What 25 Holiday Classics Teach Us About Life and Fun


What 25 Holiday Classics Teach Us

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen.

But do you know Davey Stone, George Bailey, Ralphie Parker or Emmet Otter?

They’re the stars of some of my favorite holiday classics.

Holiday classics are a great source of inspiration and insight.

Find Your Version of Happiness

As with any movies, holiday classics are stories with conflict and resolution.  Themes range from fitting in to standing out.  Some of the best stories are where the villain becomes the hero and defeats their inner demons.

Another common theme I see is find your version of happiness.

Enjoy What’s Right in Front of You

The beauty of the holiday classics is that they make you feel good.  From finding your inner child to unleashing your better self, there’s a common theme of making the most of what you’ve got, enjoy what’s right in front of you, and lead the life you want to live.

In this post, I share my key take aways from these holiday movies.

Best Lessons Learned from 25 Holiday Classics

Here are my lessons learned from 25 holiday classics.  If you already know the movie, then the take away might make sense for you.  If you don’t know the movie, I’ve included links to Amazon, Wikipedia, and IMDB so you can check it out.   Feel free to share your favorite holiday movies and lessons learned in the comments.  Enjoy!

1. Eight Crazy Nights

EightCrazyNights 8 Crazy Nights Davey Stone had a few lessons to learn: Don’t let the past keep you from seeing what’s right in front of you, don’t push away the people that are there to help you, and don’t be your own worst enemy. I think the lesson we learn watching Davey is similar to Peaceful Warrior – “the people that are the hardest to love, often need it the most.”

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas A Charlie Brown Christmas Don’t let the commercialism get in the way of meaning or significance for you. Just because you might be surrounded by it, doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a part for you.

3. A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol - Mr. Magoo A Christmas Carol. Bob Marley teaches us that we wear the chains we forge in life.  Ebenezer Scrooge teaches us that you can change your life over-night and it’s never too late to change. He also teaches us to live the life you want to lead, and live each day how you want to be remembered. My favorite version was always Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, but now I’m seriously a fan of Disney’s A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey.  Other variations include The Muppet Christmas Carol, A Flintstones Christmas Carol, Scrooged, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and of course, the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. I also like the made for T.V. movies and when sitcoms do their version of a A Christmas Carol.

4. A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story A Christmas Story. Any time I mention this movie, somebody says, “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Poor Ralphie, but I don’t think that was the lesson. I think it’s more like — life happens. You never really know what you’re going to look back on as the best times of your life or the funniest. Some things that aren’t funny at the time, just might turn out funny later, either when you flash back or when you make a movie (apparently the movie is based on the author’s child hood.)

5. Bad Santa

Bad Santa Bad Santa. Believing in somebody can bring out their best. Kids can remind us what really matters and what the right thing to do is. Also, conmen are people too, and everybody makes mistakes. The real question is, how do you write your story forward?

6. Elf

Elf Elf. I think this is about unleashing your inner-elf.

7. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

Emmet Otters Jug-Band Christmas Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. You accomplish more together than apart. If you’ve seen it, you know that to make a washtub base you have to put a hole in the washtub. They bet everything they had to get each other Christmas presents — Emmet put a hole in his Mom’s wash tub and his Mom sold his tool chest. It turns out, all they really wanted was each other. In retrospect, what were they thinking? Some bets just aren’t worth it. Luckily this one worked out, but I’m glad we didn’t see the version where Emmett and his Mom can’t make a living anymore because they bet their wash tub and tools.

8. Frosty the Snowman

Frosty the Snowman Frosty the Snowman. When I was younger, I thought it was about believing in magic and how a snow man that comes to life would be cool to hang out with. Now that I’m older, I think it’s – remember the magic of when you were a kid, and how that brought things to life. Frosty teaches us that every day is a good day and forget anything bad. The first words out of Frosty’s mouth were “Happy Birthday” and he was all about having fun and celebrating life while he’s got it.

9. Home Alone

Home Alone Home Alone. Don’t forget your kids when you go on vacation … bad stuff happens.

10.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas How The Grinch Stole Christmas. You can’t really steal Christmas, since it’s not the toys and the food.  Everybody has a soft spot, even the Grinch. Sometimes it’s shutting people out that turns them sour, just like letting them in can bring out their best.

11. It’s a Wonderful Life

Its a Wonderful Life It’s a Wonderful Life. Focus on what’s right in your life, over dwelling on what’s wrong.

12. Jingle All the Way

Jingle All the Way Jingle All the Way. To your kids, you’re the most important hero. You don’t have to be perfect. Just know they look up to you.

13. Lemon Drop Kid

The Lemon Drop Kid Lemon Drop Kid. Even con men can do right … and make people laugh along the way.

14. Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer Boy Little Drummer Boy. Step up to the plate and be your best, or in this case, “play” your best.

15. March of the Wooden Soldiers

March of the Wooden Soldiers March of the Wooden Soldiers. Team up. It’s a better together story where good triumphs over evil.

16. Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street Miracle on 34th Street. Stay curious and believe in possibility. Miracles happen. Your beliefs can limit or enable what’s possible and what you perceive.

17. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

National Lampoons Christmas Vacation National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Everybody has their own version of what a perfect holiday means. Don’t impose you’re your “perfect” on others. When things don’t go as planned, roll with the punches and make the most of it.

18. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. It’s the differences that can be your strengths. For Nestor, his ears became his strength when he could hear the angels sing, while everybody was blinded from the storm.

19. The Polar Express

The Polar Express The Polar Express. Stay young at heart. Sometimes the best experiences in life start with belief. My favorite line is, “At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

20. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Nobody wants a Charlie-in-the-box and if an elf really wants to be a dentist, just go ahead and let them be one. The real lesson in Rudolph is “do your thing” and play to your strengths. Be proud of who you are and whatever makes you stand out. More importantly, find your place for it. Rudolph found the place for his shiny nose was the front of the pack. The elf that wanted to be a dentist found he could be a dentist right there at the workshop. Bumble (the abominable snowman) found his special ability was placing the star at the top of the tree (“look at what he can do!.”) It’s also a reminder that nobody’s perfect, but everybody can find their place. Santa even found a home for all the misfit toys from the cowboy who rides an ostrich to the train with square wheels.

21. Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town

Santa Clause is Comin to Town Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. You can melt cold hearts with acts of kindness. While Kris had limited luck melting Burgermeister’s heart, he had more luck with the Winter Warlock and turned him into an ally. Even though Santa visits only once a year, he really wants the holiday spirit to last throughout the year.

22. The Bishop’s Wife

The Bishop's Wife The Bishop’s Wife. Get your priorities straight. While you chase your dreams, never lose sight of what’s most important.

23. The Santa Clause

The Santa Clause The Santa Clause. If you suddenly gain a lot of weight and suddenly grow a white beard that you just can’t seem to trim, consider a job as Santa for a while. There’s more though. Don’t put kids in the middle of things, especially during the holidays when it’s about being together. If you give yourself to a higher-cause, it can be your greatest source of fulfillment, whether that’s self-less service, doing the right thing, or living your purpose.

24. The Year Without a Santa Clause

The Year without a Santa Clause The Year without a Santa Clause. This is the one with Heat Miser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_Miser) and Snow Miser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Miser ). (It’s a clay animation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_animation ), but I’ve actually seen people in real life that look like Heat Miser and Cold Miser.) Anyway, the lesson we learn here is, about how to deal with conflict and negotiate effectively. When Heat Miser and Snow Miser, wouldn’t cooperate, Mrs. Clause told their mom, Mother Nature who forced them to compromise. It’s also about letting people know how much they matter. Santa found his inspiration and got his groove on, when a little girl wrote how she would have a Blue Christmas without him.

25. White Christmas

White Christmas White Christmas. Don’t let miscommunications and mix-ups, mess up an otherwise good thing. Be careful about jumping to conclusions about people’s intentions. You may not like their behavior, or it may seem off, but it’s really tough to judge, especially if you’re not in their shoes. Be less quick to judge and quicker to forgive and forget and make room for happiness.


  1. I’ve never seen 8 crazy nights. Time to put it on my Netflix list.

    My favorite out of this list is the line “Bob Marley teaches us that we wear the chains we forge in life.” So true. We create the world we live in. I like how you tie it to A Christmas Carol. We really can change our lives, if we have enough will to want to do it.

  2. I would add the Christmas Wish to this list…those kids were really fun and wealthy, but they did get Mom and Dad to realize what was important through some great tricks…

    And I just saw Invictus….I know the story but Clint Eastwood made a new inspiring classic to add to the list….wow a great story told well.

    Thank you JD.

  3. Ever see “Love Actually?” I’m surprised that it is 6 years old now, but it has more than a few different couples and stories about relationships including the sacrifices made in the name of love. It does have some cheesy moments, but then aren’t those part of life to enjoy too?

    This was a fun topic to ponder and stir up memories in some ways.

  4. Hi J.D.,
    This was really fun to read. It must have taken a long time to put together. A lot of these are still my favorites…probably Rudolph is at the top of my list. I want to rent Eight Crazy Nights…not sure how I missed that one!
    Take care, Jodi

  5. Hi JD,

    My favorites are “A Christmas Carol”, “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Love Actually”. I know you did not mention that last one but it is one of my favorites.

    The great thing about “It’s A Wonderful Life” is that it also conveys the message that success comes in different ways. In his moment of need, all those people who he had helped were there for him. That last scene always makes me cry tears of joy. Because there is goodness in the world…even though we do not hear about it all the time.

    Hope all is awesome!

  6. I’m going to rent some of these from lovefilm and take the time to re-watch them over Christmas.

    I love Bad Santa and we’ve watched the Home Alone ones over and over. My son loves the Lost In New York one and it’s made him really want to visit New York. Also, it’s made me really not want to take him there.

    Have you seen “The Nightmare Before Christmas”? That is another one we’ve watched over and over.

  7. I love “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and everytime I watch it, I’m reminded of what really matters in life. And that there is so much good we bring into the world that we don’t even realize – and realize the extent of that impact.

    What a fun list!

  8. I just love this post, J.D. ! I’ve seen only about half these.

    I love your synopsis of the Chevy Chase one. Reminds me to see it again!

    The Santa Clause is always wonderful to watch.

    And I’m now on vacation — oh my lord, where’s the kid? Did she get on the plane with us??

    Just kidding, I’m not really on vacation.

  9. @ Positively Present

    Thank you.

    @ Eduard

    I know what you mean. This is one of my favorite times of the year for movies.

    @ fulham

    Good list. I scoped out telefilms – there are so many good ones.

    @ Karl

    8 Crazy Nights, really is crazy and fun. It’s a shame Marley got smarter with hindsight, but it’s cool he passed on his lessons to Ebenezer.

    @ Patricia

    I’ve never heard of The Christmas Wish, but I’ll check it out.

    @ JB King

    I’ve heard of it, but didn’t realize it’s a holiday movie. I’ll check it out.

    @ Jodi

    It took longer than I expected, because I kept adding to it. At first I just did a quick list, but then I wanted pictures and useful links.

    @ Walter

    If I miss Rudolph, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.

    @ Nadia

    It sounds like I need to check out Love Actually.

    Very well put – success does come in different ways.

    @ Cath

    I love The Nightmware Before Christmas. In fact, it was in my original list, but I wanted to cut the list to 25.

    @ Lance

    The actors are great and the story is great … it’s one of those that I can watch again and again.

    @ Jannie

    Thank you. The Chevy Chase one always cracks me up.


  10. JD
    I got the title wrong it is “All I want for Christmas”
    Leslie Nielsen is the most mischievious Santa Lauren Bacall, Thora Birch…I only have it on VHS tape…I can not find it on DVD…
    It would not be Christmas without this movie for me!

    Thanks giving would not be complete without Miracle on 34th Street.

  11. Hi JD .. thanks for these .. I’ve hardly seen any of them!! Perhaps I’m communicating with the family when I’m with them, rather than watching films. I’ve seen a few with young godchildren .. but your synopses (if that’s the right plural?) are great .. I just found out that Charles Dickens, in October 1843, was happily (I presume) writing Martin Chuzzlewitt, when he had an inspiration to write a “little carol” finishing it by the end of November, self-publishing it in time for Christmas .. and the rest is history for “A Christmas Carol”…. well still being produced!

    I’d love to be able to draw – I must improve my drawing with words next year – so the ability of cartoonists is amazing, and the way film producers put together their films and make them such fun is too brilliant .. we do and can learn from these.

    I think you might have answered my Christmas list for my family – a fun movie – with a story to tell .. & I might get to watch too ..

    Thanks JD .. and love the others’ ideas .. always good to have these recommendations ..
    Enjoy the festive time – Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  12. @ Patricia

    It sounds like a great all-star cast.

    @ Hilary

    I’m so glad that Dickens acted on his inspiration. It’s my favorite timeless tale of turnaround.

    I’m amazed by so many cartoonists. One of my favorites is Chuck Jones, and I didn’t realize he was the same guy that did Ricki Ticki Tavi until years later. I recently saw Disney’s The Princess & the Frog because it’s Disney’s return to hand drawn animation.

    Drawing with words is a beautiful focus.

    @ Fred

    Magoo cracks me up and I like how they made turned his Christmas Carol into a play with acts.

    @ Alik

    I have mixed emotions about The Polar Express. It was a great story and animation, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if The Little Engine that Could or The Incredibles made a guest star appearance.

  13. Hi J.D.

    You have a lot great classics here. My favorite is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. At times I do feel like I am Rudolph and luckly I have found my place. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  14. Nice post! I’ve watched many of these specials with my children – and many offer nice reminders that Christmas is less about the gifts and more about the giving – something we always want them to remember.

  15. @ Giovanna

    You’ve found your place and I like the way you live your mantra.

    @ Jeffrey

    I like the giving spirit — I find it uplifting.

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