Christmastime is about passing down traditions. You teach your little ones the words to the carols, you let them hang up the ornaments you made when you were a kid, and you snuggle up on the couch to Christmas movies you want to share with your children.
One look at the line up for ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas, and you'll see that there is no shortage of holiday movies out there. And that's just a sampling, really, when you think of all the other Christmas specials and features that didn't make the cut. And don't even get me started on the never ending holiday movie programming on The Hallmark Channel.
So how do you choose which of these myriad movies to share with your children this holiday season? Some definitely lean toward the adult side of the season, like Love Actually. Some just aren't very good (why did they ever make a Home Alone 3?). But some are classics that are a part of our collective Christmas culture.
We quote Ralphie from A Christmas Story, we reference Buddy The Elf's New York City Christmas adventures, and we sing the title songs from animated classics like Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas. They're a staple of the holiday season that we can all reminisce about and enjoy together. And, best of all, they come back every year. Unlike trendy movies, which have their heyday when they are released but then tend to fall out of preference, Christmas movies will reliably light up our television screens every year. They give us something to come back to.
Start your kids young on those traditions. The earlier they become familiar with Frosty The Snowman, the more meaning it will have when, 30 years from now, they play the movie for their children. These are classics that will never grow old, no matter how impressive our movie technology gets.
Talk about a Christmas staple. Little Kevin McCallister is a quirky, witty protagonist who, through his adventurers, actually learns a very sophisticated lesson about family and the meaning of the season.
2'Frosty The Snowman'
They already know the song, so make sure they've seen the cartoon as well. Your kids will love Frosty, Karen, and even Professor Hinkle as they watch this heartwarming movie about the powers of friendship.
3'The Year Without A Santa Claus'
It wouldn't be Christmas without the claymation classics. In The Year Without A Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus finally gets her own show. And who doesn't love Heat Miser and Snow Miser?
4'A Christmas Story'
This is definitely for older kids, but they'll love rooting for poor little Ralphie on his quest for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.
5'The Muppet's Christmas Carol'
A Christmas Carol is perhaps the most essential Christmas story, after the nativity of course, but Dickens can be a bit of a challenge for young ones. That's where our pals Kermit, Piggy and the gang come in to make the story more accessible and way more fun.
6'Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas'
Definitely share both the cartoon and live action versions with your family, but start with the animated classic. As you watch your children watch the Grinch's heart grow three sizes, your own heart will burst with joy.
7'It's A Wonderful Life'
How many sitcoms have done their own version of George Bailey's story? His tale is an essential part of the Christmas vernacular, so have your kids see the original so they know where all of the spinoffs are coming from.
8'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'
Want to know how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus? This classic has been around for 35 years — and it still doesn't get old.
9'The Polar Express'
Tom Hanks lends his iconic voice to six characters in this touching movie version of the classic children's book, and teaches your kids the importance of believing.
10'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'
Again, definitely wait until your kids are a bit older to share Chevy Chase's comical classic with them. Clark Griswold's quest for perfection is hysterically wrought with difficulty and disappointment, and your family will grow closer through the laughter.
11'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
The Peanuts gang reminds us that Christmas isn't about the size of your tree, but about being with the ones you love.
12'The Santa Clause'
You'll laugh at Tim Allen's perfect punch lines, and your kids will be in awe at the story of how an average joe became their hero, Santa Claus. Definitely binge watch The Santa Clause and The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause, but avoid the third installment for sure. (Why do great movies insist on coming out with less than great tri-quels?)
13'Mickey's Christmas Carol'
If your kids aren't muppet fans but go gaga for The Mouse, Mickey's Christmas Carol is another great way to share Dickens' story through the lens of their favorite characters.
14'Jingle All The Way'
Arnold Schwarzenegger is an unlikely Christmas hero, but it totally works in Jingle All The Way. Capturing the frustration of holiday shopping, this movie will definitely have you laughing all the way.
15'Miracle On 34th Street'
Miracle On 34th Street is one of the loveliest Christmas movies, both the original and the remake. Never was there a better on-screen Santa, and this movie will have even the most cynical of Christmas folk out there feeling the magic.
The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear...and also by watching Elf on repeat. The comedy is hilarious, and Will Ferrell's childlike wonder and kindness is contagious.
17'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer'
The classic of all classics. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is the perfect Christmas tale about a group of misfits who work together to save the holiday, and in turn go down in history.
It's amazing that, even as CGI technology gets more and more realistic every day, children are still wonderstruck by and in love with a stop-motion classic from 1965. I guess it goes to show you that some things really can last forever, if they're passed down with love...and a little bit of that Christmas magic.