In a few days Christmas will be here. This is one of my favorite times of the year, although COVID has really stolen much of my holiday cheer for the second year in a row. Tack on many personal issues and this has been a really hard season.
So I decided to take a break from writing about COVID for a bit. I’ll be honest and say that the constant COVID research has exacerbated a lot of my stress and anxiety.
Instead, I will make a post or two revolving around the holidays so that we may not always be melancholic. Hopefully this will bring a bit of brevity to the chaos we all have been living through for quite some time now.
The day after Thanksgiving usually marks the start of the Holiday Season (personally for me, that’s the lead up to Halloween). We tend to signify the coming holidays with Black Friday, the chaos of shopping for those we love- and those we pretend to love. It also comes with all of the garland, decorations, and festivities that this season has to offer.
But it also comes with plenty of holiday movies.
Now, I am never one to be partial to the Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. Personally, I find them to be a bit too saccharine for my liking and it’s hard for me to believe nearly everyone is a prodigy of Santa who needs to meet their true love before midnight or they can’t take over their father’s business.
And unfortunately, due to the millions of streaming services now available it’s become far too difficult to find one source for any Holiday movies.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is apparently only available on Apple+ TV, Disney’s acquisition of Fox means that “Home Alone” is now only available on Disney+ (seriously, what’s with all the “+” streaming services?"). If you only have one streaming service it’s slim pickings when it comes to the Holiday movies- remember when streaming services were meant to be cheaper than cable?
Aside from mooching off of other family members, the only streaming service I have is Amazon Prime. Everyone knows that Amazon Prime is like finding a diamond in the rough, and it sometimes takes A LOT of time to find an adequate film from any genre.
Luckily, all streaming services have their own holiday section at this time of the year. So, of course, I try perusing through the holiday films on Amazon Prime.
Much to my chagrin, it’s essentially nothing more than low-budget, Hallmark style films.
However, there were a few things that caught my attention.
Among the selections were two films: Edward Scissorhands and Mrs. Doubtfire.
I’ll be honest and admit that I have never seen Edward Scissorhands in full and it’s been so long since I’ve seen Mrs. Doubtfire, so I could not figure out what made these films “Christmas Films”.
And this is what made me think of Die Hard. It’s essentially become a meme at this point and is possibly one of the most, albeit jokingly, contentious points of the holiday season. Many have argued over whether “Die Hard” fits the criteria for a holiday film.
I must admit-with much shame, that I have never watched Die Hard. The closest thing I have seen to it has been The Cleveland Show parody of it.
From what I can tell, and if the parody episode is a somewhat accurate depiction, Die Hard takes place during a Christmas party that becomes interrupted by terrorists.
People seemed to have defended Die Hard’s role in the holiday season on this ground specifically:
It takes place during Christmas
And thus, this is where the conundrum arises. I will call this rule the Die Hard Rule: does any film that takes place during the holidays count as a Christmas movie?
Or, more importantly, does Christmas and the holiday season have to play a prominent role in order for it to be considered a Christmas film?
There are plenty of winter movies out there that don’t focus on Christmas. One of my cousin’s favorite Christmas specials is The Legend of Frosty the Snowman from 2005, a more recent iteration of Frosty. This special doesn’t make any mention of Christmas, although it definitely could be considered a holiday film.
So is it a general rule that anything that “seems” Christmasty can be considered a Holiday film? It seems like the rules here may be completely loose.
I honestly find the whole argument ridiculous, but I think that’s part of the point.
Holidays don’t always evoke emotions akin to jolliness or togetherness, but sometimes strife and resentment, especially when it requires visiting family that may not get along. There can be plenty of arguments among family members, and for many they can’t wait for the affair to be over with and they can leave their in-laws for another whole year.
The debate about Die Hard's, or really any other film’s role as a holiday film may just be an extension of what the holidays are for many people. It serves as something to jokingly fight each other over, especially in a time that leads to more frustration than it does merry. In its own charming way it has become tradition, and one that has wedged itself into the other traditions many people have created over the years.
So whether it’s Die Hard or some iteration of Frosty, or frankly any film for that matter, the tradition is what’s more important. It’s a reminder that sometimes the holidays don’t need to be a big deal and that it’s perfectly fine to take some time and wrestle over the little petty things like all families tend to do. And best of all, it allows people to learn to agree to disagree; something we may all need to learn a bit more of.
So to end I’ll point to some of my favorite holiday films, as well as some I have never watched and plan on watching.
First Time Watching Plans…
Die Hard: I may as well try and watch the movie that made the title of this newsletter. Whether people argue over Die Hard’s role as a Christmas film I don’t think I have ever seen anyone call it a bad movie. Regardless, it should at least be good viewing and I may as well see what the big deal is.
Elf: Personally, I never saw the weird obsession with this film. Will Ferrell playing an adult elf pretending to be little kind of lost its charm in the commercials alone. It also doesn’t help that sugar cookie coffee creamers start making their appearance in October way before Halloween arrives. It’s one of those constant reminders that Christmas is around the corner when there are two other holidays to get through first. Plus, hearing that “Buddy the Elf” song in nearly every Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade really just turned me off of the whole thing in general. Of course, I’ve gotten plenty of scorn from family for avoiding it so maybe this year I’ll give in and at least try to watch it.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Okay, if you haven’t brought out the pitchforks now this is probably a good time to do so. Again, I’ve gotten a lot of flak for having never watched this. It doesn’t help when you grow up in an Asian household and the closest thing you ever see of Christmas tends to only be The Charlie Brown Christmas Special. It was also before my time and never seen it come up on TV. It’s become such a cultural icon, and seems like the type of Christmas movie I would be into so I plan on checking this out as well.
Home Alone 1 and 2: There’s something about Home Alone that resonates with me, and really many kids. The feeling of being a misunderstood kid who feels unfairly derided by your entire family, causing you to wish them away. The over the top nature of the traps were always great as well, and considering how that the film looks at the introspection of both Kevin and his mom I think it’s a good film that shows the strife that many people may go through with their family and how they can still come together regardless. And no, there are no films past the 3rd one, and there definitely is not another remake that just came out this year! There are only the first two, and possibly the third on occasion.
Christmas Specials from TV/Movie Franchises: This is all-encompassing, but anything from The Charlie Brown Christmas Special or to any special that revolves around Dreamworks IP’s are always good. One of my favorite specials growing up was always Spongebob’s first Christmas special “Christmas Who?” There’s a lot of nostalgia for those older specials and it’s always nice to see that one holiday episode that has to come out every year that involves beloved characters. More recently, I usually do a marathon run of Bob’s Burgers Christmas episodes, although the show seems to be losing some of its charm.
There’s not much time until Christmas so I’m likely not to watch many of the things on this list. However, it’s been a tough two years for many of us. The constant push of fear and divisiveness over COVID has left many of us bruised mentally. Coming into this weekend the messaging seems to have gotten even worse even though it should be getting better.
There’s a lot of contention, a lot of anger, and a lot of spitefulness that has pervaded so much of our lives. But sometimes, even through all of the trying times, it’s always good to get a little bit of time to slow things down and think of the little things to be thankful for, spend some time watching a feel-good holiday movie, or anything else that lets us take a break from the haphazard realm of daily life. So instead of arguing with loved ones and family over COVID and politics this holiday season, think about arguing over the important things, like whether Die Hard truly is a Christmas movie.
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There are two kinds of people: Those who accept that Die Hard *is* a Christmas movie, and those who are plain wrong.
It's not Christmas until I see Hans Gruber fall from Nakatomi Tower.
Yippee Ki Yay, M... Merry Christmas.
Now go watch Die Hard already! :)
The two Christmas shows that have the most nostalgic value for me are Charlie Brown Christmas from my childhood, where my mom would set my sister and I up with TV trays and we would watch eating dinner. I've grown to Love a Christmas Story into my adulthood because my mom loved it so much and her adulthood, and watched it every year. It's a genuinely enjoyable movie, but it's extra special because my mom, who's no longer alive, loved it. Die hard is a good movie. It takes place at Christmas and has a lot of Christmas references in the dialogue, scenery and plot between the main character and his wife. Merry Christmas, happy holidays! Thanks for all your great writing. 🎄🎉🥂💕