The Holiday Spirit

While Christmas is constantly bemoaned as overly commercial and increasingly homogenous, I still thrill at little peculiarities, personal traditions, and culture clashes when it comes to St. Nick.

I’m not the first, of course. May I strongly suggest you listen to David Sedaris muse on Christmas traditions, particularly in the Netherlands. 6 to 8 Black Men is wonderful on many, many levels.

But I digress.

Back to real life: last night, we watched Elf.

I don’t know how it had escaped my notice, but we’ve had six Christmases together and Bean had never seen this film.

You laugh. How can I be flabbergasted at something so mundane?

You don’t know Bean. This film is, quite literally, exactly his cup of tea. If I were to invent a film for him to love, it would be a hairbreadth away from this silly, wholesome, magical, sappy, funny, dorky, Wll Farrell’d sportnik (with singing). It could only possibly be improved with puppies and heavier sarcasm and irony.

So last night, we snuggled down for what I was sure would be the perfect holiday treat.

He did really love it, (score one for the wife-to-be) but as we watched, it became clear he was experiencing something different to myself.

For him, it was just a (really great) holiday film.

He didn’t nod knowingly at the subtly referencial costumes or grin at the tongue-in-cheek pastiche. It turns out he has never encountered any of the 60s claymation holiday classics on which my childhood Christmas was founded, and which Elf so aptly recreates while simultaneously poking fun.

It seems his childhood had no Buddy Hackett narrated Jack Frost. No Burl Ives. No tin foil lakes, no cellophane tears.

In the end, it went something like this

Don’t you know Rudolph?

What? You mean the reindeer song?

No, the movie version — The Land of the Misfit Toys? The singing snowman?

[Curious confused expression]

You know, with the tiny dentist, Yukon Cornelius and the abominable snowman?

[Skeptical glare that questions my sanity]

Of course, at that point I questioned my sanity too — what sort of kid’s festive film is populated with such things? It’s trippy and a little disconcerting through fresh eyes. A worry for another day.

Anyway, I should have known better. This is not the first time Holiday Icons have fallen on deaf ears in our house.

Last year I indoctrinated him with his first viewings of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special and The Grinch.

Seriously. Who graduates elementary school without seeing The Grinch at least once? What do you do in the run up to Christmas if you don’t spend it watching the same films every year? How do you fill your time between cookies? The mind boggles.

As I mull on such festive cheer, I’m keeping a list (I might even check it twice), tallying our respective holiday traditions. This may be our last Christmas in the UK for a while, so I’m trying to be vigilant – what have I gleaned from the native celebrations? What will we bring with us? What will we miss?

It’s an interesting conglomoration, and hopefully one that will change and grow over the years. What traditions do you require to make the season bright?



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