The movie A Christmas Story turns 25 this year. I remember seeing it in a theater when it opened in 1983 -- I was a fan of Jean Shepherd's essays -- and now it's considered a holiday classic. I know people who have been watching it every year since they were old enough to remember Christmas. It's right up there in popularity with Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life, and has surpassed White Christmas and Holiday Inn, with the younger set at least. You now can buy a replica of the leg lamp from the film, either as an actual lamp or as a Christmas tree ornament, and there are few people who see the leg lamp and don't get the reference. Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie, is now a movie producer who appears in amusing cameos in his films, like Four Christmases and Iron Man. (He's especially funny during a "guest appearance" in Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show.)
When I spent Christmas at my parents' house in recent years, we never watched A Christmas Story completely from start to finish -- we saw bits and pieces as it aired on TV, just as we used to do with It's a Wonderful Life when it was in the public domain and every station possible aired it all through December. Both are excellent background movies to wrap presents by. I wonder how other people watch A Christmas Story ... and I'd like to offer the following seven suggestions if you're thinking about the best way to enjoy this perennial holiday favorite this year. In the comments, let us know your favorite traditions for watching the film.
1. As much of the 24-hour annual marathon on TBS as you can survive.
Lesser mortals might watch the movie once during the 24 hours of continuous replay, or keep it on in the background during gift wrapping or even actual parties. But you can find people who keep their TV tuned to A Christmas Story for a full 24 hours, and some of them are up watching Ralphie's antics at 3 am and 5 am and 7 am on Christmas morning. Consider the possibility that sleep deprivation and repetitive viewing of a holiday movie may be just what you need to survive a holiday with relatives.
2. On as big a screen as you can manage.
Imagine the fun of watching A Christmas Story with not two but 200 other fans. If your local theaters don't show the movie at least once in December ... why not? Bug them about it, and encourage others to bug them too. Start a petition if that's your thing. Or if you're truly devoted, see if you can organize a screening at a local communal space, like a meeting hall or an auditorium or a gym. Here in Austin, Alamo Drafthouse has been showing A Christmas Story for free all week long, and next week, they're showing it again with a feast (not for free) that includes roast duck and mashed potatoes. Which gives me the idea for the next one:
3. At home with your own movie-and-feast experience.
Invite over your fellow A Christmas Story fans and watch the movie with a dinner they'll truly appreciate. So many choices -- do you want to serve mashed potatoes and ask everyone to eat them like Mommy's little piggy? For that matter, you could serve a little piggy (pork chops) with your mashed taters. Or perhaps you'd rather accompany your A Christmas Story viewing with a Chinese meal, featuring the crowning glory of a duck to decapitate. Twisted and sick viewers looking for a more obscure menu item could serve rabbit (just like Ralphie's Christmas outfit). Not recommended: dog-mauled turkey.
4. At/near the Christmas Story House.
If you live anywhere near Cleveland -- or are in the mood for a crazy road trip -- you can visit the house that served as "Ralphie's house" during the filming of A Christmas Story. The house was restored in 2006 to match the look of the house in the film as much as possible. So you can watch the movie, then head over to the house and nearby museum and role-play to your heart's content.
5. As part of a Bob Clark Christmas double-feature.
This is not recommended for children, but why not experience both the light and dark sides of dearly departed filmmaker Bob Clark and show A Christmas Story back-to-back with his other holiday-themed classic, the horror movie Black Christmas? Make sure you get the 1974 film and not the recent (inferior) remake. Die-hard Clark fans could also add Porky's and Rhinestone to the mix for a truly surreal evening.
6. All mashed up like Randy's potatoes.
If you want a twist in your usual A Christmas Story viewing, try watching the trailer for A Christmas Gory, which re-imagines the holiday classic as a horror film. (Again, not recommended for children.) Or if you'd like a less intense parody, Angry Alien's little animated bunnies re-enact the film in 30 seconds.
7. With your nice Jewish husband (or other person who somehow has never seen the movie before).
Seriously, my husband has never watched A Christmas Story from beginning to end, although he claims he's caught the occasional snippet of a scene here and there over the years. Will this be the year we sit down and watch it together? Or will we continue our fine Christmas Day tradition of watching the one holiday-related movie we both can enjoy, Bad Santa? My money's on Mrs. Santa's sister, but you never know. It's always a pleasure to share a new movie with someone who hasn't seen it and who you hope will really like it, and if you can find an A Christmas Story virgin who actually has some interest in seeing the film (unlike my husband), don't miss the opportunity.