Both of these extremes are played out in holiday movies. In December, my girlfriend likes to watch a different holiday-themed movie each night leading up to Christmas Day. However, since she is a bit fidgety and I fall asleep quickly when watching television in bed at night, we usually watch 20 or so minutes of each movie while she plays a game on her phone and when I doze off she turns off the movie and we continue it the next night. This means we actually only see a handful of such movies each year and both of us hardly remember what we watched.
That being said, we so far have managed to watch the first two “Home Alone” movies. These films are holiday classics because they combine traditional American holiday imagery and themes with the trials and tribulations we all face this time of year. The family is white, rich and live in a big, impeccably decorated house, which is a pretty tough gig. But within that framework, the movies study several traditional holiday fears: growing up, abandonment, having no one around during the special season, dysfunctional family get-togethers, incompetent robbers, old men with snow shovels, homeless women who like birds and, of course, devilish children with cute smiles and quippy one-liners who like to set booby traps. Just like any holiday, everything is made better by wise speeches, heartwarming reunifications, life-altering self-realizations and a blowtorch. If only all the Christmas blues could be destroyed with a brick to the face or incinerated in a toilet bowl full of gasoline.
In today’s world, we have commercialized this holiday that allegedly is based in religious faith. I remember the good old days when the thrill of Santa Claus and presents also included the annual church pageant. Growing up in a small town, my family attended a cute Methodist church. A picturesque white building with a blood-red carpet inside, each year inside the candle-lit sanctuary all of us youngsters reenacted the birth of Christ. It was a moody but joyous event that I recall with great affection. In fact, I remember that far more vividly than any toy I ever unwrapped as a child, which speaks volumes to what’s really important.
Now that the innocent days of childhood have ended, the holidays are still fun but the naive perspective of youth is long gone. Now instead of just opening and playing with gifts, there is the stressor of paying for them. Never have I stood in line for a free meal, but I also have never come to a holiday season where I had a bunch of extra money to spend on presents or decorations. I don’t even have any children and I find myself wondering how I’ll afford to buy something for all the people in my life. Whoever said it was better to give than receive obviously never had to pay the credit card bill for the next 11 months.
More fun for me during the holidays is decorating the house. Halloween is more my thing, but putting up Christmas lights is fun, too. Let me clarify: Seeing my house covered in lights is fun, putting them up is an ordeal. My previous house was just one story, so putting them up was easy. Now, I have a two-story house with really tall peaks and since I am not a big fan of falling to my death, I have not yet successfully illuminated the top of my house. My girlfriend is a bit of a lights Nazi, so I have a feeling I will be not just climbing the highest peak of my house, I also will be forced to actually make the string of lights straight. My worst nightmare is about to come true.
But when it all comes down to it, the season does always seem to be full of love and happiness. Every year around July 4, I look back on Christmas with great fondness and look forward to the next one being over.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out the ladder and ask Jesus to catch me if I fall.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.