The holiday movie season is upon us, folks. And no, I’m not talking about “Elf” or the last “Lord of the Rings” installment. I mean the cable-television holiday-movie season — those gems that appear on TBS and TNT Thanksgiving Day and don’t disappear until two days after Christmas.

Every year when I go home for Thanksgiving I look forward to doing some serious channel surfing. I only get five channels here in Madison, so lounging on my parents’ couch and flipping through the 100-plus-channel digital-cable system is like going from driving a Neon to a Corvette. It’s hard to get me out of relaxation (read: sluggish) mode when I could be watching a marathon of “How Not to Dress” on TLC.

That’s why my list of Thanksgiving thanks includes those old standbys that play constantly from Turkey Day to Christmas Day. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.

On Thanksgiving morning, my family and I don’t flip to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to catch all the quality entertainers riding on ridiculously gaudy floats. No, we turn on TBS and, every year without fail, manage to watch “The Goonies” in its entirety before heading off to our turkey feast.

Even if, due to some horrendous act of God, we missed the annual “Goonies” viewing in the morning, it’s always on again that night. And then two times a week for the next month.

But it’s not really “The Goonies” that makes me think of the holidays. When I was young, my family unknowingly began a tradition we share with many other families — watching a classic Christmas movie to get in the holiday spirit. The difference is, our choice isn’t “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street.” We watch “A Christmas Story.”

For some reason, the story of Ralphie and his endless quest for a Red Rider B.B. Gun just feels like home. I’m fairly certain that my entire family could sit around the television and recite the all the lines in the movie, word for word. There’s just something about it that resonates; we all know Christmas preparations never go quite as planned, and there’s no better example of that than “A Christmas Story.”

We’ve all had that gift we wanted more than anything else, and we’ve all had a parent tell us, at one point or another, that we would do something like “shoot our eye out.” We’ve all been bundled up so tightly in our winter clothes that it was impossible to put our arms down, and we’ve all dared our friends to do something stupid and gotten away with it.

There’s something in Ralphie’s story we can all relate to; who hasn’t gotten an absurd item of clothing from a relative, ala Ralphie’s pink bunny costume, only to be forced to wear it by a well-intentioned parent?

The end of “A Christmas Story” has the potential to resonate with all of us, as well. Despite all their hardships, the Christmas feast being eaten by the Bumpus’ hounds and Ralphie almost, indeed, shooting his eye out, the family comes together for a hilarious holiday meal at a Chinese restaurant, complete with a not-yet-headless duck and some festive carols.

All’s well that ends well, and no matter how disorganized and unpredictable holiday preparations can be, all that really matters is that you spend some quality time with friends and family — maybe even laugh a little. I don’t remember when we started watching “A Christmas Story,” but I know that the tradition isn’t likely to end anytime soon, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.


Of course, Christmas means that another semester is over — for some of us, this will be the last real responsibility-free winter break. This also marks my last column as the ArtsEtc. Editor, and what a long, strange trip it’s been. I took the job unexpectedly but haven’t looked back since. Arts have been my life for the past year, and it’ll be an interesting adjustment to move back to the “reader” side of the paper.

Thanks to all of you and to my fellow staff members, for giving me permission to rant and rave every two weeks, and congratulations and good luck to the new ArtsEtc. Editor, Chris Ewing, and new Associate ArtsEtc. Editor, Ryan Swan. I’m completely confident in their infinite wisdom and competence, and I know the ArtsEtc. section will continue to improve and evolve. Have a wonderful break, and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.

If you need me, I’ll be watching “Evil Dead 2″ and listening to Pinkerton. Peace out!