We get the call every single night.
Each night, my mother in law calls our house, giving us constant updates on the 8’s (just like the Weather Channel) to let us know what Christmas movie is going to be playing on television. These calls have been coming since Thanksgiving, and thanks to the ABC family station, there has been non-stop Christmas movies every night, that have not only been a thrill for my kid, but have taken me back on a nice little jaunt down memory lane.
I never realized just how many Christmas specials were created, and in the days before DVD’s, you could only watch them once a year. Now thanks to cable television, Tivo and other various leaps and bounds in technology, you can pretty much watch any Christmas special at any time of the day, in any time of the year.
It kind of makes it anti-climatic. I mean, if I could’ve Tivo-ed the 1969 Rankin/Bass classic “Frosty the Snowman” every year, I don’t think I would watch it with such a sense of nostalgia when I’m sitting with my five year old. If all the good times that you ever had in your childhood don’t come flashing back when you hear that animated snowman come to life and say “Happy Birthday”, then you are already dead you sad sack of Humbug.
Just a thought.
My point is that in this world of high-speed access and “at your fingertips” memories, do you think that things like Christmas movies have lost their meaning because we don’t have to wait to enjoy them? Or is it that we have to draw up an attack strategy on the blueprints of the local mall just to succeed in “Operation: Christmas Storm” and we don’t have time to enjoy rerun programming? We’re at war here people, and it’s not just with the retailers. They want our money and we want to get the perfect gift, maybe save a buck, and not have to fist fight any old ladies in the food court. We don’t want any trouble, just hand over the Wii for little Jimmy and no one will get hurt.
As you can tell, the malls are not for me, and neither is shopping really, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on my Christmas movie thesis (of sorts), and I figure that I will give it to my son in 10 or 12 years and he can use it for a good grade, as I have no schooling left to use such a thought provoking piece on.
I’ve seen the Grinch for instance, both the animated and the Jim Carrey version about a half dozen times each so far this month, and each time it gets better. The Grinch is the bad guy turned good by the miracle of Christmas, though he’s a bit of an enigma because he is the hero and the villain. The Grinch stole Christmas but then he saves Christmas, and it isn’t a good Christmas movie unless someone is “saving Christmas” and more often than not, it takes the pure heart of a child that believes in the miracle of Christmas (enter Cindy Lou Who) to trigger said Christmas miracle.
Pretty much every Christmas movie is about finding either the true meaning of Christmas, saving Santa from not being able to deliver any toys to the children of the world, or convincing the jaded adults that Santa is real and Christmas is a miraculous time of the year.
Some of these movies are timeless. Pretty much every Rankin/Bass movie ever made is a hit. The Rudolph movie (1962) with the “bumble” misfit snowman and the elf that wants to be a dentist is classic and “The Little Drummer Boy” (1968), where he ends up rocking out a drum solo that would make John Bonham proud to the little baby Jesus is one that I also don’t like to miss. Fred Astaire’s voice stole the show in the (1970) classic “Santa Claus is Coming To Town”, is a good one, but my all time favorite of the Rankin/Bass repertoire is “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (1978).
In the movie, true to form, a kid mouse must come to the aide of the humans who don’t believe in Santa after he wrote a letter to the paper saying that Christmas was a hoax. Thankfully, he saved the little clock that would summon Santa to come to town from going “kerplunk” and “kerplooey.”
For every “Scrooged” and the “Christmas Story” you get really bad knockoff ones like “Saved by the Bell: Home For Christmas” (1991), in which Zach Morris and Screech have something to do with saving Christmas.
There has been a movie in which Earnest has saved Christmas. Tim Allen became Santa and saved Christmas three times. Fat Albert has saved Christmas, as well as GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bob Hope, and Robin Williams as an alien named Mork. I kept waiting for the Alf Christmas special but it just never came.
So, as I finish up my month-long marathon of watching Christmas movies and I have found that the formula works and one message holds true, whether they are talking about Christ or Chris Cringle: What makes Christmas a special time of the year is children and the child that lies dormant in all of us, and if the malls aren’t too busy, we let out once a year.
If you are having trouble feeling it, watch the Garfield Christmas Special and everything should be okay.
As we head back to the in-laws for Christmas this weekend, I’ll be sure to be walking the streets of Indiana, Pa. (home of Jimmy Stewart of “It’s a Wonderful Life”) with my mother-in-law drinking egg nog and yelling at inanimate buildings and saying things like “Merry Christmas movie house, Merry Christmas you wonderful old building and loan.”
Nobody needs to save Christmas, not Zach Morris, or an animated reindeer or even Tim Allen. All you need to do is turn off your cell phone make some popcorn and listen to Linus tell the real meaning of Christmas during the “Charlie Brown Christmas.”
And he starts it just like the start of any good movie.
He says, “Lights, please.”
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