The 12 Movies of Christmas

My favorite movie, of all time, is Home Alone.


Not my favorite “Christmas” movie…my favorite movie…of all time.  You know, the one with Macaulay Caulkin, the robbers, and the house full of Mousetrap-like inventions?  Yep.  That one.  It’s held the title of my #1 Film, for many years now, beating out tough competitors like Shawshank Redemption, Hook and Clue.

I don’t place Home Alone at the top of my film queue for cinematic reasons.  No actors merited any Oscar Awards for their performances, and the only Oscar Nomination went to composer John Williams (and very rightly so).  It doesn’t stand amongst films like Braveheart, Memoirs of a Geisha, or Saving Private Ryan, but it does possess an immense amount of nostalgia for me.

Home Alone, for me, became the movie to watch during the Christmas season.  It was amongst the first movies I saw in theatres, and it eventually found a very special place in the life of my family.  Every year, we’d get so excited to pull it out of its VHS case (still have it), and even though the years took their toll on the video cassette, we didn’t seem to mind the faded color or distorted sound.  The lights would dim, the 21st Century Fox anthem would ring out, and the opening title would float into my ears, making me remember Christmases of ages past.

It’s a “quotable movie” for me.  I have a few that I can confidently sit down with and, word for word, re-enact the whole film.  My favorite scenes in the film are the ones which evoke memories of laughter with my family.  No Christmas season is complete without a viewing of Home Alone (and, Home Alone 2, while we’re at it).


However, as the years have gone by, I’ve begun to rethink my decision to place Home Alone at the top of my movie heap.  I still treasure the movie and its ability to send me back to Christmases past, but does it still knock out other worthy contenders?

I found myself struggling with this decision, quite honestly. It’s not that I’m overly dramatic, with something such as deciding to change your favorite movie or not.  But, being able to tell someone that Home Alone is my favorite movie has become sort of like a tradition:  it’s a part of who I am and has been for many, many years.

But isn’t that how traditions go?  You start with a time-honored activity, which becomes a habit, which becomes an event, which becomes a tradition.  You continue this tradition for years on end, and then suddenly, one day, you turn around to find that tradition changed or gone.

I think about tradition a lot when the holidays roll around.  I was always the one in the family who insisted that traditions be followed.  Yes, we would get a freshly cut tree this year.  Yes, we have to watch a specific movie while decorating it.  Yes, we will go to our local museum’s Christmas exhibit again.  I was a stickler for traditions, and I felt horrible when life produced hurdles to continue these traditions.  In fact, I insisted on keeping some traditions going to the point where they just weren’t as much fun as they use to be.

Do we like going to that museum every Christmas Eve?  No…it’s the same exhibit, over and over again.  Do we have to have a freshly cut tree?  No…in fact, this year is the first year I’ve owned my own artificial tree.  Do I have to watch a certain movie while decorating it?  No…and to be honest, I haven’t gotten around to decorating it yet.  And the odd thing is:  I’m not really bothered by these changes.

And that’s the key to improving holiday traditions:  you can’t be bothered by changes if they’re inevitable.  If you lament about dying traditions and “how things aren’t the way they used to be,” you’ll be continually stuck in the past and on a cycle for unhappiness.  Sometimes, you just have to let go in order to move ahead. And usually, what does come your way after letting go is better than what you expected.

A big reason why the holidays have always been special for me has been my grandparents, Gram and Papa.


My grandparents are no longer with us, and this Thanksgiving was the first holiday without them both.  I’ve begun to realize that one of the big reasons why the holidays have changed for me is because their presence is missing.  Sometimes I want to kick and scream and cry because I miss them so much.  I want to vent about how unfair it is to not be able to spend Christmas with them anymore, and I can wish until I’m blue in the face that I want the holidays to be like they used to be…but they can’t be.  And they won’t be.

So, my only option is to acknowledge that things must inevitably change…that life must inevitably change…and with it, some of the time-honored traditions that accompany it.  Allowing these changes to happen is not a self-reflection on who you are or who you’ve become…rather, it’s more like taking a chance to define yourself as something else.  Can I let go of who I think I am to who I can be?

I don’t live at home anymore, so marathons of Christmas movies will not be taking place between me and The Mom on the weekends.  Instead, she just drove out here, in a terrible snow storm, to spend the weekend at my apartment…where we watched a few Christmas films and ate like pigs.  It may not be the “tradition” we had established so many years ago, but it’s a wonderful new “habit” which may grow into a new tradition.

I’ve also been involved in a Christmas musical this year, which has consumed my weekends and most of my weekdays.  I don’t have time on the weekends to bundle up and watch all of the Christmas specials on TV, and there hasn’t been a single sled-riding session yet.  However, I have spent some great Christmas moments with my fellow cast members, and have continued to refine my skills as a baker…I bake for them every week, including tonight, when I completed another RAC by making cookies and brownies for them (it’s our last week, I had to go all out!).  I’ve made new Christmas memories with them, and even though these moments are not traditional, they’re not any less special or meaningful.

“For everything you gain, you lose something else, and for everything you have missed, you have gained something else.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes, life throws you curveballs which inevitably must and will change your life.  Sometimes, we can’t stop fate from hurtling forward.  The trick is to meet it with the path of least resistance and accept change, instead of fleeing from it.  Let fading traditions be replaced by new, exciting ones.  Be brave enough to try the unknown.  It may just end up making you happier than you ever thought you could be.

So, when it comes to naming a successor to my favorite movie of all time, I’m willing to give up Home Alone as reigning champion, even though admitting that statement makes me feel a little less like the person who’s proudly proclaimed that for years.  But, when it comes down to it, I’m not the same person who’s said that for years….I’m me now, and that’s someone different from when I first saw the movie at age 5.  My tastes, wants, and needs have all changed since then, and I must realize that it’s not self-defeating to understand that things that you cling to…things that you believe define you…must someday alter and modify.

However, I’m also willing to say:  I don’t have a favorite movie…I have several! I can’t pick just one.  When you’ve got The Green Mile matched up against Sister Act, you simply can’t make comparisons.  So, I shan’t! And, I won’t!

What I will do, however, is provide you with a short list of my Favorite Christmas Movies of All-Time. In honor of there being only 12 more days until Christmas, I will offer up my 12 picks for holiday films that continue to inspire, entertain, and create wonderful memories for me.

Aunt Bethany’s 12 Favorite Christmas Movies of All-Time

(Or, for now, at least….Winking smile)

image12.)  While You Were Sleeping

image11.) Annie (New Version)

image10.) The Santa Clause

image9.) The Nightmare Before Christmas

image8.) The Muppet’s Christmas Carol

image7.)  Miracle on 34th Street (New Version)

image6.) How the Grinch Stole Christmas

image5.) Elf

image4.) Love Actually

image3.)  A Christmas Story

image 2.)  Home Alone/Home Alone 2

image 1.)  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation


22 responses to this post.

  1. My favorite Christmas movie has always been “Meet Me in St. Louis”. I’m not sure if it’s technically a Christmas movie, but I’m saying that it is.


    • I’ve never seen that! Technically, “While You Were Sleeping” is not really a Christmas movie, either, but it does fall around that time of the year. So, I’ll have to give yours a shot!


  2. Posted by Uncle Lewis on December 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Uncle Lewis’s top 10 favorite Christmas movie/specials.
    Some of my favorites are ones I would actually watch. Most are in the category: if it’s on, I’ll watch it.

    10. Frosty the Snowman
    With opening songs by Jimmy Durante, this classic brings back decorating with mom.

    9. Charlie Brown Christmas
    How can this NOT be on a list, the music, the dancing, the looking up in the air to sing loo loo loo

    8. The Grinch (old cartoon)
    When this came out, I couldn’t miss it. Best LOW VOICE song… EVER!

    7. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
    Clay animation, at its best! Very quotable movie… “she think I’m CUUUTE”

    6. A year without Santa
    “I’m Mr. Heat Miser”… nough said.

    5. Elf
    Funny, feel good, midgets… this movie has it all!

    4. A Christmas Story
    HOW… HOW can you avoid this movie every year? FUUUUUDGE!

    3. It’s A Wonderful Life
    I think it is law in certain states that this MUST be watched every year. I saw it last week and it still made me cry.

    2. Christmas Vacation
    The most quoted movie in my house. A movie that you can watch over and over and still find things you never saw before.

    1. Emmett Otters Jug Band Christmas
    No Christmas, growing up, could happen without watching this 50 times. Brings back memories of my brother and I…

    There it is, you didn’t ask for it… but… there it is!


    • Uncle Lewis, that’s awesome! One of my most thorough comment responses. The surprising part is that I haven’t seen most of these. Any chance you could break out of the nursing home long enough to watch all of these sometime next week?


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  4. I forgot about While You Were Sleeping! That’s a great Christmas movie. I also love Elf and Christmas Vacation; I have to watch those movies every year. Believe it or not, I have only seen bits and pieces of A Christmas Story, even though it’s shown 12 times on TBS every Christmas day.

    My favorite Christmas viewing activity is watching The Office Christmas Special (the BBC version). The series is so depressing (and funny), but the special leaves the characters with a little hope.

    Good luck at your Christmas musical!


    • I love The Office, but the American version. I’ve never actually seen the British office! But I do love Ricky Gervais…perhaps it’s time I gave that series a look!


  5. It’s awesome that you have “While you were sleeping” on there! My favorite is Elf, I cannot remember what I watched before there was Elf, it’s not the holidays without Elf.


  6. Excellent list! My fav is White Christmas because Danny Kaye Aaand Rosemary Clooney, are you kidding me?? The are the best EVER! No one has time to watch the best Christmas movies, that’s why YouTube was invented.


  7. I’m pretty sure you know how I feel about Christmas movies. Gnarly to the max. Your list meets all the requirements for official standing. 1) It’s thoughtful and 2) You like it. Congrats, you’re done!
    Sweet stuff about your family by the way. On an unrelated note my cat just started licking a peanut butter lid. I must go.


    • I am SORRY about never seeing Scrooge! Oh, our Internet relationship will never be the same again! If custody is an issue, you can keep the kids…please, take them. I just want the Prius.

      My dog tried to eat cornbread tonight off of my table. At least this time it wasn’t butter.

      Thanks for your film approval! I forgot about White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life!


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  9. I love The Nightmare Before Christmas! I just watched it a week ago. And I always like to catch A Christmas Story on Christmas Day on that station that loops it all day long.


    • I used “Nightmare Before Christmas” as a teaching tool for my elementary school students! They ate it up! And my family always makes a case to watch “A Christmas Story” at least 3 times on Christmas Eve/Day.


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  11. […] stories are well known, so there’s not much left to say.  I have a pretty good idea of where Aunt Bethany’s going, but what about the rest of […]


    • Hey, thanks for the mention, Clay! I cried bitter tears the other day when Home Alone got knocked out of the running…so, I will throw my weight behind Christmas Vacation instead!…even if I have to wrap Scotch tape around my hands and steal votes for it, a la Marv in Home Alone 2.


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