A Christmas Story: A Christmas Classic Frozen in Time, Filled With Christmas Spirit (Day #16)

Title: A Christmas Story

Directed: Bob Clark

Release: November 18th, 1983

Starring: Melinda Dillon, Daren McGavin, Peter Billingsley

*Warning, this review may contain spoilers

*This piece is actually from another colleague of ours, who will be joining the website with his own series in 2020. He wanted to chime in on the Christmas movie he remembers fondly. Take it away Sam Zell-Breier!

The days are getting critically short, and the air’s getting dangerously chilly.  It’s that time of year yet again. The time upon which my entire kid year revolved.  That’s right folks! Christmas!

Boy, oh boy, how special this time of year was for me growing up, just as it was and is for any child.  Christmas has a different feeling, a different meaning for children. It’s a day where they receive gifts without any expectation of reciprocation.  It’s their time. Their day. Their carefree holiday.

As you grow older and responsibilities pile upon your shoulders, the radiant glow of Christmas lights seems to fade, and you’re left with the stress and anxiety of buying everyone in your extended network the right gift.  While you forage the endless offering of gift cards splayed before you on your illuminated screen, perhaps you can take a pause and reminisce with me over that once prominent magic of childhood and Christmas.

This is exactly what A Christmas Story is about in my eyes.  The story I’m about to tell is one of growing up, paralleling the very nostalgia that this holiday classic sets forth to grant us.

As a teenager, Christmas was incredibly significant to me.  Not only did it take place during a wonderful respite between school semesters, but it was still an age where waking up and receiving wrapped gifts under a tree was exciting.  To amplify the special, seasonal feeling in the air, I had developed a very specific tradition that carried on for many years.  

Not sponsored but now I want pizza

It began on Christmas Eve around 7 PM.  A Central Florida resident, I’d drive over to a Hess Express gas station in Downtown Disney, where I’d pick up two Godfather’s pizzas, one beef, one pepperoni.  I’d come home and mix the two pizzas up, giving me two half pepperoni, half beef pizzas. I’d then take sliced Velveeta cheese and melt it across half of one of those pizzas, giving me two slices of regular pepperoni, two slices of regular beef, and two slices of Velveeta pepperoni, two slices of Velveeta beef.  

Before I lose you, I’m sure you may wonder if this will actually have anything to do with A Christmas Story.  And to that, I say yes! One hundred percent! Just bear with me, we’ll get there.

By the time 8 o’clock rolled around, I had my pizza ready to go just in time for the first screening of TBS’s A Christmas Story marathon.  I’d enjoy my “Christmas pizza,” watch my favorite Christmas movie, and then leave the marathon playing in the background the rest of the night and into Christmas day.  And for the final screening of the marathon at 6 PM Christmas Day, I’d prepare my second pizza and watch A Christmas Story one last time for that year. And then it was all over.

Ahhh, the memories.

Alright, so that’s my dumb Christmas tradition.  Now onto the obligatory summary for those who have never seen the film.

A Christmas Story is based on  Jean Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash,” which compiled many stories that were questionably fictitious tales of his childhood.  The book itself goes beyond the tales told in A Christmas Story, and is not actually a Christmas book. And I’d argue the movie itself is not just about Christmas.

At least God gets a credit line.

It takes place in the early 40s and focuses on Ralph Parker, a boy who’s on a quest to get the ultimate Christmas gift: A Red Ryder BB gun.  While this is the main plot, there are several side stories orbiting his quest, creating a very dynamic and in-depth insight into the life of a kid in the earlier half of the 20th century.  It’s a charming series of vignettes where you see everyday happenings become urgent quests to satiate childhood desires. 

An adult Ralph narrates, reminiscing on legendary moments in his early family life, such as his “Old Man” winning a prized leg lamp, his mother’s constant battle to keep her family fed, and his kid brother’s cocoon of a snowsuit.  As he regales the audience with his fond memories, he tells us of his run-ins with the local bullies, antics with his neighborhood friends, his pressing mission to uncover a coded message from the Little Orphan Annie radio show, and many other ordinary, yet larger-than-life episodes from his youth, all conveniently taking place during that one 1940-something Christmas season.  It’s a charming and delightful film that perfectly capsulates the holiday spirit. But what is it that makes this movie so timeless? How has it remained such a classic?

This film goes beyond the Christmas decorations and brings us something real, something that speaks to what it was like to be a kid.  A universal spirit that people of all generations can appreciate.  

Eyes are overrated.

A Christmas Story is not just a Christmas movie, but rather a movie about childhood.  While it does take place during Christmas, a lot of what happens in the film could have transpired at any time of the year.  The epic “Triple Dog Dare” that cements poor Flick’s tongue to the flagpole could have been any kind of dare amongst adolescent friends.  Ralph’s kid brother Randy’s refusal to eat, and the former’s recollection of their parents’ contrasting parenting methods is something to which we can all relate.” – Ralph. Unleashing his frustrations and beating up the local bully is a David and Goliath tale any bullied kid can celebrate. Yes, there are also many Christmas events, like picking up the tree, but it’s the haggling his Old Man does, the spare tire blowing, and Ralph’s accidental slip of “Ooooooooohhhhh fuuuuuuuuuudge” that propels this movie beyond the simple Christmas branding.

These are all very relatable childhood experiences chronicled in the package of a Christmas tale.  What better way to package a story about childhood than in Christmas wrapping?

That tongue strength though!

As the ultimate kid holiday, Christmas as a theme brings it all home.  It makes that wonderful, carefree time of being a child all the more visceral, allowing us worn-out adults to reminisce with Ralph Parker.  We see childhood through his Christmas lens, and we too remember and appreciate our own childhoods. A time where the most trivial moments seemed the most monumental.  And that’s what A Christmas Story does so well. It weaves a tapestry of simple experiences and amplifies them through a kid’s perspective, giving us hardened adults an exciting and riveting journey, taking us on an emotional rollercoaster.  When Ralph describes the purple color of the night sky when a sign of his Old Man’s return home from work; and braces himself for the certain doom he’s to face as a result of his scrap with Scutt Farkus, I can feel that same sense of dread in my core.  

Over the years, this movie has remained part of my Christmas tradition.  It has been a yearly reminder, one that keeps that spark of youth fresh in my mind.  As I get older, and Christmas loses its magic, A Christmas Story will continue to be the tie, the bridge to my fading memories of youth and how wonderful it was to be a kid,

As the years have passed, I have lost touch with the special feeling of Christmas.  I lost access to cable many years ago, forcing me to wave goodbye to the TBS marathon and instead watch the movie on DVD. Then the Hess station became a Speedway. Even though the Godfather’s pizza remained for more than 15 years of this tradition, it sadly succumbed in 2018 to a Speedway-branded pizza place.

Gone but not forgotten

Through all the years, through all the changes, through all the highs and lows, all that remains of my Christmas spirit, a spirit that was once a big part of my life, is the magic of childhood that is frozen in the immortal classic, A Christmas Story.                                                         

Thanks for reaching the end of the article! This piece is apart of our Modern Neon Christmas Bonanza, where we are looking at 25 of our favorite or well-known Christmas movies.  So click through to see the previous and next movie, or go back to the home page to find your favorite movie!

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I am a freelance writer/animator/improvisor.  Please take a look at my copywriting work at https://www.nocomicscomics.com/copywriting-portfolio.  

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