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Hollywood Rx for the holidays

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Feeling humbug this holiday season? Here’s a sure-fire prescription for kick-starting your holiday spirit. Tuck the wee ones into bed, grab a cup of seasonal cheer, and settle down for a festive movie marathon that will put the “hush” back into your holiday rush.

Detach from family drama

In Jodie Foster’s 1995 film, “Home for the Holidays,” Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) flies home to spend Thanksgiving with her wildly dysfunctional family. How many of us empathized with the family reunion drama that prompts Claudia to explain, “Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That’s what the day’s supposed to be all about, right? Torture.”

Whether this year’s drama is your aging grandmother deciding she can’t tolerate your spouse, your drunken uncle knocking over the heirloom china or your youngest child coming down with the worst kind of flu, you can remain unruffled regardless of what happens. Family drama is not usually the problem — it’s our response that determines how much we will or won’t enjoy the holidays. A brisk walk or a quick call to a supportive friend can make the difference between a happy or a hopeless holiday season.

Opt for more fun and less stuff

“And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, he thought, means a little bit more.” If an over-emphasis on the material aspects of the holidays has you feeling as crabby as “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” then maybe you need a refresher on the 1966 Dr. Seuss TV film. Or, if you’re a Jim Carrey fan, try Ron Howard’s 2000 feature film version.

Before frustration drives you over the grinchy edge, seek relief at the Center for a New American Dream. It’s a national non-profit foundation helping people challenge the “more is better” definition of the American Dream. “More Fun, Less Stuff” is its motto. The brochure about simplifying the holidays contains frugally creative and eco-friendly gift ideas, perfect for downsizing your holiday celebrations without skimping on the fun.

Check out the brochure at www.newdream.org/holiday/brochure.php.

Do a good deed

In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” perennial do-gooder George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is devastated when the financial security of his family’s Building and Loan business is threatened by a missing $8,000 deposit. But all is not lost because George can’t resist helping others in greater distress than himself. Instead of plunging to his own death, he rescues angel-in-training, Clarence, who beat him to the jump. Clarence illuminates that without George’s good deeds, Bedford Falls would be a much bleaker place indeed.

Making a charitable gesture towards someone less fortunate than yourself will add satisfaction to your holiday season. Is there a soup kitchen where you and your family can volunteer for an afternoon? How about asking your children to donate some of their old toys to a worthy cause before asking Santa for new ones? Could you spearhead an impromptu fund-raiser at your office or social group? You may decide to donate locally or abroad.

For some ideas, visit www.altgifts.org or www.heifer.org/.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude

In the 1938 big-budget version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” we witness a ghastly, ghostly tour of Ebenezer Scrooge’s (Reginald Owen) stingy past, present and future. Subsequently, you may be inspired to cultivate a more loving and generous attitude of your own. Think back to every kindness offered to you in times of struggle or despair. I distinctly remember a college friend listening to my broken-hearted sob story and telling me afterward that I was beautiful. I remember a former boss offering a kind word instead of criticism, although I’d royally messed up some important documents. Next thing you know, you may look more kindly on the person who jostles you on the street, the car that rudely cuts you off, or the telemarketer who dares to invade your hallowed holiday home. An attitude of gratitude reminds us that we have been wretched and have still been worthy of love.

Spend time ‘Alone’

In the comedic family classic, “Home Alone,” 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) declares, “This house is so full of people, it makes me sick. When I grow up and get married, I’m living alone.” When his extended family leaves for Paris without him, he discovers that his wish has come true. Does he crumble with fear? Does he run for the nearest sensible adult? No, in fact, he relishes his new-found freedom, at least for a little while.

This holiday season, there will be plenty of well-meaning messages touting the benefits of “spending time with loved ones.” Of course, while it’s always wonderful to spend time with family and friends over the holidays, there is something to be said for taking time to be alone, too. Certainly, when we don’t spend time alone, we can become irritable and exhausted. Like Kevin, when you take time to be with yourself, you will find that you can better appreciate time with others.

Buy yourself a present

Still feeling a little blue this holiday season? All right, let’s pull out the secret weapon movie. Sometimes there’s nothing to brighten up your holidays quite like that gift you deeply long for but have never received. In Bob Clark’s 1983 hilarious comedy, “A Christmas Story,” little Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) is dying for a Red Rider BB gun. Although his parents and teachers warn that he will “shoot his eye out,” Ralphie is relentless in imagining his dream coming true. The dozen or so universally hilarious childhood memories will perk you up enough to grab your car keys, drive to the mall, sit on Santa’s lap and ask for that ridiculous childhood toy you always longed for. It’s never too late.

Happy holiday movie season, everyone!

Updated 4:29 pm, July 9, 2018
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