Christmas Traditions: Movies and music

AF is a USC student who grew up in New York City before moving to Los Angeles for school He is a White American whose grandparents are religious but whos direct family isn’t. Here he describes his family’s Christmas traditions when it comes to watching movies and listening to music:

AF.) I’m not from a Christian family, but we celebrated Christmas. [It’s] Just a nice time that you get to come together and give gifts to each other, and it gives kids something nice to look forward to, and I enjoy it. So, yeah, there are a couple of things that we do every Christmas. Obviously, we do, like, the setting up the tree and doing the lights, and we have special ornaments that go back like decades and decades. But more specific to our family, I’d say, are a couple movies that we always, or at least almost always, watch. One of them that we always watch is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and that one I have a sweater referencing a line from there. We use the lines for the movie year-round, saying stuff like “shitters full,” and so it definitely lives in our head rent-free. And then another one that we usually watch is Die Hard. My mom is very, very opinionated that it is a Christmas movie, and it’s also just a great movie, and whenever Christmas rolls around, you can be inundated with too much, like, Christmas content, and Die Hard feels like a little bit of a break from that because it’s an action movie. And then, the music that we always listen to, we definitely always listen to the Vince Guaraldi trio. We usually watch A Charlie Brown Christmas at some point, but me and my sister used to, and this is not generally super true now, but we used to always listen to this one muppet song, “One More Sleep Till Christmas.” It was just Kermit singing about how everything feels good because Christmas is almost here, and everyone is just a little bit nicer. I think I definitely adopted that sort of approach to Christmas as well, so big, big song for us.


For many Americans, Christmas has become not only a religious holiday but also a cultural and consumerist one as well. Here, AF shares parts of his Christmas traditions with his family. I think his family’s choice of films is quite interesting, as one was clearly “meant” to become a regular watch at Christmastime, and the other is an action movie that coincidentally takes place at Christmas. A Charlie Brown Christmas is a staple, including music from the Vince Guaraldi Trio, following children’s character Charlie Brown putting on a Christmas pageant. Die Hard is an action movie starring Bruce Willis as a police officer thwarting a terrorist takeover of a high-rise building. Charlie Brown represents the institutional image of Christmas, one full of traditional imagery and themes, while the other is a violent action movie only loosely tied to the actual holiday with sparse use of Christmas imagery and music. I would argue that the viewing of Die Hard as a Christmas tradition is a transgressional tradition that pushes against the institutional expectation of the Christmas season. Through this, AF’s family takes some of the agency of Christmas tradition back from capitalist and religious institutions. However, AF’s family still seeks to enjoy institutional tradition through the viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.