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.

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It really is a wonderful life

As I watched my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I thought back to times when I’ve wondered what life would be like if had never been born.

Many times I found myself home alone on Christmas Eve watching holiday movies, feeling sad that my children couldn’t be with me. But this particular movie was a comfort to me, and watching it every year has become my very own holiday tradition.

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Jimmy Stewart, who plays George Bailey in the movie, became like an old friend to me. And though I knew the story by heart, I cried when the villain, Mr. Potter, was on the brink of ruining George and his reputation, and bit my fingernails as Clarence the Angel gave George the gift of insight and gratefulness, by showing him how different the world would be without him.

I could have felt sorry for myself all those lonely Christmas Eves, but I didn’t. The movie made me see how blessed I am, how much I have contributed to the world, and how the world is different because my parents saw fit to see me into this world, who relied on their parents, and so on.

My wonderful children and grandchildren are here because I was born.  I’m so glad that some angel didn’t listen when I recklessly announced that I wished I had never been born. Maybe at one point in my life I needed to know what it was that I contributed to this world, but because of this movie, I can imagine it, and that’s enough for me.

It makes me see that we all have touched someone else’s life in some way. I wonder how many people have stopped to think about that. Our lives intertwine, relying on each other to make our lives richer, just by being here.

The movie, directed by Frank Capra, was not meant to be a Christmas movie originally, and was actually a flop at the box office. But its message of hope, faith, and love of friends and family has made it a timeless classic.

We should be grateful for our sometimes-crazy, chaotic, mix-up lives, because, as Clarence shows George, it could always be worse.

My favorite part of the movie was the ending, when, gathered around his family and friends, George realizes how truly loved he is. His brother, Harry, whom he saved from drowning when he was a little boy, held a glass up to toast George, saying, “To my brother, George, the richest man in town.”

George picks up a copy of the book, “Tom Sawyer,” that someone left behind, and reads the inscription inside the front cover: “No man is a failure who has friends,” which is signed by Clarence. (And of course, the famous line from Zu-Zu, who exclaims, “Look Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”)

Throughout the entire movie, the audience is shown what a great friend George has been to everyone, and never realized how many lives he actually touched. When everyone came forward to help him during his time of need, he saw that love, magnified.

We should all be so lucky, to see what the world would be like without us. But as I said before, all we really need to do is imagine it from time to time, and realize how wonderful life really is.