The New Family Tradition

Families across the country are gathering around a warm glow in their living rooms to continue a holiday tradition, but few of these Families are roasting chestnuts. Our holiday traditions are quickly changing to reflect the digital age, and riding in sleighs, tinselling up trees and roasting chestnuts over an open fire are all being replaced with watching our favorite holiday movies.
Before some of you bemoan about the loss of our history, think about how old some of our Christmastime classics have become. Even the “younger” classics are getting up there in the years. Die Hard, regarded by many men as the greatest Christmas film, is almost 30 years old! The same is true for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. My favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life, clocks in at an impressive 70 years and each viewing seems to get better and better as the nostalgia builds and the conflicts of the film become more relatable with my increasing age. These films have been touching families for several generations and many of them are already great yearly traditions.
Perhaps the most impressive feat is that these films not just remain popular, but that their messages of family, altruism, and hope have been persistent throughout national tough times and fads of apathy or nihilism. Even the macabre The Nightmare Before Christmas, despite appearing to be a movie about Halloween, is about how Christmas is a holiday for everyone, essentially putting a twist on the island of misfit toys from another holiday classic, 1964’s Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
If you or your family are big fans of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, or it’s spiritual sibling Frosty the Snowman; I recommend you check out Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration. It has the stop-motion beauty and creativity of The Nightmare Before Christmas, but is more along the lines of Disney’s Fantasia, only strictly themed around various holiday carols.
Usually, remakes, spin-offs, and reboots aren’t very good, and the Holiday genre has its share of duds. If you are shopping for some holiday classics, double-check the year and director, or at least read some of the online reviews. Whether preying on unsuspecting parents, or kids who demand another story about Frosty or Rudolph regardless of quality, there are multiple films with annoyingly similar titles and covers to the classics we remember.
In contrast to my advice about avoiding similarly titled movies, I do recommend that you and your family branch out and try different adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Scrooge and Tiny Tim has been portrayed many times over, but that does not take away from the magic that each different telling has. For live-action, I recommend the 1938 or 1951 version. For younger kids, Mickey’s Christmas Carol is perfect with Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge. For older kids (and the kid inside of all of us) there is always The Muppet Christmas Carol.
As you unearth the battered VHS home recordings or scrounge for the correct title on an online streaming service, just remember that regardless of what movies you watch these holidays that sharing something special with your friends and loved ones is really what makes traditions valuable.