Romantic Christmas movies. If you’re paired up, they’re a meaningless bit of cosy-couple festive fluff. Meanwhile, if you’re single, they’re something to avoid at all costs: a fairy-lit, sleigh-belled extravaganza designed to drive home the fact that you’re alone. Right? Wrong. There’s actually a lot more to them than you might think.
It turns out that, in amongst the schmaltz and the syrup and the romance, many Christmas movies are actually hiding some genuinely useful lessons about love – lessons that are valuable to singles and couples alike. Don’t believe it? Read on: we’ve rounded up five of the best love lessons from some romantic Christmas movies. Caution: spoilers ahead!
Buddy is a human raised by elves at the North Pole. When he sets out to find his biological family, he soon finds that New York can be a comically cruel and cynical place – especially for a sweet, naive ‘elf.’ Yet, although he faces a lot of pressure to conform, his innocence and joy win out, saving Christmas and bringing him the lasting love he’s looking for.
The lesson: Be true to yourself and you’ll attract those right for you.
At the heart of Elf’s fish-out-of-water slapstick comedy is a really useful message about the rewards that come from embracing who you truly are. We’ve all been prey to the thought that love will come to us if only we could just be a bit richer/thinner/better looking. Elf says it’s ok to forget all that and to just be us: the right person will be charmed by the real you (even if the real you is a little weird).
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
When George looks back on his life, he feels like he’s wasted all his golden opportunities. So, he decides to end it all – until an angel-in-training named Clarence steps in to show him what life would be like if George had never been born. Turns out that George’s life of simple kindnesses has made a huge impact: to those around him he’s far from a failure – he’s much needed (and much adored).
The lesson: You’re more wanted than you know.
If you’re facing an unromantic Christmas, movies like this can be a tonic, reinforcing the fact that romantic love isn’t the only kind of love that counts. There is, of course, a great romance in the film, but the love from George’s friends and family is given equal weight. Even better, this love is there for George when he’s feeling at his lowest; a timely reminder that, if you’re lonely, all you need do is reach out. Chances are you’re more loved than you realise.
A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This classic Charles Dickens tale has been the subject of many Christmas movies (around 45, in fact!). This one, however, contains muppets, music, and Michael Caine – so it’s clearly superior. We all know the story: miserly Scrooge has become obsessed with money and forgotten how to love. But, when he is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, he learns that he’s heading down a lonely, bitter road. By the film’s end his icy heart begins to thaw as he realises that there are more valuable things in life than money.
The lesson: Don’t allow success (or being dumped) to harden your heart.
When Scrooge was young, his desire for recognition and success blinded him to the happiness of home life, leading him to be dumped as a result. This caused him to push away anyone that could love him and to double-down on what was immediately rewarding: his business. It’s actually kind of understandable. But, as the ghosts show, that way lies incredible loneliness. Chances are, life will knock you down romantically: the lesson here is how to get back up again for a second chance at love. And, as Scrooge learns, it’s never too late to get started.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
All Clark Griswold wants is the perfect Christmas; a picture-postcard holiday complete with twinkling lights, sledding in the snow and a bountiful festive feast. Of course, he’s a Griswold so, needless to say, nothing goes according to plan. Yet, despite fires, explosions, and clogged drains, Clark still manages to end up with his bickering-yet-loving family gathered around him, just in time to realise that that was what he was after all along.
The lesson: you don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
It’s ok to have high standards for yourself. It’s also ok if you don’t always live up to them. Chances are, the people that matter are going to love you just the same. In fact, you may even be easier to get along with once you accept that life comes with foibles, flaws and even failures. Clark certainly does not get the cookie cutter Christmas movie magic he expected, but what he ends up with is better: Clark certainly does not get the cookie cutter, romantic, Christmas movie magic he expected, but what he ends up with is better: real love, complete with mess and imperfection.
Home Alone (1990)
Kevin McCallister’s family have flown to Paris for Christmas. There’s just one problem – they’ve accidentally left Kevin home alone. His initial joy at having the run of the house soon turns to a need for ingenuity as he has to figure out how to survive on his own while also protecting the house from would-be-robbers. Thankfully, due to patience and pluck, he manages to save the day (and rediscover his love for his family in the process).
The lesson: You can be alone and have fun at Christmas: just keep your chin up
Kevin may be just a kid, but his attitude is actually a great example for anyone dreading the thought of being alone during the holidays. To start with, his joy at being home alone is infectious – instead of wallowing, why not indulge yourself and have a Christmas of doing what you want for a change? (Jumping on the bed and screaming are strictly optional!). Secondly, his never-give-up attitude means he succeeds and thrives, even against overwhelming odds. And that is really kind of inspiring. You can be happy and single at Christmas. You just have to keep your chin up.
Romantic Christmas movies may be a bit sappy but, if you can look behind the treacle, you can find some great lessons about love. From teaching us to be strong when the chips are down to demonstrating that love comes in many forms, these festive flicks are worth watching, more than once. It’s good then, that they seem to be on TV year after year!
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EliteSingles editorial December 2015.