If ever there were a year that we needed inspiration and positive stories, it is 2020. Classic holiday movies offer the opportunity to look at (fictional) life through someone else’s eyes and offer inspiration at a time we need it most.
That said, not every holiday movie is worth watching (I’m talking to you, Lifetime’s Recipe for Seduction or the litany of guilty pleasures that can be found on Hallmark Channel). Holiday movies and TV specials can teach us lessons in perseverance as we try to focus on happiness and silver linings.
It’s a Wonderful Life helps reinforce and recognize that any one person can make a difference. While the challenges around us can seem overwhelming sometimes (I’m looking at you, 2020), what remains constant is that at some level we create our own environment. George Bailey leads a modest life, but he prevents good old Bedford Falls from turning into a less wholesome Pottersville.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas offers a great example of what can happen when you let your heart grow bigger. Dr. Seuss suspected that the Grinch suffered from a heart two sizes too small. As soon as his heart grew three sizes larger, he brought back the toys he stole, put everything right and made an entirely new group of friends in Whoville.
High standards and being driven by excellence are generally good qualities to possess, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation character Clark Griswold shows how the overuse of any positive trait can become a fatal flaw. Clark’s unchecked tendency to go overboard with everything he does, including having a “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas” no matter the cost, brings about lots of emotional and physical pain.
Clark Griswold is enthusiastic about Christmas, but Buddy the Elf takes enthusiasm to an even higher level. Buddy is unapologetically himself. His quirky behavior, although obnoxious at times, is what helps him break through to others including his newly discovered dad, Walter Hobbs and his love interest Jovie. His disruptively playful and joyous take on life is what jolts his new dad Walter into reconnecting with what matters.
Home Alone offers proof of personal growth when faced with adversity. As hard as it would be not to freak out when a burglar is scouting out (or inside) your home, Kevin McCallister’s cool demeanor is proof that it pays to stay calm in stressful situations. Kevin avoided being taken over with emotion after his family mistakenly left him behind and instead focused on solving the problems in front of him while developing a pretty awesome plan to deter the thieves.
There might not be a holiday film that captures quite as many lessons as A Christmas Story. Consider Ralphie’s unwavering pursuit of a Red Ryder BB Gun: he holds firm to the dream of acquiring the Red Ryder in spite of the naysayers and pessimism coming at him from every angle. A Christmas Story also encourages us to think before accepting a triple dog dare.
Classics such as White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street, and animated films including Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Charlie Brown Christmas also offer valuable lessons in perseverance and problem solving. Less traditional holiday fare such as Bad Santa, Gremlins and Die Hard (yes, it is a Christmas movie) show the value of friends and family.
2020 has been a challenge for us all. Enjoy the escape of holiday movies and look for the silver lining and lessons they offer.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com