Here in the New World, Christmas has sundry meanings. For some, it's a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. For others, it's a time to dress up as Santa Claus in an attempt to fool others (usually children) into thinking that they are in fact the jolly man from the North Pole who brings presents to everyone in the world. All in one night, no less…
One thing pretty much omnipresent about Christmas in this country, though, is that it's an icon of commercialism. BUY! BUY! BUY! 99.3% of all retail operations have some kind of scheme laden with the Christmas name, from sales to products created specifically for Christmas.
The media is no different. Fashion magazines flaunt the newest in Christmas trends; radio stations play all sorts of familiar songs, from "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" to "Jingle Bells"; and network television spills out tried-and-true "classic" movies, such as It's A Wonderful Life and Frosty the Snowman.
All this cheery madness swirling about like a typhoon, it's a constant reminder to everyone that the best way to show your affection for loved ones is to spend money on a present. But not everyone can afford to shell out cash to buy gifts for a dozen people, and this combined with an extra sense of urgency the closer Christmas gets is enough to make a person give up. It is no surprise that this is the most popular time of the year for suicides. Particularly in Ohio, where the air is brutally frigid, slush drops from the sky several times a week, and the flashing lights of Yuletide decoration shine all over the place.
But many feel like that is not the true Christmas Spirit. Perhaps there's something more to Love than money and flash and trinkets and presents and big dinners and heavily-decorated plastic trees.
Many media outlets catering to film enthusiasts will give their pick of "must see" Christmas films. Naturally, these films will take place during Christmas time, and will usually revolve around the commercially-accepted idea of what Christmas is all about. Sure, there will undoubtedly be the whole, "Well, Christmas isn't really about the presents, it's about being with the ones you love" muttered within these films- but that will usually be lost with the overtly bling-bling undertones found elsewhere in the same story.
It's A Wonderful Life is a good example of this. What happens at the end? The town gathers together to give the protagonist a bunch of money. And this film is considered in many circles as the ultimate Christmas movie.
Hence, it makes sense that television viewers will be offered this film during the month of December, as well as Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, Mickey's Christmas Carol, and so on.
But what about the rest of us, those who want to watch something more true to the Christmas Spirit? Granted, this means different things to different people, and some don't need to even have Christmas in a film to be reminded of this essence.
The snow is falling by the bucket-full right now in Northeast Ohio, and there's not much else to do but stay in and watch movies. In other words, those that live in a place like this need a reminder of the true Christmas Spirit, since it's ridiculous to venture outdoors, where drivers operate their vehicles like morons, and that disgusting white mess flies all over the place. This is the Armpit of America, and the nightmare of Winter is just getting started.
Below are a few suggestions to help inspire and/or relish in the Christmas Spirit.
A Christmas Story: Getting this one out of the way, this is one that is played every year on TV, but it's far superior to crap like It's A Wonderful Life. Sure, it centers around a little kid wanting a toy (or more precisely, a Red Ryder BB Gun) for Christmas- but the movie is funny as hell, and one of the only "classics" that earn its title.
The Passion of the Christ: If you're celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, this one will show why you're celebrating his existence. Jim Caviezel stars as the Son of Man, who gets ruthlessly beat to a bloody mess before being staked to a cross for crucifixion- all for you.
Dogma: If you're celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, but don't want to watch graphic torture, this film is one of the most grounded and honest in regards to God. Jay and Silent Bob help a direct descendant of Jesus thwart two fallen angels from undoing the fabric of existence. And God takes the form of a beautiful woman, namely Alanis Morrisette.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: A mockery of "classic" Christmas films, this one is a great tale of the chaos and lunacy that takes place this time of the year. It's wacky and zany, with Chevy Chase at his finest.
Die Hard: Don't want to get sappy? This one has wicked gunfights and several kick-ass explosions, and set the bar high for action movies when it was released in 1988. The story has substance, the characters aren't super-human, and the humor is genuinely funny. And since the story is about a fella who flies to California to be with his family on Christmas, it works as a festive flick.
Scrooged: This is the best rendition of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray shows true depth in the lead role of Rick Cross, all the while extending the unique style of humor that strictly belongs to Murray.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: A freaky tale, written and produced by visionary Tim Burton, that plays out through clay animation. Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, has grown tired of doing the same thing every year for Halloween. And once he stumbles upon Christmas Town, he decides to switch things around, and get his local ghouls in on the game.
Edward Scissorhands: Burton directs this fairy tale of sorts, where an ominous black figure comes into a town of cheery, typical color, and shows the people what Beauty really is. And the gloomy figure brings snow to the town of squares as Christmas nears.
Boogie Nights: An incredible look at the porn industry in the 70's and 80's, this movie shows the importance of strong family bonds and the cost of shunning children like they're trash. And on Christmas Eve, the gorgeous Rollergirl (played wonderfully by Heather Graham) shows a punk what happens when you act a fool.
Angela's Ashes: More than any other film, this saga reminds you that things can always get much worse. Please note that this is one of history's most depressing movies.
Punch-Drunk Love: This is one of the most authentically romantic movies ever made. Not too sappy, and not to far-fetched, this movie is one that reminds you of how beautiful it feels to be in love.
Gremlins: This tale of small monsters terrorizing a town is perfect for Christmas. It's funny, it upholds family values such as responsibility (no food after midnight and things of that nature), and it has creatures turning from cute, cuddly things to ruthless beasts. And it takes place around Christmas.
The Hebrew Hammer: This is the best Christmas film ever made. Damien Claus is Hell-bent on wiping out Hanukkah (and Kwanzaa after that), and it's up to the "baddest Heeb this side of Tel Aviv" to stop him.
The point? To smile, feeling grateful for Life and the company of your loved ones. That's what it's all about, after all, with or without the eggnog/spiced rum mix.