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Holiday Movie Traditions

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! The semester is wrapping up and everyone’s buried under snow and papers. In honor of the upcoming winter break, this week we talked for a bit about our holiday movie traditions and what constitutes a “holiday” movie.


Lauren: So tell me a little about your holiday movie traditions?


Teddy: As my family’s self-declared film aficionado, I would like to say that my taste in movies is taken seriously in my home. However, as many of my siblings lack the attention span necessary to bask in the heartwarming glory that is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or the nostalgic appreciation for the stop-motion Claymation Christmas specials (i.e., “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” or “The Year Without a Santa Claus”), the Hoffmunchkins and I share a common love for sentimental classics such as “Elf” and a good old-fashioned “Harry Potter” marathon with hot cocoa in hand. Interestingly enough, one of my treasured holiday-film traditions is a “Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition” marathon with my high school friends. This leads me to the question: What constitutes as a holiday movie? “Lord of the Rings” has no chestnuts roasting on an open fire and yet it has become a holiday staple as crucial as candy canes. Likewise, one of my friends cannot watch “The Godfather” until carols and snowflakes charm the winter air. So what say you, Ms. Sheely? How would you classify a holiday movie?


Lauren: That’s a great question. The Sheelys definitely tend to steer towards more overtly holiday movies, like “Christmas in Connecticut” (an unsung classic) or “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” We also save our “Lord of the Rings” marathon for winter, but actually prefer our “Godfather” marathons in the heat of late summer. Holiday movies for me also mean Oscar-bait. While my family doesn’t go to the movies on Christmas itself, I’ve spoken to a lot of friends who make that trek as part of their own holiday tradition. And the movies slated for December releases are almost all big studio releases in line to win some awards. This year alone, three huge tickets are opening on Christmas Day: “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “August: Osage Country.” And that’s not even including Oscar-bait released throughout the month of December. I spend about three or four days watching actual holiday-themed movies and the rest of winter break prepping for Oscar season. I think the most cohesive definition I can give of a holiday movie is one that is a communal viewing experience. What do you think?


Teddy: Perhaps in the holiday spirit, I find myself agreeing with you. Something about this time of year (for those of us who celebrate this season’s holidays) encourages the togetherness that movies champion. In this way, the very act of movie watching is inherently a holiday activity, thus establishing the holiday-based subject matter as secondary, an afterthought. However, I would like to complicate your inclusion of Oscar-bait in the holiday-movie category. While seeing movies in theaters is about as communal as you can get, my interpretation of what makes an “essential holiday movie” necessitates tradition. Something about the seasonal returning to a film enhances its holiday spirit, setting it apart from the ebb and flow of movie theater titles. Like baking gingerbread people or decorating the tree, revisiting a movie in the name of holiday celebration makes it special. You can watch movies with friends and family all year, but tying tradition to certain films makes them something beyond Hollywood’s latest blockbuster.


Lauren: I love re-watching the classics, and thinking about how you’ve changed since the last time you watched the movie. It provides a great, fun marker of the end of the year. I think going to the movies can be tradition, too; I know families who make takeout and a movie their Christmas every year, and I have a tradition with one of my best friends of going to see two movies every winter break, one her pick and one mine. No matter if the movie is new and in theaters or a classic that you revisit every year, the important part is to establish tradition, to spend time with loved ones on the sofa or in front of the big screen. Make your winter movie-watching traditions special, and that’s the definition of a holiday movie.



Happy Holidays and a restful break, from us to you!

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