Christmas started this year on Christmas eve when my boyfriend decided it was about time that I close a gaping canyon in my knowledge of American culture, so we watched Ernest saves Christmas, my first Ernest movie ever. A really educational experience. I learned that there really is a Santa Clause. I also could see the behind the scenes of an American post office, which really answered many of my questions, and I learned that apparently Santa’s sleigh can break all rules of time and gravity (sci-fi directors and writers, THERE’S an idea for you!).
But my educational tour through the American Christmas movie culture didn’t stop there. Apparently, there is a 50 year old tradition in my boyfriend’s family of watching “A Christmas Story” on Christmas. All triggered by a really devoted uncle whose first action after coming into the house is to turn on the TV to one of the two channels that are running the movie on a 24-hour-loop. Apparently, they run them in-sync, so to his great disappointment, he was not able to escape the commercial breaks (that came in 10-minute intervals and turned a one and a half hour movie into a three hour ordeal) by switching from one channel to the other. In my family nobody would be caught dead watching TV during the Christmas dinner. Here however, everybody accepted more or less willingly that this is what you are supposed to do on Christmas. As with Ernest, this was the first time I was ever exposed to this movie, and it taught me a lot! I learned how terrifying a triple canine dare can be, how an ugly lamp can turn into the soft glow of electric sex, and I definitely learned not to plug in too many electronic devices at the same time. I also finally understood why one of the cousins was wearing a t-shirt that read “you’ll shoot your eyes out”.
There seems to be a really important correlation in the US between celebrating Christmas and watching certain movies because, as I found out, it is not only my boyfriend’s family who has a certain attachment to these movies. It appears to be a cultural phenomenon that across all age groups and social classes. I am not sure what this means anthropologically, socially or in general, but somehow I feel that I have stumbled upon a fundamental pillar of American culture: that symbol of brotherly love, that centerpiece that all mankind gathers around to share the cranberry sauce shaped like a can.