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….)