Just before Thanksgiving I wrote about one of my family’s traditional dishes, Pretzel Salad, a wonderful concoction that includes Jell-O, pretzels, whipped cream and strawberries. Unfortunately when word spread to my grandmother that I would be referencing one of her traditional additions to our holiday feast she was certain I would be referring to her cabbage casserole. She made a larger batch of the cabbage casserole; the second most fought over dish on the table, and opted out of making Pretzel Salad.
So Thanksgiving was almost not, but with a heaping second helping of cabbage casserole and an extra dose of teasing for my little sister the day was saved.
The talk about the traditional Pretzel Salad did spark a lively conversation over dinner and that discussion led me to think of another holiday tradition.
Let me stop here and explain that I do not consider myself a Debate Baiter. This is the person that says some outlandishly off-the-wall thing to spark a heated argument, while not truly believing in the position they are supporting. It is the rhetorical equivalent to the guy that starts a bar fight then ducks out the back door.
I understand what I write here may not agree with everyone’s sensibilities all the time. In fact I assume that about 50 percent of you will disagree with me at any given point, unless you are my father, then that number jumps to about 75 percent of the time.
I don’t however support a position just for the sake of creating discord. I write about what I believe and support, then let you decide if you agree or disagree.
There are topics that I know will generate heated conversation no matter how honestly I present my stance. This is one of those topics.
I believe there is a certain standard a movie must meet to be called a Christmas movie.
There are two distinct camps in the holiday movie debate.
The group I belong to is certain a Christmas movie must be set during the Christmas time of the year, contain a large portion of holiday scenery and icons and that it must have a message that speaks directly to the spirit or reason for the season.
The second group feels the only requirement a movie must have to be called a Christmas movie is to have some reference to Christmas in the movie somewhere, no matter how fleeting.
Like most families we like to watch movies when we get together for the holidays. At Christmas time we enjoy leaving the TV tuned to the endless TBS loop of A Christmas Story or popping in a combo DVD of Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life.
All three movies I believe fit the criterion of being Christmas movies.
All three are set during the Christmas season. All three show a great deal of Christmas imagery: Santa Claus, wreaths, trees, light displays, etc. Finally, all three have a message about gratitude, humility or some other holiday theme.
There are other more modern movies deserving of the distinction as Christmas movies. Elf, The Santa Clause, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (both the live action one with Jim Carey and the animated classic), The Polar Express even The Guardians, all Christmas movies by most anyone’s definition.
The contention in this debate comes when those who have a more lax code for declaring a movie a Christmas movie try to muddy the pure white snow of holiday entrainment with their tangentially associated nominees.
The most popular of these additions is Die Hard with Bruce Willis. Those that would have you believe this is a Christmas movie claim it qualifies because it is set during the Christmas holiday.
But does that a Christmas movie make? I say no. I will grant the movie is set at the right time. I will even give you that in several of the scenes outdoor Christmas lights can be seen on buildings in the background, but what is the message?
The message of Die Hard is not one of generosity, humility or renewed faith. It is a message of physical conflict, international terrorism and not leaving your hotel room bare foot.
To me Die Hard does not make the cut.
There is an x-factor that must be considered when judging a movie for Christmas movie status. Some have all of the technical qualifications but not that je ne said quoi.
Home Alone is a good example of a movie that does not have that something special. It is set during Christmas. There are a lot of Christmas icons in the movie. It even has a message of family love, forgiveness and acceptance in the middle.
On the other side Home Alone is about a clever, yet poorly parented, child that creatively uses paint cans and Micro Machines to ward off dim witted burglars bent on harming a small child.
Home Alone does not generate the warm and fuzzys a Christmas movie should.
While there are many others that want a wider selection of movies to watch during the Christmas holiday, I say, just like our heightened awareness to other holiday topics, there should be a higher bar for Christmas movies.