Classic Christmases

It’s a coincidence that the iconic Christmas movie A Christmas Story was released in November of the year of my birth. It’s an attestation that this relationship with an iconic piece of pop culture was meant to be.

Consider The Old Man’s yelling at inanimate malfunctioning objects and high functioning hounds. Plus, months later, in 1984, one of my best friends is born; in his younger years, his resemblance to Ralphie Parker was [almost] uncanny, and his love of rifles continues to be unparalleled and on target.

Whether a person has love for A Christmas Story or absolutely dislikes it — not sure if there is an in-between — it’s undeniable to note there are more than a few relatable real-life qualities to the fictitious reality of the film, which was based on the novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.

Needless to say, it was an automatic hard yes when it came to making a decision to stop at the infamous Parker home in Cleveland. It was the dessert for our lunch at Masthead Brewing Company.

Gratuitous get-your-fat-head-out-of-the-way selfie. But we look cute.

Call it luck or call it karma, we got the last spot in the tiny parking lot adjacent to the house, in between the Parkers and the Bumpuses. We also beat the afternoon rush. Right after purchasing our $12.50 tickets in the gift shop, a magical place filled with surprisingly reasonable prices on nostalgic and kitschy merchandise, the flood of people entered. 

Nostalgia is a fragile thing. Such attractions can be either satisfying or a disappointing tourist trap. Sure, it’s not like meeting the real-life Mickey Mouse at Disney World, because nothing compares to that and especially when you’re a kid, but the A Christmas Story house definitely pulls at an adult’s heartstrings. 

This is more obvious when taking a tour than simply taking my word for it: The adults were obviously more interested than (most) children. 

The house and everything inside of it is an interactive experience — look and touch, but don’t break or take. The house was on the cozier side of things, and by cozy I mean tight. The rooms, especially the kitchen, were smaller than I expected. The largest room, aside from the living room, was Ralphie and Randy’s bedroom. 

Mind you, we were tempted to try fitting in the cupboard beneath the sink, but there was no way we’d fit. But we’d make it work somehow.

We got our more than a $12.50 entry fee. Aside from the house tour, more film trivia was explained in the museum. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes facts and photos, plus set materials including this gem…

We couldn’t put our arms or spirits down. A lot of the costumes were on display, which is great — especially for someone studying the history of fashion, history of film, or fashion in film.

On that topic, the two of us enjoyed the opportunity to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. The classic 1946 “Christmas” film starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed is based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s story The Greatest Gift.

Syracuse’s historic Landmark Theatre, a Loew’s theatre dating back to the late 1920s, showed the film as a weeknight special and to get people in the holiday spirit. Aside from the typical movie theatre offerings and adult beverages, hot chocolate was available for purchase. Of course, an order of a couple cocoas was what we went with.

The downside was their running out of hot water, but it was no big deal. Trying to find my seat was as easy as walking down the aisle until Katey said something in a non-disturbing whisper to get my attention — which she did.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve checked out a movie at this palace of a theatre. The Landmark Theatre has a history of showing film, and that simple fact made attending that much more enticing. Plus, the location of It’s a Wonderful Life takes place in upstate New York, Seneca Falls specifically, albeit it was never actually filmed there.

It’s a wonderful Landmark Theatre [Photo by C. Malone]

Seeing film in such a location is a treat. It’s a great date night as much as it a fantastic family night out. Although younger audience members may not have a full appreciation for It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s a great way to get them started — if TCM or AMC aren’t frequently watched on television — especially since the movie has a timeless story, great quotes, and candlestick telephones in place of cellphones.

Whether it’s museums/attractions or checking out a classic film in a historic theatre, the simple things resonate so well during the holiday season. It’s how traditions are established. Can’t wait to see what next year brings.


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