“So, we’ll watch Elf tonight?”
These words came from my husband this morning as I was blearily spreading Vegemite on toast. I blinked hard and shook my head. Was William actually asking to watch a Christmas movie? Was he planning in advance what movie we would watch?
For the thousandth time this year, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake.
But post-pinch, there he was with an expectant look on his face.
“So, Elf then?”
I nodded and handed him his lunch kit.
When it comes to Christmas, people tend to get separated into two camps on a number of topics. Colored lights vs. white lights. Fake tree vs. real tree. One tree vs. five trees. Kenny & Dolly Christmas vs. Mariah Carey Christmas. Turkey vs. ham vs. rib roast. Cheese ball vs. …
Never mind. Everyone agrees on a good cheese ball.
Christmas movies is another of those dividing lines. And while I am firmly in the pro-Christmas movie camp, I can understand why there is some division. To really do Christmas movies right, you need to watch the same ones every year. And, for some, that’s tedious. Chevy Chase has never been accused of being too good of an actor, for example. The Holiday has never been accused of having too much depth, Die Hard being too believable.
You’ll notice I just mentioned Die Hard and, for some, that is a source of confusion. In my world, a movie qualifies as a Christmas movie if a major scene involves a major Christmas or New Year’s Eve symbol. So, Die Hard qualifies —or at least should be considered Christmas-adjacent — because they are gathered together in the office building for an office Christmas party.
In addition, if there is a scene involving a Christmas carol as part of the soundtrack, that is also enough for a movie to be considered a Christmas move.
To that end, Gremlins, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones’ Diary are Christmas — or at least Christmas-adjacent — movies.
Now, in recent years, another brand of Christmas movie has surfaced, one most commonly associated with the Hallmark Channel, though it has popped up everywhere from Netflix to Amazon Prime. These movies are the equivalent of Harlequin romance novels but on film, with soap opera-style lighting, acting, dialogue and plot.
Even though these productions are almost literally bleeding — nay, hemorrhaging — with Christmas, I do not consider these Christmas movies because I don’t, in short, consider these movies. They exist in their own category, kind of like when tadpoles have legs. They’re not really tadpoles anymore and they’re sure not frogs. They’re just living in this weird, ultimately substandard, in-between.
My all-time favorite Christmas movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I love every part of that movie until it’s actually Christmas, in part because I love the month of December more than I like Christmas Day. By the time it’s actually the 25th, I feel like I’m too in the center of something to be able to get a grip on it, so it feels like it’s slipping through my fingers. Also, I think the fried cat scene is kind of dumb.
My second favorite is A Christmas Story, almost exclusively because of the snowsuit scene. My brother and I grew up in snowsuits that weren’t much more streamlined than the one the kid brother wears. I can still feel the frustration that comes from trying to build a snow fort when you can’t really bend your knees or elbows.
My favorite “new” Christmas movie is Love Actually, which I only started watching a few years ago. All the emotions with that one, right? This year, I was crying within the first five minutes because everyone was greeting each other at the airport. That prompted this thought sequence: When I am going to go to an airport again? When am I going to see my family again? What if something happens and I can’t get to them?
My husband looked over and just patted me on the shoulder.
It was then that I realized that this Christmas movie watching extravaganza (we’ve watched seven so far, with Elf apparently in line for tonight) is actually my first (and likely the best) gift this year from William, who, if you haven’t guessed by now, falls firmly in the anti-Christmas movie camp.
But every night, he arms himself with a glass of wine, plugs in the Christmas tree and pulls up another flick. In turn, I wish you the gift wrapping of Love Actually, turkey curry from Bridget Jones, the home movie memories of National Lampoons, the strata from The Family Stone, the candlestick crowns from The Ref, the missing shoes of Die Hard, and the cottage-coziness of The Holiday.
Merry Christmas, dear readers.