The Clark Griswold Guide to an Old-Fashioned Family Christmas
Christmas is almost upon us, and with that comes years of holiday traditions. There’s presents, big meals, cookies, methodically lying to children in order to control their behavior throughout the year, and oh-so-much more. Above all, however, Christmas is about family. It’s about children opening that one coveted gift. It’s about parents toasting themselves with a cup of coffee (or a cocktail) after a job well done. It’s about grandma and grandpa passing the torch (or carving knife) to the next generation. It’s about the crazy drunken uncle setting the Christmas tree on fire and it’s about the patriarch of the family, doing everything he can to hold it all together while waiting for his sacred Christmas bonus.
At least, that’s how Christmas goes at the Griswold house. Though unfortunate events befall Clark and the gang at every opportunity, they still do their best to make every adventure a memory that lasts forever. Never was this more apparent than during the legendary Christmas Vacation. Through the good, bad, and in-between, the Griswolds stuck together and, in doing so, Clark Griswold himself taught each of us how to create the perfectly imperfect old-fashioned family Christmas. This is how he did it.
Cover Photo: Warner Bros.
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You Must Find the Perfect Tree
In order to have the perfect family Christmas, one needs the perfect Christmas tree. And we’re not talking about the fake, prelit fare you can find in any Walmart. No, sir. If you want the perfect Christmas tree, by God, you better go into the woods and chop one down yourself.
Don’t Let Coworkers Ruin Your Christmas Spirit
It seems that once Dec. 1 hits, going to work becomes more and more of a chore. Of course, you’d rather be at home with your family, drinking hot cocoa and watching perennial Christmas favorites like Die Hard, Batman Returns, and Gremlins. Unfortunately for the majority of us, our jobs don’t allow us to take the entire month off. What’s worse is when you’re forced to work with coworkers who just don’t share your festive spirit. When it comes to those sycophants, don’t be afraid to tell them to kiss your ass (or his ass, or their own ass), if they try to bring you down.
Same Goes to Your Neighbors
If your neighbors have enlisted in the war on Christmas, fear not. They have no say in how you celebrate. That goes for your light show (we’ll come back to that) and for how you trim your tree. If your yuppie neighbors don’t share your Christmas spirit, just tell them to bend over and you can give them a tree of their own.
Sled Without Abandon (But Maybe Abandon Your Sled)
Of course, Christmas isn’t just about that single, solitary day. The holiday season is full of festivities, none of which are as fun, or as dangerous, as an afternoon of sledding. If you’ve ever wanted test fate and show your family that fear is for, um, cowards, take them sledding. And we’re not talking about little side hills in a meadow either; we’re talking steep hills with even steeper consequences. If you want to experience the rush of the Christmas season and the feel of the winter wind on your face, oil up your sled, say a prayer, and send yourself into Christmas oblivion.
It’s OK to Get a Little Nostalgic
It’s natural to get a little sappy around the holidays. An old ornament, a stocking hung by the chimney with care, or getting locked in your attic can bring to mind all sorts of memories. And why shouldn’t it? Christmas is a time to reflect. So open up the childhood photo albums, pop in the vintage VHS tapes (or, in this day and age, check out old Instagram posts), and wax nostalgic for a few hours about the ghosts of Christmas past.
Whatever You Do, Spike the Eggnog
This one should speak for itself. If your family consists of a Cousin Eddie (and, let’s face it- every family has a Cousin Eddie, and if you don’t think yours does, you’re probably Cousin Eddie) you are going to need a lot of eggnog. And we’re not talking the cheap stuff you can pick up at any corner grocer. You need the eggnog that consists of a little egg, a little nog, and a lot of rum. Bonus points if you serve it chilled in Marty the Moose glasses.
It’s All About the Light Show
We’re not saying you have to have Christmas lights in order to successfully pull off an old-fashioned family Christmas, but it certainly helps. Nothing conjures the Christmas spirit more than Santa, Frosty, and hundreds of miniature lights, illuminating your neighborhood and your heart.
Make Sure the Christmas Bird (And the Christmas Tree) Aren’t Too Dry
Christmas dinner is almost as important as Christmas morning. It’s the moment when you and your family gather around the table to break bread and make memories. Unless you want those memories to be of empty bellies and broken spirits, make sure you don’t overcook the Christmas bird. Thaw it thoroughly before putting it in the oven. And don’t forget to water your tree. Failure to do so could result in a highly-flammable, family Christmas-destroying, drunk uncle-searing catastrophe.
Don’t Spend the Bonus Check Until You Actually Receive It
Do not assume that you will get a bonus for Christmas. This assumption could become a dark cloud surrounding your entire holiday, resulting in your lovable-but-dopey cousin-in-law kidnapping your boss because his heart is bigger than his brain. We know you want the pool for your family, but don’t go into debt over it. Don’t take out any loans, don’t overextend your credit limit and do not (we repeat: do not) assume that your boss likes you or respects you enough to offer you a Christmas bonus. That kind of thing only happens in the movies.
It All Comes Down to Family
In the end, Christmas isn’t about the lights, the tree, the food, the presents, or the bonus. In order to have a truly authentic, Clark Griswold-approved old-fashioned family Christmas, you only need one thing: family. If you have a family, and if you open your home to them, and if you do everything you can to make sure they know how much they mean to you and how much you love them, then, at the end of it all, you can truly say to yourself “I did it.”