Gift Wrapping Fails

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Top 10 Madcap Moments from Holiday Classics

They may not be the most hilarious moments, or the most heartwarming, or the most quotable. In fact, many of these moments fly under the radar (really, NO ONE else has seen A Muppet Family Christmas or the Star Wars Christmas Special? That’s bad news).

No matter. These are the zany moments that elevate a holiday flick to “classic” status, and provide endless fodder for in-jokes with my siblings.

1.) Clarence’s drink order from It’s a Wonderful Life

I’ve been at bars during the holiday season and thought, hmmm, what would be the perfect drink? A hot toddy? Nah. Irish coffee? Definitely not.  Then, WHAM! I got it:

“Mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves. Off with you, me lad, and be lively!”

Every time I’ve tried to order it, it’s been a disaster. Sometimes the cinnamon is too light. The lads are never lively. Inevitably, I end up quaffing a flaming rum punch, like an animal.

2.) k.d. Lang’s performance of Jingle Bell Rock in PeeWee’s Christmas Special.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It was as if the producers were like, “That sounds great, k.d., but now try singing it as if you’ve just inhaled a sandbox full of cocaine.”

3.) Bill Murray’s speech at the end of Scrooged.

Hahahahah just kidding. I meant everything EXCEPT Bill Murray’s speech. He rivals Linus in wet-blanket soapbox treacle.

Really, the zeitgeist moment is Buster Poindexter screaming “It’s a BONE, you LUCKY DOG!!!!”

4.) Jon Stewart waxing romantic about Hanukah in A Stephen Colbert Christmas.

Sure, he presents Hanukah as a dowdy also-ran to Christmas’s pageant winner. Maybe I was just so damn excited about any mention of Hanukah at all that I fully embraced Jon Stewart’s glum lowballing of my people’s most wonderful time of the year.

“I’ll keep Jesus; you keep your po-ta-to pancake.” Magic.

5.) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s Santa is a total dick.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Nope, not the Grinch. Santa. He’s condescending to Rudolph, snappy with his wife, and seems to find the whole Christmas thing to be a drag. Look how quick Santa is to cancel Christmas! And after the elves worked hard on a performance for him, he leaves them with “Well, it needs work. I have to go.”


6.) The edited-for-tv version of Die Hard 2.

I’m sure it’s hard to come up with word substitutes to fit the mouth movements in profanity-laced movies not really meant for the small screen. But even my delicate young ears called bullshit on the nonsense the censors dubbed in, like “He’s a rascal, but he’s my kind of rascal,” and “Yippee ki yay, Mr. Falcon.”

7.) The Yule Log

I would have loved to sit in on the brainstorming sessions that led to the creation of the Yule Log. “Filming Christmas specials is so expensive. Let’s give the people what they want: a televised fireplace playing carols for 24 hours.”

It was so mesmerizing that my dad actually taped it. When we complained that it was boring, my dad then fast-forwarded it to the part where the camera zoomed in and out.  Yup, we watched the Yule Log on fast-forward, so we had all the zooming action with none of the pesky festive music.

8.) The sound effects in the ticket booth scene of Frosty the Snowman.

When Frosty tries to purchase a train ticket to the North Pole, the guy in the ticket booth experiences an exaggerated panic, replete with sound effects similar to that of a clown car exploding. The random boings, clangs, and aaaooooogas have nothing to do with the action in the scene, and continue for way longer than his reaction warrants.

9.) Home Alone’s John Candy telling a story about leaving his kid in a funeral home overnight.

“We left the little tyke there in the funeral parlor all day. All day. You know, we went back at night and apparently he had been alone all day with the corpse. He was okay though, after two, three weeks he came around and started talking again…”

In a film known for its over-the-top mugging and schmaltz, this resonated as a moment of true lunacy (improvised, I’m told) played utterly straight.  Once again, John Hughes succeeded in turning John Candy into the parental figure we all aspired to be.

10.) The dance scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Watch this bizarre dance scene on endless loop, and discover new things each time. Look- it’s Frieda doing a makeshift “Thriller” move!  Violet checking the freshness of her armpits, while Linus and Sally do a thrusty two-step. Shermy doing the Running Man. Twin randos tossing their heads from side to side in reckless valley-girl abandon. This is the stuff animated gifs are made for.

It almost makes up for Linus preaching everyone into a stupor in the final act.

Runners-up: There are almost too many moments to name:

That tv sitcom episode where everyone gets stranded at the airport because of a snowstorm, and bonds with strangers/homeless people/romantic foils.

A Christmas Carol’s George C. Scott devouring the scenery like figgy pudding.

The Swedish chef seasoning and trying to cook Big Bird in A Muppet Family Christmas. 

How Pottersville looked a HELL of a lot more fun than boring ol’ Bedford Falls.

The entirety of Elf

Happy holidays, ya filthy animal!

The Menorah: It’s Electric! (Boogie Woogie Woogie).


As a kid in the suburbs, we could tell people’s religious backgrounds by their decorations of choice. The houses bedecked with blinking rainbow-colored lights and nativity scenes were Christians (the fervor of which could be measured in the quantity of plastic reindeer covering their roof). The windows twinkling with electric menorahs denoted the few token Jewish families.  And of course, the house on the end of the block, with the darkened windows, boarded-up door, and permanently-barking dogs, was described by my mom as “not in the holiday spirit” (which I assumed meant they practiced Satanic rituals in the basement).

Living in a cramped city apartment with two small children, my husband and I decided that lighting an actual menorah would be a fire hazard (and we have just enough of the hoarder instinct that one badly-placed shamash could incinerate our living room).  Hence our dollar-store electric one.

Two years ago, we discovered that one of the bulbs had burned out. We forgot about it, until we reached the last night of Hanukkah, when I twisted it and remembered, oh crap, I was supposed to buy a new one. As the night ended in anticlimactic incompleteness, we vowed to replace said bulb next year. Except we didn’t.

This year, we dragged our busted menorah out of storage and stared at it with a kind of lazy disappointment, until my husband realized that our daughters’ nightlight used the same bulbs. Win! Hanukkah is saved, my kids can light the menorah from bed and have Maccabean dreams, and none of our neighbors will mistake us for Satan-worshippers.