This year the holidays will look different. Masks, social distancing, and limits on gatherings impact everything from holiday concerts to Christmas dinner. My own teens, 17 and 13, are disappointed that the town’s parade has been canceled and that we must hunker down, bubble up, and carefully plan holiday gatherings with family, if we meet at all.
My family will focus on finding joy
Rather than focus on cancellations and limitations this year, though, I hope my family can focus on finding joy. Thankfully, I believe the beloved holiday movie A Christmas Story can show us how.
Every year my family watches the exploits of Ralphie, Randy, and their parents in A Christmas Story. The “pink nightmare” of a bunny suit is hilarious. I literally laugh out loud when Mrs. Parker stuffs Randy into his snowsuit. And Mrs. Parker’s battle with the Old Man over the leg lamp, legendary.
But I adore A Christmas Story for another reason, one that is relevant as we face this year’s pandemic holiday season. I love it because the movie showcases a family embracing the holiday season just the four of them.
We can learn a lot from A Christmas Story
They visit Santa and choose a Christmas tree without grandparents or cousins in tow. Ralphie and Randy open their gifts on Christmas morning without aunts and uncles present, even the legendary Aunt Clara who always sends Ralphie the nicest gifts. Mrs. Parker cooks the turkey by herself in a kitchen void of assorted family members flitting about.
They never lament the absence of extended family, rather they wholeheartedly experience the Christmas season as is. Indeed, in A Christmas Story, the Parkers reinforce that not only is it okay to spend the holiday with just your immediate family, but it can be normal, joyful and happy, too.
Years ago, before the pandemic, I noticed the movie’s positive portrayal of Christmas with immediate family because my husband and kids and I sometimes spent the holiday by ourselves. There were numerous reasons for our situation: jobs had landed us miles away from our extended families; traveling with young kids, with complicated sleep schedules, was less than pleasurable. And it was challenging to accommodate work schedules when Christmas fell in the middle of the week.
Friends pitied me when I told them our family of four was celebrating by ourselves
I remember pitying looks from friends and coworkers when I shared my family would stay home and celebrate by ourselves. Part of me understood what motivated these looks. But another part of me did not accept the narrative that Christmas was not Christmas unless it was experienced with extended family. Plus, I couldn’t help but think of all the chaos that ensues from a big family gathering such as those portrayed in Christmas Vacation or Home Alone.
Meanwhile A Christmas Story shows us that it can be relaxing to spend the happiest of holidays with immediate family. There is no prepping the house for visitors or stressing over a fancy dinner. It can be luxurious to move slowly through Christmas day rather than rushing off to visit relatives or camp out in someone’s house that is not your own. (Okay, okay I know the last minute visit to the Chop Suey Palace was not part of their quiet, peaceful celebration, but they made it work!)
Christmas is magical no matter where you celebrate
There is joy in the quiet, too. Peace in being surrounded by your own spouse and kids. Christmas is magical no matter where or with whom you celebrate.
So if your family is like mine and all you will see when you look around the table this year are the same faces you see every night, count yourself lucky. Enjoy the sweet time together, just like they do in A Christmas Story.