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Why Christian Families Are Obsessed With “Christmas Vacation”

December 10, 2021

When people think of good, traditional Christian movies to watch during the holiday season, they usually cite Charlie Brown, It’s a Wonderful Life, or other classics.

But nearly every Christian family I know gathers around the TV to watch one Christmas movie every year:

Christmas Vacation

According to a recent survey by YouGov America, “Christmas Vacation” is the third most popular Christmas movie for Americans (only close behind Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life). Interestingly, Gen X lists “Christmas Vacation” as their #1 favorite of all time, with Boomers ranking it in their Top 3 as well. Normally, you’d expect the older, more conservative generation to go with more of the classics, but this movie broke that mold.

For a film that seems to embrace irreverence, dysfunction, sex, cursing, and fighting, it may seem to be a bizarre choice for Christian families to bond over and watch together year after year. The more I talked about how my family watches it (but didn’t allow me to watch it in full until I was much older), the more I hear other Christian families saying “Mine too!”

Surprisingly, this Christmas classic includes humor that many Christians find relatable regardless of generation.

One scene in particular is when Clark requests that Aunt Bethany say grace, the prayer for the Christmas dinner they’re about to enjoy. After a confusing conversation (“Grace? She passed away 30 years ago”), Aunt Bethany starts reciting the Pledge of Allegiance instead of a prayer. The family gives up, and starts carving the turkey.

This scene is reminiscent of the themes of the movie as a whole. The Griswolds all get together, with the expectation that everything will be calm, perfect, and fun. Inevitably, someone that throws a wrench into that plan, and the result is either stress, or hilarity.

This movie is reminiscent of what it is like to be a Christian, or grow up in a Christian home. We hope and strive for perfection, but everything goes spectacularly wrong in the process. How often do we try so hard to put on a good impression for our families, friends, co-workers, and others, fully knowing that it may all come crashing down?

It’s so much easier to put on a fake smile and pretend like everything is OK when deep down we have questions, pain, and hurt.

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

In the movie, Clark is hiding from his family his anxiousness about his Christmas bonus. Instead of being truly honest with them, he hides his feelings and hopes they’ll all go away once it arrives. Since he bottled up his emotions, when the bonus didn’t meet his expectations, chaos ensues, and leads to one of the most famous rants in movie history:

Imagine how boring this movie would have been in Clark had been honest with his family about how he felt? While it’s entertaining to watch across a screen, the reality is this movie shows us the reality of keeping things from others and our feelings bottled up inside.

As Christians, our guts sometimes tell us that our emotions and feelings aren’t worth “rocking the boat”, or that others may see us as less than perfect. The reality is, we need people to support us and help us through our hard times.

Christmas Vacation has all of that, and more. Every time we sit down after Thanksgiving to watch together, I notice the young adults laughing at the edgy irreverent humor, the older generation laughing at the jokes about gathering a family together for the holidays, and Christians laughing at a family trying to be perfect, but ultimately failing.

Lets take it from the Griswolds, and use their story as a cautionary tale: Be open, be honest, and be loving.

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