Movies for the Holidays

Rebecca Caulton, Staff Writer

As temperatures plummet and wintertime descends upon us, many begin to yearn for snow days and winter break. The relief that the holiday season provides is a welcome sight to stressed teachers and students alike. From holly to Santa, eggnog to reindeer, winter arguably represents more than any other season and some of the most iconic holiday symbols are those inspired by cinema. Holiday movies act as an escape for many tired parents and bored kids during winter break, but the traditions and feelings surrounding holiday movies are not universal. While some see holiday movies as a fun and merry way to celebrate the holidays, many others have more nuanced interpretations. Many households see them as a serious expression of their faith, while others believe they are nothing more than cheap and uninspired cash grabs. Additionally, the type of movies that people enjoy watching differ greatly. While freshman William Kim said that he enjoys “holiday movies that are a bit more aimed for comedy because they are sometimes genuinely very funny,” other students reported differently, citing serious or whimsical holiday movies as their favorites. Regardless, most students have some childhood memory tied to these holiday movies and they are a staple of American holidays.

Going back to the beginning of popular and marketable holiday movies, Nerdist writes that the progenitor of holiday characters is Kris Kringle “in 1898’s Santa Claus. This two-minute film came from the United Kingdom, at the very dawn of the film era.” This 1898 film culturally cemented Santa Claus was into the minds of the public and little of his traits have changed. Stereotypes such as coming down the chimney and leaving presents for good children were thus created, leaving behind joyous traditions for generations to come. Even more astonishingly, Santa Claus is the oldest reoccurring fictional character in the United Kingdom, beating out even Dracula and Sherlock Holmes. While Santa is the oldest holiday character, many students stated more modern holiday figures as their favorites. Senior Misha Fay cited that her favorite was, “Mr. Hanky the Christmas poo,” a South Park Christmas character. These more modern characters still draw inspiration from more traditional figures, but it is interesting to see more people turn to newer and more refreshing takes on holiday characters.

One of the most popular children’s holiday movies is the “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph” stop motion bundle, which chronicles the origins of Santa Claus and Rudolph’s journey to the Island of Misfit Toys. What many are not aware of is this movie’s ties with Studio Ghibli. Rankin-Bass, the animation studio behind these films, was looking for something new for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and found what they were looking for when scouting in Japan. According to Esquire, “Rankin… was immediately struck by the caliber of their stop-motion animation. Multiple Japanese studios would be employed to contribute to each special—perhaps the most notable of them being Topcraft, now known today as Studio Ghibli.” Using whimsical animation and catchy tunes such as “Put One Foot in Front of the Other,” many view these films as the true origins of common holiday characters.

What kind of holiday movies do our own Issaquah High School Students prefer? As it turns out, there is an important factor. For example, sophomore Alynah Huang stated that “my favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone.” Junior Roy Lee also mentioned that “the Christmas movies I do like happen to be live action.” Both students reported an affinity to movies with real actors in real settings, and this is a sentiment shared by the public as well. According to Smartmove US, the two most popular Christmas movies of all time are Home Alone (1990) and Elf (2003). Both of these movies, as previously mentioned, are live action movies. Thus, we can see that despite many influential holiday movies being animated or stop motion style films, audiences still gravitate towards live-action comedies with well-known actors and family themes. This ties further into why Christmas is such a marketable concept for media of all types. Christmas movies and songs appeal to all age groups and walks of life with their cookie-cutter themes of family and reflection. According to WeScreenplay, “Christmas time is also vacation time for many people. It’s not uncommon for several generations of family members to end up together and ready to see a movie.” Theatres are an easy way for grandparents to handle the kids for the day and many form memories watching holiday movies that they want to pass onto their kids.

With COVID having stunted movie releases for a year or so, 2022 is an especially exciting year for new Christmas releases as Hollywood regains its lost momentum. New releases are sure to impress, and audiences await eagerly for the next big holiday classic. While wintertime in Washington may usually be all slush and rain, holiday movies are a great way to find joy and community during the holidays. They bring the family together, an increasingly important feature in a time of ever-increasing isolation in the age of devices and the internet. This holiday season, cuddle down with your favorite warm beverage and put on the holiday movie of your choice.