January 20, 2022

Christmas comfort

Movies a nostalgic tradition during holiday season

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Movie-goers stand in line for concessions Wednesday at Crown City Cinema in Cortlandville. The theater began showing Christmas movies, including Elf, The Polar Express and The Grinch — all of which, like many Christmas films, have similar themes.

Picture this: cozying up on the couch under a fuzzy blanket, one arm peeking out to grab popcorn and press “play.” Cue the opening credits of the Christmas movie you’ve watched every winter since you were a kid — you know the one.

Most people have their favorite, comfort pick — the Christmas classic they’ll never get sick of. But what is it about holiday movies? Well, they make us happy.

Using entertainment to escape can be an important antidote to life’s day-to-day stresses, especially in the time of COVID and isolation. Christmas movies often share a theme of redemption, a rediscovery of innocence and returning home; think, “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Elf,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “The Polar Express.”

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

  • Janice Brown, Dryden: “A Christmas Carol” (1938)
    “I like Scrooge’s transition from horrible to really engaged, and seeing someone go from really nasty to totally changed,” Brown said. “The one I watched when I was really young was the 1938 one. Then the ‘51 one with Alastair Sim, the subsequent movies kind of embellished on it. It’s simple and plain, but pretty amazing for the time period, what they did with the visuals.”
  • Ali Ferro, North Carolina: “Four Christmases” (2008)
    “I watch all the Hallmark movies and they have those happy endings,” Ferro said. “Christmas should be a happy time, and it makes you feel better.”
  • Evelyn Hull, Cortland: “The Princess Switch” (2018)
    “My new favorite is the Princess Switch, it’s on Netflix and it’s great,” Hull said. “The rest of the year can be depressing, so it’s nice to have something with a happy ending.”
  • Bailey iaccarino, Wappingers Falls: “The Santa Clause” (1994)
    “I think the Santa Clause is the only right choice it’s almost like a family tradition, and it’s a great time,” Iaccarino said.
  • River Milsapp, McGraw: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)
    “I grew up with that movie and it’s always hilarious,” Milsapp said.

Holiday movies have a reputation for being predictable and sometimes downright cheesy, featuring a blend of romance and comedy, with a sprinkle of drama to inspire the Christmas spirit of generosity, caring and family. This predictability adds to the joy of re-watching year after year because it’s safe and familiar.

“I think it pulls people back a little bit, these are the movies that they remember from their childhood,” said Lydia Mekeel, theater manager at Crown City Cinemas in Cortlandville. “If they didn’t have the best childhood, then it gives them that nostalgic feeling of being a kid. We’re getting to see that happy ending, even if you didn’t growing up.”

This year, the theater is offering $1 movie tickets to see “Elf,” “The Polar Express” and the 2018 adaption of “The Grinch.”

“It’s the week of break for the kids in school, so we have showings at 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. every single day,” Mekeel said. “With Christmas movies, what stands out to me is having that laid-back, kid-at-heart feeling, and being reminded that the holiday shouldn’t be so stressful. You should take the time to just lay back, have fun with it and laugh at yourself a little bit.”

The rediscovery of innocence is a common theme, like the story of Buddy the Elf, and ties in with the theme of redemption.

When Buddy learns that father Walter is on Santa’s naughty list and is in desperate need of some Christmas spirit, he tries to build a father-son relationship and remind Walter about the delights of everyday life.

The Grinch undergoes his own grand transformation, as his heart grows three times in size, and the greedy, selfish miser Ebenezer Scrooge learns his lesson and chooses to become a generous and kind man. Characters are filled with Christmas spirit and hope for the year ahead.

Holiday movies bundle together highs and lows, calling for laughter and empathy. Many Christmas films are family-friendly and can be a good option for a night of multi-generational entertainment.

Bailey Iaccarino, a student at SUNY Cortland, said she looks forward to Christmas movies brightening up an otherwise gloomy season.

“Christmas has become very commercialized, and it’s becoming about spending money and that can be stressful,” she said, a theme for the holidays as far back as 1947’s “Miracle on 34th Street.” “As an adult, there are a lot of stressful things about the holidays, and it’s nice to almost go back to being a kid and watching the movies you did when you were little.”