Christmas Traditions & Holiday Films

Christmas Traditions & Holiday Films

“Ebenezer Scrooge: Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit.
Kermit the Frog: Uh, tomorrow’s Christmas, sir.
Ebenezer Scrooge: Very well. You may gift wrap them.”

– Michael Caine (Scrooge) & Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog) from The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s that time of year when those who celebrate Christmas begin to rewatch specific movies. Most people, like myself, have a favorite film they immediately watch with a loved one or save until the last moment and watch alone. The simple task, or tradition, of rewatching a festive film performs a nostalgic function. That tradition comes with rules that one must follow so as not to break with a familial custom. Personally, after the last couple of years, these traditions are equally important as well as expendable. I have had to take stock of those traditions worth holding onto and those I wish to set aside. Yes, even the practice of watching a film is one I took notice of, but rather than avoid it, I leaned in and turned on, for nearly my twentieth year, The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Today, I am going to explore the ghosts of Christmas. I will illustrate those moments of joy, those family traditions I nostalgically recall, and how the Christmas holidays have changed. In doing so, I will discuss those Christmas films that I play and replay this time of year, with particular attention given to those adorable Jim Henson Muppet characters. In the end, this post is an opportunity to get sentimental and excited about a new Christmas season and a celebratory year that will, thankfully, be nothing like last year. I will spend this holiday with extended family because of vaccines, lower COVID numbers, and great determination. Whether you celebrate or not, all are welcome to explore the holiday ghosts of my past once again.

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Catholic Upbringing & the Eerie Warmth of “Midnight Mass”

Catholic Upbringing & the Eerie Warmth of “Midnight Mass”

“There is no time. There is no death. Life is a dream. It’s a wish made again and again and again and again and again and again, on into eternity. And I am all of it. I am everything. I am all. I am that I am.”

– Kate Siegel (Erin Greene) from Midnight Mass

I commend Mike Flanagan, creator of The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, for creating, yet again, another Netflix show I cannot get out of my mind. I have, it seems, on countless occasions discussed his cinematic success. I am a huge fan; this is true. His shows regularly mix genres, and I am constantly surprised by the quality of his written stories. I will not make this a four-thousand-word diatribe on Flanagan, although I could. I recently discussed him in a post about my emotional relationship to cinema in the context of 9/11.

Now, I do not plan to cross any similar bridges today, but my watch/rewatch of Midnight Mass offers me the chance to explore the show with a more detailed perspective. It grants me the opportunity to include another part of my early life, my Catholic upbringing. The show is riddled, if not saturated, with religious discussions centered around, if not primarily concerning, Catholicism. Now, I am not a religious expert, nor do I confer judgment on any religion. I am, however, a human being who lived, for some time, religiously. While it never played a prominent role, it played a role, nonetheless.

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“Welcome, Foolish Mortals”: Walt Disney World Memories & My First Half Marathon

“Welcome, Foolish Mortals”: Walt Disney World Memories & My First Half Marathon

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

– Walt Disney

For me, Walt Disney World is the epitome of youthful entertainment. While I do not consider myself a Disney enthusiast, I have great memories of traveling to Florida as a child and experiencing the magic with an imaginative spirit. As an adult, I visited with a far less carefree tenor, possibly a wistful smirk, but no less respectful of the powerful hold Disney has on those whose minds are full of wishes. Ninety-eight years after founding the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Hollywood, the company represents a greater visual authenticity than ever before. Yet, 2021 observes the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in Florida. Today, I celebrate the anniversary of Walt Disney World in the one way I know how; exploring nostalgic Disney memories. I had a wonderful experience visiting Walt Disney World in my youth. As an adult, I went to Disney on several occasions, all very different but no less memorable. Of course, visiting as a child is magical, and I will discuss Walt Disney World of today and my childhood, but I will include my trip to run the 2014 Wine & Dine Half Marathon.

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Father & Son Trip to San Francisco

Father & Son Trip to San Francisco

“When the lights go down in the city
And the sun shines on the bay
I want to be there in my city”

– “Lights” – Vocals by Journey and Music & Lyrics by Stephen Ray Perry & Neal Joseph Schon

In 2020, my planned trip to Pittsburgh with my dad was scrapped. We had airplane boarding passes, hotel reservations, and baseball tickets to see the New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates. The loss of this trip is insignificant in light of the tragedy many have suffered during the ongoing pandemic. Yet, the cancellation of our journey led me to reflect on our father/son baseball connection, which I discussed in previous posts. Furthermore, it made me think of our trip to California in July of 2012, nearly ten years ago. It was a memorable trip, filled with historical sightseeing and live baseball. There is no better way to heal my empty “travel” heart than by recalling this father/son trip to San Francisco in today’s post.

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“Do Not Pass Go”: Board Games & Leisure Aplenty

“Do Not Pass Go”: Board Games & Leisure Aplenty

“Who cares about winning? Let’s get drunk!”

– Jason Bateman (Max) from Game Night

Whether my wife Corinne and I are having a game night at home with friends, visiting with my brother-in-law Kyle and wife Christine, or spending time with my brother Jeff and wife Lauren, we have played some wicked awesome board games as of late. In most of the games we play, we are both, my wife and I, extreme novices. We didn’t even have a board game in the house, until now. It has been nice starting a fun new pursuit. Yet, as I put a few board games in my shopping cart the other day, it dawned on me; what is my “games” story? I have explored several topics in the context of nostalgia, but I never considered board games or yard games.

I want to explore my love of random games and share some unique stories. In the end, I find that my newfound love of intense, cut-throat board games is nothing new. Board games come and go, incredible yard game memories are in abundance, the only thing that’s changed is that I am older and only need to win “sixty percent of the time… every time.” It is funny, the number of games I played as a kid, whether a random card game of Bullsh*t with friends at a bus station or Guess Who? with my sister Becky, I wanted to win. I assumed winning was important, maybe not every time, but why play if you don’t win? A kind of terrible way of thinking, but luckily, as an adult, I have no time for that line of reasoning. The fun is the time spent with others. So, join me and roll the dice. No get out of jail free card!

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20 Years Older & Slightly Wiser, but an Echo Remains

20 Years Older & Slightly Wiser, but an Echo Remains

“That’s me. I’d say I’m sorry to disappoint you… but I’m not. I excel at not giving a shit. Experience has taught me that interest begets expectation, and expectation begets disappointment, so the key to avoiding disappointment is to avoid interest. A equals B equals C equals A, or… whatever.”

– Ellen Muth (Georgia) from Dead Like Me

I am an emotional person. I admit that without pause. I love watching dramatic movies, live-action or animated, and television shows that render me speechless. My wife Corinne refrains from such emotional rollercoaster viewings, but I, conversely, have difficulty turning away. I am like Rafael, not the master painter and architect of the Italian High Renaissance, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I am not referring to the ultra-violent comic book version. Still, instead, the 1987 television series version depicts him as hip, loyal, and sensitive, but rude, feels slighted, and gets cranky when annoyed. That’s not “exactly” me, but I meander through life protecting my anxious and, inherently, insecure self.

I have always felt this way, whether with making friends as a kid, how I felt about my body image, or how I responded to emotionally stimulating events. This sensitivity, and connection, to major events, especially those in the past, drew me to the world of professional history. History, memory, and emotion often link together to help break down my anxiousness and self-doubt. As an anxious person, which I discussed in a previous blog, emotional connections are vital in exploring the past. Today, I briefly explore change, life and death, and the quest to understand myself and the past, especially in the context of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

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