positively present picks: week of december 10, 2012
positively present picks: week of december 17, 2012

10 life lessons from festive holiday films



I love holiday movies. Name a Hallmark or Lifetime holiday film and I bet I've seen it (and probably more than once). And don't even get me started on the classics! I'm a sucker for Frosty, Rudolph, and, of course, my favorite: Buddy the Elf. (See the post 10 Life Lessons from the Movie Elf for more on him.) This year, as I added the holiday flicks to my DVR and pulled the ones I owned from the shelves, I started thinking, What is it about holiday movies that I love so much? Why do I feel compelled to watch them year after year? 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it comes down to one of the things that matters most to me: positive thinking. As cheesy as they often (or is it always?) are, I can't help but admit that I really love the positive messages found in almost every holiday movie. Though they are decked out in holiday decor, the underlying messages in most of them are that good things can and will happen. Positive themes are threaded through holiday movies, reminding us of some very important life lessons. Here are some of my favorite life lessons from holiday films...


1. Celebrate the differences in others. (Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

We all know that people are often more than what they seem, but the character of Rudolph represents one of the best ugly duckling stories out there. He's bullied by all the other reindeer, mocked for having that bright red nose that's so different from what's typical in the reindeer world. But in the end (spoiler alert!), it's his glowing nose that saves Christmas. Rudolph might have seemed odd to other reindeer, but what made him different was what made him shine brighter than the rest. A valuable lesson in celebrating the differences in others. 


2. Make the most of the time you have. (Frosty the Snowman)

Frosty is brought to life by some children and a magic hat, but, being made of snow, his life is destined to be short. Instead of worrying about when and how he might melt (as so many of us human characters would do), he frolics about in the streets, leading the children who created him on adventures. Most importantly, Frosty puts his friends first, entering the warm greenhouse to prevent little Karen from freezing to death. In his short life, Frosty focuses on fun and friendship -- two things we too should prioritize.   


3. You have more of an impact than you realize. (It's a Wonderful Life)

Like it or not, you've probably seen (or at least heard of) the story of George Bailey, a down in the dumps businessman who is shown what life would be like if he'd never existed. As he travels through an imagined world in which he had never been born, George realizes that he did a lot of wonderful things and had more of a positive influence on the world than he had thought. Like George Bailey, we all have more of an impact on the world than we often realize. We all matter


4. Find the good wherever you find yourself. (Elf)

Buddy the Elf had it rough. He grew up the odd man out in a world of elves and was an full-grown adult before he was even aware that there was a reason he was different: he was a human. He then has to travel all the way from Santa's workshop (through the seven levels of the candy cane forest!) to the very intimidating NYC in search of his biological father, a man who isn't all too thrilled at his new and naive son. Despite all of these challenges, however, Buddy makes the most of every situation he finds himself in, spreading Christmas cheer and positivity wherever he goes.


5. Never stop going after what you really want. (A Christmas Story

Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun -- and, unfortunately for him, no one else wants him to have it. He's faced with the incessant refrain of "you'll shoot your eye out" from everyone including his parents, teachers, and even Santa. While I'm not in favor of children having guns (BB or otherwise), I am a fan of Ralphie's perseverance. It would have been much easier for him to give up on that gun and settle for some other toy, but he's determined to go after what he really wants at all costs. And in the end, his perseverance that pays off -- and teaches us all a valuable lesson. 


6. Christmas isn't about giving or getting. (A Garfield Christmas Special)

Every year, my sister and I watch this movie together, and every year I can't help but feel a little burst of happiness when Garfield says, "It's not the giving. It's not the getting. It's the loving." Hearing those words coming out of such a grumpy and selfish cat reminds me that Christmas really is more than the giving and the getting. It's wonderful to get and give gifts, but that's not what the holiday season is really about. It's about spending time with those you love most, a concept that all too often gets lost amidst the chaos of trying to find the perfect gift. Remember: Christmas is about the loving


7. Friends can really turn things around. (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

You've probably seen the iconic image of Charlie Brown's pathetic little Christmas tree, bent over with one little red bulb hanging from a branch. That image has become such an icon that people often forget about what happened after Charlie put that one bulb on and walked away discouraged. After he'd left his little tree, his friends swooped in, swiped some decorations from Snoopy's house, and transformed it into a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Charlie had given up hope on his little tree, but his friends stepped in and fixed it up. When times are tough, friends are miracle workers, turning scrawny branches into a beautiful sights.  


8. There's life outside your comfort zone. (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, is bored with doing the same thing year after year for Halloween. Halloween is all he's ever known, so he's more than thrilled when he comes across a small forest of trees, each one with a door leading to a different holiday world. Jack gravitates immediately to the Christmas tree shaped door and discovers an entirely new holiday world. Jack attempts to become Santa and, though he doesn't quite succeed, his adventures remind me that there is more to life than what we're used to. There's so much we don't know -- and so much to explore. 


9. There are no naughty kids. (Fred Claus)

Fred Claus, Santa's brother, travels to the North Pole to help his brother for the holidays. While working on labeling "nice" and "naughty" files, he realizes that a kid he knows from his hometown has been labeled naughty. Fred knows the reasons why this kid has been acting out -- he's had some really tough times -- and it makes Fred realize that there are no naughty kids. This film reminds me that "bad" kids aren't naughty; they're just going through something tough that makes them act not-so-nice. And, come to think of it, that goes for adults too. Fred's realization reminds me that "naughty" often has a back story. 


10. Your attitude can influence others. (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

We all know that the Grinch's had a change of heart in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but rarely do we think about why he had a change of heart. What changed the Grinch's mind about Christmas was seeing how the people of Whoville embraced the Christmas spirit even without all of their material things. The positive attitude of the Whos is what transformed the Grinch's cold heart, and that's one of the most important lessons any of us can learn: we can't control how other people act, but sometimes our own attitude can impact them. 


Whether you're a big fan of Christmas films like me (or a hater like quite a few people I know...), you can't deny that they do tend to focus on the positive and most of them have some pretty great life lessons buried beneath all that tinsel and holly. I'd love to hear what you've learned from holiday films... 


Did I miss any of your holiday favorites?
What lessons have you learned from holiday films? 



*Congratulations to Julie G., winner of last week's Merry + Bright giveaway!*


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loved your list! I can't think of any that you didn't list, but I enjoy watching them all every year too.

Thanks for writing the list. You made several good points. :)

I am a big fan of Christmas movie and one of my favorite channels for watching them is Hallmark.

I usually DVR them and watch when I get a chance.

Take Care.

Great list!
Also: Christmas Vacation: crazy families can the best & most supportive :)

oh so many movies I love! Santa Clause (the Tim Allen version) just cracks me up -- and something happened to him that he didn't want to happen (becoming Santa Claus) but while he persisted in resisting, he finally gave in to his destiny and was a wonderful Santa!
Christmas Vacation (with Chevy Chase) also makes me laugh like crazy -- it's a lesson in family (with warts & all) making it through and making special memories no matter how goofy they are!
I love some of the old ones too - like the Natlie Wood version of Miracle on 34th street - how someone who doesn't believe, becomes a believer and gets her wish in the end (a family, a house & a swing in the yard), White Christmas with Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye - extending yourself for friendship & loyalty and the goodness of others to make a person's dream come true ... so many more -- thanks for the wonderful list!

Jul - So glad you enjoyed the list!

Justin - Same here! I love recording the Hallmark ones and watching them later.

Joyeaux - Christmas Vacation is a great one! Every family has a bit of craziness and can probably relate to some part of that movie.

Colleen - Those are some great ones! I love Santa Clause too (I've seen 'em all, but the first is the best). Definitely some good lessons in that one. I've never seen the original Miracle on 34th Street but I love the remake. I'll have to check out the original! White Christmas is another great one. Thanks for sharing these!

Thanks for reminding me to watch Charlie Brown's Christmas this year!! not that I should need a reminder. Great movie.

ISAL - It's definitely a great one! So many good messages. Merry Christmas!

Any version of Dickens' Christmas Carol is necessary for its life-affirming message. I think the Muppets' version is best!
Happy New Year,

Kajsa - So true! Thanks for that awesome suggestion!

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