Friday, December 25, 2009

Our Christmas Eve Tradition

Growing up, my family had a tradition every Christmas Eve – like most of the Jewish community, we’d go to the movies. No matter what time of year we went to the movies, Mom and Dad always warned us that it would be very cold in the theater. We would usually be the only family seeing a movie on a July afternoon wearing sweatshirts and long pants.

My mom had gone to high school with the theatre manager, so if there was a movie we wanted to see (provided it wasn’t opening weekend) all she had to do was put in a call to him and we were set for tickets. We often ended up seeing the biggest family movie of the season, which would have come out around Thanksgiving. By the time a month had passed and there was little to no public interest anymore, then we’d go with our passes.

The most influential Christmas Eve movie of my childhood was not so much for the content, but for my reaction, was My Girl. On our usual movie night in 1991, we headed towards the theater with some friends to take in the new Macaulay Culkin comedic romp. He had earned our trust the year before with Home Alone, so we figured this was another sure fire hit. I was at the same age of the characters in the movie and in the same awkward “friends who are girls” mode in school, so I wanted to sit a few rows in front of the rest of the group. What nobody could have seen coming was the way this movie ended. Culkin’s character, Thomas, was in the woods and he ran into an angry hive full of bees, which he happened to be allergic to. While trying to run, he lost his glasses, tripped and that was it. I was shocked – how could this happen? To pile it on, when they found his body, the mood ring he had received from his girl-friend, it had changed color for the first time. That was the final straw – I started bawling uncontrollably through the end of the movie and into the credits. My mom came to get me because everyone was leaving and she found me with my Starter winter jacket pulled over my head, hiding my tear soaked nine year old face. It was the first time I had ever cried at a movie and I would be relentlessly teased about it for years to come.

The Christmas Eve tradition took a huge hit the following year when the entire family went out and proceeded to dislike the Robin Williams movie Toys. It became a long standing joke in the family that any time the movie’s name would be mentioned, we would react like someone was talking about Voldemort. It was because of that experience that we were almost hesitant to see Toy Story in 1995 because of the shared name. When high school rolled around, my sister and I were usually away for Christmas at a USY convention. Then came college, when I was usually staffing those same conventions. Another problem seemed to be Hollywood releasing all of the really good movies on Christmas Day, meaning that our annual tradition would occur one day early.

When I moved to California I attempted this tradition with my roommate one year and ended up seeing a double feature of Spanglish and Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, effectively putting the bad memory of Toys out of my mind forever.

These days we usually hang out at home and watch Christmas movies or play video games. The past two years we've made our own pizza dough with friends and just stayed in. The one common theme every Christmas Eve, no matter what I'm doing or where I'm going - I'll always put on a sweatshirt just in case.


JoshSamBob said...

I kind of liked Spanglish...

DCAllen said...

Enjoyed this memory. Thanks.