When it comes to my taste in movies, I consider myself something of an elitist. If it’s #1 at the box office, I probably won’t like it. I prefer classics like Barefoot in the Park or the more modern but still timeless works of Wes Anderson. But every year, by the week of Thanksgiving, all bets are off and I metamorphose from a snobby film buff into a sappy fool.
Yes, I’m obsessed with holiday movies. A stack of them have currently taken up residence atop my television so they’re easily accessible. And I don’t care much for new releases. I almost exclusively watch the ones that have stood the test of time. They’re like old friends who never change and come to visit every December, a comforting constant amidst all the holiday hubbub. I dream of taking a night train to Vermont with Bing Crosby and often wonder what I might look like as a claymation elf enlisted to help Rudolph save Christmas.
While it’s true that most of these movies are lighthearted “bubblegum for the brain,” I think that part of the reason they’ve become perennial favorites is because of their lasting messages. Whatever you may be celebrating during your much deserved winter break, take a little time for yourself, sit back with a cup of cocoa, and watch (or re-watch) one of these holiday classics, all of which are rife with life lessons you can take back to school with you in January.
- It's a Wonderful Life
The plot: Archetypical good guy George Bailey sacrifices his dreams of grandeur for the well-being of his family and the folks in the small town of Bedford Falls. When he falls on hard times, a benevolent angel-in-training shows him what the world would look like if he’d never been born.
The takeaway: Clarence said it best: “No man is a failure who has friends.”
- Home Alone
The plot: A young boy wishes his family would disappear and wakes up the next morning to find that his wish has apparently come true. He proceeds to eat junk food, rifle through his brother’s bedroom, and . . . defend the house from would-be robbers.
The takeaway: When the cat’s away, the mice will play. Keep an ever-watchful eye on your students.
The plot: Buddy, a human adopted by one of Santa’s elves, sets out in search of his real father in New York City, where his unbridled optimism and childlike enthusiasm for life are met with blank stares and head scratching.
The takeaway: Be yourself and trust your instincts, in college planning and in life. And when workplace woes are getting you down, think of life’s simple pleasures. One of my favorite Buddy quotes: “So, good news—I saw a dog today.”
- A Christmas Story
The plot: A young boy obsesses over the one thing he wants for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun. Come Christmas morning, he finds the object of his desire nestled beneath the tree in spite of his mother’s unforgettable admonishment, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
The takeaway: As Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!” Tune out the naysayers and go after what you want, whether personally, professionally, or for your students—and encourage them to do the same.
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
The plot: A suburban father tries to give his family the perfect Christmas but his plans are dashed by patience-testing relatives, uncooperative Christmas lights, and one very angry squirrel. An expletive-laden meltdown ensues.
The takeaway: The plight of the college counselor is both noble and exacting. Take a cue from Clark Griswold and let yourself blow off some steam once in a while. Tomorrow is a new day.
- The Polar Express
The plot: A disillusioned youngster boards a magical train bound for the North Pole, where he meets the big guy in red and finds the true spirit of the season.
The takeaway: Don’t stop believing—in yourself, in your students, and in the importance of the invaluable work that you do.
Wishing you a happy holiday season from CollegeXpress!