For many people, the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without their favorite Christmas traditions. And for many, that means Christmas movies. Some go for the classic Christmas movies, like White Christmas or It’s A Wonderful Life. Some like to curl up with a rom-com favorite like The Holiday or Love Actually. Then of course there are the family flicks, like How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And let’s not forget the amazing selection of Christmas comedies like Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story ... the lists could go on forever.
As for myself, I always enjoyed the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies and of course, the evergreen Jonathan Taylor Thomas flick, I’ll Be Home For Christmas (I mean, obviously. JTT forever!). Basically if it involved Christmas and actors from Home Improvement, it was a family favorite in my home. We always watched the ABC lineup of Christmas movies. Even if we didn’t watch them as a family, I sure as heck sat down on my sweet butt and watched them solo, with plenty of hot cocoa and cozy blankets to boot.
Now that I have a family of my own, there are lots of Christmas traditions I am passing on and sharing with my kids. Driving around town to look at the lights, drinking hot cocoa incessantly and with extra whipped cream (because Christmas), and making festive cookies like there’s no tomorrow. But watching the yearly Christmas movie marathon is no longer on the list. No Elf. No Home Alone. No late 90s Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
It’s not because I suddenly developed a deep hatred of Christmas movies. I still think they are awesome, and maybe someday I’ll want to share them with my kids. But for this Christmas, and many more to come, I want to keep television specials and hours of mindless screen time off the menu. When my kids think about Christmas, I don’t want them to think about sitting around a screen. I want them to think about time filled with family and friends. I want them to remember traditions that will bring about stories they will share for years to come. When we slow down and spend time together, I want to make sure we are face to face, not facing the TV set.
When I think about my own memories, though Christmas movies may stir up nostalgia, there are no stories or vivid moments to remember. I don’t remember the first Christmas I watched The Holiday, but I do remember the first Christmas I went caroling in the snow while wearing my Converse sneakers that were soaked through by the end of the night. I can’t remember any details of the nights I sat around watching White Christmas with my best friend, but I do remember the time we tried to make some ridiculously Pinterest-worthy Santa Claus cookies that ended up looking like creatures from a horror movie. I don’t remember which Christmas Eve movie we watched when I was 7, but I remember lying awake in bed straining my ears for the sound of bells until I fell asleep.
I want my children to have vibrant memories of Christmastime, and with all there is to do, with all the experiences we could be having together, Christmas movies just don’t make the cut. While it may be tempting to zone out in front of the TV for a few hours amidst all the holiday bustle, I want to make a conscious effort to slow down in other ways. I want to lay in bed and listen to my son make up his own Santa stories. I want to eat cookies while we make simple bead ornaments.
So for now, in these young years, we’ll skip the holiday movies in favor of more substantial Christmas traditions. The kind that will get our hands dirty and make us laugh. The kind that have tastes and smells and familiar faces: riding the Santa Train with his grandparents, decorating the tree together, making the same candy cane twists my grandmother used to make with me. The traditions that allow me to engage with my children in a way movies can’t. Traditions that will remind them that the thing I value most about the holidays is them.
Images Courtesy of Gemma Hartley (2)