10 Lessons Learned From Holiday Movies

Holiday movies teach us about change, love, and, of course, the wonders of the holiday spirit.

No matter the book you read or the movie you watch, there is always a lesson to be learned. Even Seinfeld, a show that was essentially about nothing, teaches us something… I’ll just have to get back to you on exactly what that is.

But no place are there better lessons to be learned than in holiday movies. Holiday movies are made for teaching us change, love, and, of course, the wonders of the holiday spirit. Here are 10 lessons learned from both modern day holiday films and the classics.

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas: We all have that one creepy uncle and our family is more interesting for it.

Although nothing ever seems to go right for The Griswolds, no matter which movie you watch, the big takeaway from National Lampoon’s Christmas is that we all have an Uncle Eddie. He’s awful, he dresses bad, he smells weird, but at the end of the day, he’s still family… making our lives a bit more interesting, albeit gross, for it.

2. A Christmas Story: Mom is always right.

10 Lessons Learned From Holiday Movies

One of my favorite Christmas movies is A Christmas Story. I love it for a million different reasons. It’s funny, honest, and there’s something charming about a simpler time. I mean, all Ralphie wants for Christmas is that Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, whereas today kids want the latest iPhone. But despite his pining for this particular toy, Ralphie is told by everyone, from his teacher to his mom to Santa at the store, that if he were to get it, he’d shoot his eye out, causing fear that he won’t get the air rifle at all. Well, Santa (dad) pulls through, and sure enough he shoots his eye out. See? You should always listen to your mom.

3. A Christmas Carol: Money doesn’t buy happiness.  

It doesn’t matter which version of Charles Dickens’ classic you choose (I’m a fan of the Muppets’ version), A Christmas Carol is an essential heart-warmer. It teaches us that even all the riches in the world can’t buy happiness, and the only way to really feel alive is to open your heart to a little kid named Timmy and you’re good to go.

4. Love Actually: Love is complicated.

10 Lessons Learned From Holiday Movies

Where to start with Love Actually? I could delve into each and every story within the movie, but since it’s become such a controversial film over the last few years, with some people writing think pieces about how much they hate it, I’ll spare you. But, no matter how much you despise or love the movie, it really does teach us that love is far from easy and the guy who professes his love for Keira Knightley’s character grew up to be super hot in The Walking Dead – or maybe the last part is something only I learned.

5. Miracle on 34th Street: Yes, Susan, there is a Santa Claus.

Despite being raised to not believe in wonderful things like Santa and other “fairy tales,” Susan takes a chance on believing that the Santa at Macy’s in NYC’s Herald Square is the real Santa. Long story short, there’s some issues along the way, a trial, and yes, he really is Santa, which brings us to the lesson of belief. To quote Francis Pharcellus Church’s editorial in the 1897 New York Sun:

“Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

6. The Family Stone: Bringing home an outsider for Christmas is rarely a good idea.

Truth be told, I love SJP in this movie. She’s insanely uptight and makes for one hell of an awkward dinner guest when she questions why Diane Keaton’s character would wish for a gay son. Among all the drama that leads up to that moment and follows, you learn that all families are their own brand of crazy and it’s probably a good idea to vet someone before you bring them home for the holidays.

7. It’s Wonderful Life: You should be grateful for what you have, even when things are miserable.

10 Lessons Learned From Holiday Movies

George Bailey is the man who has given everything he possibly could to his family, his friends, and the entire town, and he’s just had it! He’s done with Zuzu’s teacher, Uncle Billy’s absent-mindedness, and that dreadful Mr. Potter, so he considers jumping into a river to just end it all. It’s only then, thanks to his guardian angel, Clarence, that George is forced to realize just how important he is in the lives of so many. For all the messes, the life he gave up to stay home and run the family business while his brother went off to see the world, George truly has a wonderful life. I get goosebumps just thinking about this one.

8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: What makes you different makes you special.

10 Lessons Learned From Holiday Movies

So Rudolph had a nose that glowed? Big deal! However, Santa and even his own dad find Rudolph’s nose a problem… until, of course, they need him to guide Santa’s sleigh. The lesson here is that you should embrace all your “flaws,” because they’re actually quite awesome.

9. Elf: We should all hang on to our childhood beliefs for as long as possible.

If there was ever a movie that made you wish you were still the person you were at eight years old, Elf is it. Similar to Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol, Elf teaches us that belief is paramount if we’re to get through this life in one piece and even total jerks are capable of change – even a jerk from  no less.

10. A Charlie Brown Christmas:  Your dog really is the only one who has your back.

10 Lessons Learned From Holiday Movies

When you watch Charlie Brown movies as an adult, you really come to understand that he’s surrounded by some pretty terrible people – I’m looking at you Lucy. No matter what Charlie tries to do, it’s always wrong, even when he gives the saddest looking Christmas tree in the lot a chance to shine. What we learn here is that, for starters, your dog, even if it’s not Snoopy, always thinks your decisions are great, and a little love, in regards to the Christmas tree and probably life in general, goes a long way.