It’s a wonderful movie with a wonderful message and a wonderful ending. It has well known characters dear to our hearts and gives us the reminder that no matter how bad things get, we’re all still important to the world around us. And it used to be our family classic movie selection during the holiday season, generally on Christmas Eve. We own it. But a few years back we decided to put aside “It’s a Wonderful Life” for a movie more in line with our family celebrations, mishaps, and realities, because none of us have ever had a visit from an angel.
Enter the Griswold family Christmas.
That’s what we call it in our house – our Christmas, not the movie – in fact we use that line for many things, like the Griswold family picture, or the Griswolds go to Edmonton etc. It’s fitting, especially once something has gone wrong. It wasn’t enough that the original Vacation movie brought to the big screen the many real life issues faced on a family trip and turned what were simple disagreements, annoyances, and unexpected circumstances into a blockbuster hit that so many families could relate to in one way or another.
There just had to be a Christmas Vacation version, packed with the saga of
hanging the lights, a Christmas bonus on the line after overspending, and the big family get together including certain dreaded relatives, some invited, some just showing up – the embarrassing ones, that no one really wants to introduce to a newcomer. Of course, the exaggerations are what make it funny, but there’s a little bit of that Christmas disaster that helps many of us feel like it’s OK if things don’t turn out quite the way we planned. The Griswolds are a family we can relate to and they help us laugh at ourselves. And seriously, don’t we all feel a little bit sad for Clark when the lights don’t work?
I learned long ago that Norman Rockwell’s Christmas existed only in paintings, sentimental movies, the Cleaver family, and perhaps the homes of very rich people with servants who made sure that every light bulb evenly spaced on a garland packed winding staircase shone, blinked or flashed according to plan, that the turkey was roasted to perfection and served precisely at the moment when everyone was dressed and seated to watch Father-Knows-Best carve it into thin succulent pieces you could slice with a fork. But I wouldn’t know for sure about the rich part.
Enter the turkey allergy. Now we have a family member allergic to turkey (probably always was and we just didn’t know because lots of people end up with stomach aches after a big holiday dinner, right?) so our holiday dinners have evolved into a mix of things that are a lot less work (YAY!)
and require little cleanup because that’s the way I roll. The last thing I want to do after Christmas dinner is dishes.
I’ve never had a turkey dinner go as badly as Clark’s did,although one year at Easter when I was still a teenager, we played games with dad so late that mom finally decided to eat alone at about 9pm because the turkey was drying out — I won’t expand on the resulting upset that we later apologized to her for. We might have been just a little too focussed on our competition……
Of course I can’t end this without mentioning Charlie Brown. His Christmas special has been part of my life since I was a small child and will always be my favourite. It’s such a perfect half hour example of what it takes other movies hours to say: if you have friends and family around who care about you (the dog is a bonus), you can have difficulties and sadness along the way and still have your Christmas turn out just fine.