Your Christmas traditions:

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Each December, as I try to keep those Christmas feelings from tingling inside me, it’s usually the blinking lights of decorated homes that break my will and draw me in. But the movies have that kind of power, too. Stumble upon “Frosty the Snowman” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Christmas spirit grows inside you like that Chia pet you got for your wife last year and then spent two nights sleeping on the couch.

Hollywood people pound out new Christmas movies every year, but don’t you find yourself always going back to the oldies, nonetheless? Of course you do. And in case you’ve forgotten, here is a list of some of the best and worst, almost enough of them to fill that problematic space at the toe of your Christmas stocking.

“A Christmas Carol”

By now, anybody over the age of five knows this classic Dickens tale where a string of ghosts transform a miser into a loving and joyous friend to all. To me, the bonus is that it’s a horror story as well. Dead people floating into an old man’s chambers with rattling chains and an array of vivid hallucinations? Oh, yes. All that’s missing in this one is a deranged killer with a hook for a hand. Who doesn’t love Scrooge, right? The only thing to argue about is which actor best portrays the main character. Well, I’m here to put that old debate to rest. It’s Albert Finney, and I’ll hear no more about it.

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“It’s a Wonderful Life”

In America, it’s practically a law that every man, woman and child must watch this Jimmy Stewart favorite at least once during the Christmas season. What you tend to forget year after year is how long this mother is. It takes hours just to get in all the background, for the love of Potter. Worth it, though, because it’s just filled with classic scenes, including George Bailey, portrayed by Stewart, mumbling “well, waddaya know about that?” an estimated 640 times over the course of the film. There are other gems, too, including, “Waddaya know about that, Bert? M’lip is bleedin’?” and the lesser remembered “Do we have to have all these kids?” Which is just fantastic. This is a movie that teaches us how good will always triumph over evil and that love overpowers hate and greed. Pure fiction, in other words.

“A Christmas Story”

Kid wants BB gun under the tree, every adult in the world has to warn him about the ocular dangers of such a weapon. This shouldn’t be such a great movie, but it is. If you’re a man, that is. Like the Three Stooges, little Ralphie’s story of lust and perseverance tends to grate on the nerves of most women. Tell me truthfully, how many times has this conversation taken place in your household:

“Oh God, not this movie again. Do we have to watch it?”

“What, are you nuts, Beatrice? This movies is the greatest of all time.”

“I’ll be in the kitchen drinking your rum.”

If you want to keep peace in the household, just fast forward to the scene where Ralphie unleashes a string of garbled profanity whilst thrashing the town bully in the schoolyard. It’s beautiful.

“Miracle on 34th Street”

Would you believe I’ve never seen this one from start to finish? What, am I some kind of freaky heretic or something? I assume it’s awesome because people just won’t shut up about it.

Dr. Seuss “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

The cartoon, that is. Anyone who tries to tell you the Jim Carey atrocity is just as good is dirty, stinking liar. The Grinch is a classic tale of redemption and it’s got a funny little dog with giant antlers. It also features a heartwarming circle of Whoos down in Whooville singing “Fah who foraze! Dah who doraze,” which sounds like pure gibberish unless you happen to speak Whoo.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

I absolutely loved this one as a kid. And as an adult. This Peanuts powerhouse delivers a message that is perhaps more relevant today than it was in 1965, when it was released. When Charlie B. goes searching for the true spirit of Christmas, he finds only run away commercialism, the clamor of indifference and a scrawny ass tree. That’s okay. As always, Christmas overcomes and in the end, the true meaning is found in the form of love, friendship and renewed hope. I just sniffled a little bit thinking about it. Problem is, you never see these classics on TV anymore because the networks tend to air them the first week of November, when most of us are trying to think about anything but the holidays.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Another powerful message in animated form. It’s okay to be different, my friends. Everyone is special in his own way and in the end, you will find your purpose. Or something. I still think the Island of Misfit Toys is more than a little creepy, though. Imagine if all those deformed playthings were to rise up and seek vengeance on those who rejected them? That would be awful. And cool! I’m going to write that story someday, you just see if I don’t.

“Lethal Weapon”

It’s set at Christmastime so it counts. “Do you really want to jump? Do you?” Boy, does that ever put me in the mood for candy canes, mistletoe and shoot outs on the highway.

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”

It’s a real movie, you can look it up. In it, jealous Martians plot to kidnap Santa so that the people of Earth will stop worshiping the dude. From what I understand, this movie is so terrible, it’s actually fun.

“Frosty the Snowman”

As a kid (and once when I was 30) I used to howl with anguish every time I sat and watched Frosty melting away before the horrified children. I’d put on my coat and boots and vow to bring Frosty back by building a snowman in my own yard. But then I’d stick my head out and find that it was too cold out so the heck with it. Can I get some more cocoa over here? Frost is another story of childhood hope and dreams kept alive through sheer will. That magician Hinkle, though, he was a little bit creepy. Anybody else think he should probably be banned from school grounds?

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