What I Learn from Watching Christmas Movies

Posted By on December 5, 2011

“Do you know what the main trouble with this country is? There are too many people who don’t know where they’re going, and they want to get there too fast.” — Sylvester the cabbie in The Bishop’s Wife

The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant and Loretta Young is among my favorite Christmas movies, and the plot centers around a bishop who is burying himself in his work, his lovely but worried wife, and an angel named Dudley, who is lending a helping hand.

Not much has really changed since 1947 when this movie was made. It’s hard to imagine that even back in “the old days,” people were concerned about overworking, family time, living their values and managing life in a fast-paced world. Maybe we’re just slow learners. Maybe these themes just are part of becoming adults.

It’s easy to dismiss Christmas movies as overly sentimental stuff, but I always find them to be reminders of what I should remember year round. Here’s what I learn from my favorite Christmas movies:

The Bishop’s Wife. Be careful what you pray for. You think you want a shiny new cathedral, but it turns out you really want is much simpler – time with your family and friends.

It’s a Wonderful Life. No matter how much money you have in your bank account, no matter how much we’re all struggling right now, we are all rich if we have people we love in our lives.

White Christmas. I absolutely love this movie. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the White Christmas song sung by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. In between musical numbers, help your friends, even your sister and always dress for the part.

Love Actually. There are so many characters and plot lines in this British film, and I just love it. As the title suggests, the biggest lesson here is about love. Love and relationships of any kind require taking a risk and showing courage. The saddest storyline is when Laura Tierney’s character puts aside her chance at love to take care of her institutionalized brother.

The Holiday. In a word, gumption. I love gumption, which is really another word for courage. I wish everyone had gumption. How interesting the world would be if more people had courage to do what was right and not what was popular.

Miracle on 34th Street. Believe. My favorite scene is at the end when Natalie Woods’ character, a little girl who was trying very hard to believe in the man she thought was Santa, is sitting in the backseat of the car, saying “I believe. Even though it’s stupid. I believe.” When she spots the house of her dreams, she realizes that it was good to believe in something.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. When you help others, you really help yourself, and your heart will grow three sizes.

A Christmas Carol. An oldie but goodie. Over the years, there have been countless remakes and variations. I prefer the classical takes, including the one with a certain Starship captain, but I did enjoy the cheesy Diva Christmas Carol version with Vanessa Williams on VH-1. You can never go wrong with Duran Duran’s John Taylor as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and I liked how “Behind the Music” served as the Ghost of Christmas Future. But I digress.

Again, show kindness to your fellow human beings, and honor your past – no matter how tragic — since it makes you the person you are today. At the end of the day, you choose how to live your life. If you act like a victim, you will be one.

Holiday Inn. The song White Christmas debuted in this Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire film. No matter where you go, remember where you came from.

Elf. This funny holiday tale is about a man who discovers that he really isn’t an elf and goes in search of his biological father. As an adoptee, I really relate to this story. Family is what you make of it, and when push comes to shove, family members can surprise you.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Even though you think you’re a reindeer with a flashy nose or a Misfit Toy, you still have value to offer the world. You should strive to fill your potential, whether it means you’re a reindeer, an abominable snowman, or an elf with aspirations of becoming a dentist.

So what are your favorite movies for the holidays? Time to make some popcorn and man the remote.

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