Christmas is…

When I was in elementary school we had Christmas parties. There was always one or

two kids in my class who were Jewish and of course, didn’t celebrate Christmas. Instead of learning about the Jewish religion (or any other faith), we simply side-stepped the issue and enjoyed our cookies and punch.

Back then, we had gift exchanges, went caroling down the halls, and played games for the entire afternoon before our two-week winter break.

Today, school children don’t have Christmas parties–they have holiday parties instead. School officials are very careful not to bring religion into any type of school activity and there is no mention of what Christmas really means or why it’s celebrated.

There’s no portrayal of Jesus being born in a manger in the school pageant, or songs of little drummer boys in the winter program.

But despite the lack of religious teachings in public schools, most kids know the story of Mary and Joseph, and how they traveled to Bethlehem and found that there was no room at the inn. They know the tale of the shepherds in the fields who were visited by the angels and told of a king that was born in a manger, and how the three wise men came from afar just to see the babe in swaddling clothes.

Most children know that Christmas is more than just Santa Claus and presents. They  may not understand where all the traditions come from, but I’m sure they’re aware that  people are naturally kinder, more generous, and more caring at Christmas-time.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do that? To not question the magic of Christmas, but just enjoy it?

If we could figure out how to keep that Christmas spirit alive all year-long, we would all be a little happier, a little more at peace.

Favorite Christmas movies a reflection of how we perceive the holiday

Have you ever wondered why we like the idea of a kid stuck home alone for the holidays, or are entertained by the notion that a man gets a second chance at life on Christmas Eve?headshot

We all have our favorites. Every year growing up I watched all the holiday favorites; Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Rudolph, Frosty, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Santa Claus is coming to Town.

And, of course, as I grew older and had children of my own, other favorites became a tradition at our house; National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, One Magic Christmas, Home Alone, and The Santa Clause.

But there is one movie that will always be my favorite.

It’s a movie that I wrote about in a blog last year about this time, but it’s one that deserves to be mentioned again because it’s one that changed my idea about the holidays.

It’s a Wonderful Life,” for those who don’t know, is about a man who was given a chance to see what life would be like without him. In the end, George Bailey was able to see that it wasn’t how successful a person was, that “no man is a failure who has friends,” and realized what was most important in his life; his friends and family.

The reason I like this movie so much is because the first time I saw it, (though it was made in 1946) I was alone on Christmas Eve. The kids were at their dad’s for the holidays and I admit that I was feeling a little sorry for myself that I was alone.

But watching that movie made my imagination wander and I thought about what life would be like without me and how much my own life was intertwined with those I love.

Since then, I have spent my life focusing on what I can do for others and how I can make their lives just a little happier; not just at Christmas, but all year-long.

It’s funny to think a simple movie has the power to change someone’s life, but I imagine it has also happened to others.

What’s your favorite holiday movie? Is there one that has made you stop and think about your own life or how you perceive the holidays?

I have complied a list of my favorite top 10 movies. I have already given away the number one movie, but there are others that I find special and worth mentioning.

  • Scrooge-This is my favorite version of the Christmas Carol. It was made in 1951 and stars Alastair Sim.
  • Miracle on 34th Street– There have been many versions of this movie made, but none can compare to the black and white classic featuring little Natalie Wood.
  • Home Alone-A classic Christmas tale of one boy who finds himself alone when his family forgets him when they go to Paris on vacation.
  • Scrooged-Bill Murray portrays a Scrooge-like man who is determined to put on a live telecast on Christmas Eve, to the dismay of all those involved.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation-The Griswold family celebrates Christmas in this hilarious movie, complete with Cousin Eddie.
  • The Santa Clause-Tim Allen is suddenly in charge of delivering Christmas gifts to the entire world, only he doesn’t particularly want the job.
  • Elf-Will Ferrell is hilarious as a man who is adopted by elves and sets out one day to find his dad in New York. Classic Will Ferrell humor.
  • One Magic Christmas-Mary Steenburgen is wonderful as a woman who forgets what Christmas is all about in this Christmas tale. It still makes me cry.
  • A Christmas Story-Ralphie wants a BB gun for Christmas and spends the days before Christmas trying to convince his parents, his teacher, and Santa why he should have one.
  • And of course, It’s a Wonderful Life-George Bailey thinks everyone would be better off without him, and it’s up to Clarence the angel to set him straight.