How to do Christmas – according to the movies

Don’t show up on your best friend's doorstep and profess your love to his wife... Creepy, Actually

If there’s one thing you can count on during the festive season, it’s chaos. Clearly, Christmas in 2020 is no different.

Luckily, holiday films have been capturing Christmas mayhem for years. Here’s a handy guide on how to navigate the Xmas period with a little help from the movies.

When choosing your tree:

Don’t: Emanate Clark Griswold and head into the woods to find the biggest tree you can, without tools or apparently a watch. It’s Clark’s first rookie error in National Lampoon Christmas Vacation and it won’t be his last.

Do: Be more Charlie Brown than Chevy Chase; find the most unloved, undernourished little reject on the Christmas tree lot to cure your seasonal depression. A little love and some good friends will reinvigorate it.

When buying gifts:

Don’t: Secretly buy and corrupt a small furry gremlin from Chinatown against the wishes of its owner just so that you can give your son something cute on Christmas Day. He already has an adorable dog.

Do: Tear Minneapolis a new one in pursuit of the ultimate Christmas action figure for your kid. In the true spirit of Christmas movies, it’s not the destination (or being Arnold Schwarzenegger) that counts, it’s the journey… or you could just order it online and cough up the extra bucks for next day delivery.

When running a Christmas party:

Do: Assume a Gatsby-type role and throw a balls-to-the-wall annual blowout complete with miniature trains and a drunk Miley Cyrus cameo, à la Michael Shannon’s angelic drug dealer in The Night Before. Or whatever the Zoom equivalent is.

Don’t: Gatecrash a corporate office party in Los Angeles and grossly underestimate the power of a lone NYPD detective on Christmas Eve. Consequences will include the brutal killing of all of your comrades and a legacy defined by dodgy festive impersonations. Ho ho ho indeed.

When staging a Christmas play:

Don’t: Be a Mean Girl and have a last minute switch of rank amongst your clique, causing tensions to break out during your scantily-clad rendition of Jingle Bell Rock.

Do: Shamelessly use the class of adorable little sprogs at your disposal to stage a school play worthy of winning back your Hollywood Exec ex-girlfriend back, as Martin Freeman does in Nativity! 

When meeting your partner’s family:

Don’t: Be Sarah Jessica Parker in The Family Stone. In fact, just watch Sarah Jessica Parker in The Family Stone and do exactly the opposite of whatever she’s doing.

Do: If you are able to meet others this Christmas, make like Jack Black in The Holiday and bring maximum charm and some devilishly confident dance moves to an intimate gathering with your new English beau and her brother’s family. His only party trick is putting a napkin over his face. You’ve got this.

When cooking Christmas dinner:

Do: Foolproof your meal from the usual kitchen catastrophes (burning the stuffing, undercooking the turkey) by sticking to the Buddy the Elf diet: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup. Sugar migraines will be imminent, but worth it for the lack of stress.

Don’t: Embrace the National Lampoon spirit and let your estranged sister-in-law adopt turkey-cooking duty. The grand carving will reveal a bird so overcooked it will make sandpaper look moist and tasty.

When declaring your feelings to your true love at Christmas:

Don’t: Show up on the doorstep of your best friend’s home on Christmas Eve with a dozen placards and a blind, bizarre, superficial love of his new wife. Creepy, Actually.

Do: Be the Jennifer Lopez to your Constance Wu, and treat your ride-or-die to an expensive, ethically questionable fur coat to show them that you only need each other. Hustlers may be a recent entry in the holiday movie cannon, but it has a festive friendship onscreen moment for the ages.

When channelling your inner Scrooge:

Don’t: Opt for Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Frankly if he’s not won over by the opening bars of Kermit’s heart-warming rendition of One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas he doesn’t deserve to be saved.

Do: Go full Bill Murray in Scrooged, from his cantankerous origins to the gleeful, rousing final chorus of Put A Little Love In Your Heart. You’ve gotta party hearty, Marty!

When accidentally summoning a Christmas angel:

Do: Make sure that it’s Denzel Washington in The Preacher’s Wife. Spoiler: He’ll probably fall in love with your wife (especially if you’re a preacher), but he will show you the meaning of Christmas while looking incredibly debonair.

Don’t: Get landed with Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life. He will also show you the meaning of Christmas, but while looking nothing like Denzel Washington.

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