Your Musical Advent Calendar, Part 12: “A Christmas Story.”


Everybody loves Christmas carols and everyone loves Christmas movies, but did you ever consider how your favorite films use your favorite music? Last in a 12-part series.

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Well, if you’re like me (and a lot of people) you’ve sweated through the last few weeks, trying to cobble together a memorable holiday for yourself and others while dealing with pressures at work and at home – the familiar brain-buzz of multitasking that is unique to the Christmas season – only to find that the big day arrives and you’ve still forgotten something. That one last present you didn’t wrap, or the batteries for that one toy that didn’t make it under the tree. Did you get enough milk at Wegmans before they closed? Probably not. How can we expect to live without Wegmans for 36 hours?

Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story (which turned 30 this year) perfected the art of looking back fondly on these types of banal holiday “mistakes” – the human foibles that seem like disasters in the moment but which quickly fade into irrelevance against the warm blanket of joy (it really is joy, isn’t it?) of being with the ones you love at Christmas. For Ralphie’s family the trials and tribulations of the season come to a hilariously cathartic head when the neighbor’s dogs destroy their Christmas turkey, leaving the family with no choice but to head out for a holiday dinner of Chinese food. There, of course, they’re serenaded by the staff with a version of “Deck the Halls” that stands out in the annals of political incorrectness.

Reportedly as Clark was shooting this scene the cast didn’t know the song was coming, and when the supporting actors began to sing, Melinda Dillon, as Ralphie’s mom, couldn’t stop laughing. Clark kept rolling through her reaction, knowing as he so obviously did that unexpected Christmas moments are just as worthy of memorializing as those that are most carefully planned. It’s all part and parcel of what makes the holiday special: a time for being with those you care about, and letting the camera roll to catch every minute.

Merry Christmas, everybody. See you at the movies.