tie!
His mum tells him; "I hate to see you miss out on something... because you have this picture in your mind or you thought you can change something you can't. I'd hate to see you not find what you really want.”
We can see the same thing with Everett's girlfriend, Meredith. She arrives looking very prim and proper and is very concerned with giving off a good first impression - as we all would be when visiting our significant other's family for the first time. The more she struggles with the family, and the more she bonds with younger brother Ben, the more at ease she seems - and the more the family seem to warm to her.
Also, just, the beautiful house! So pretty and quirky! I love it!
So, there we have it! A short round-up of just some of my festive favourites. Each year there are more and more Christmas movies that get added to my list, and Netflix has become something of a Festive Film Factory over the last few years. This blog post had the potential to go on and on, so I had to limit myself to only a few. Happy Holidays everyone!
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