The holidays are a delight for the senses. The scent of pine trees and smells of baking, lights aglow, cold weather, the taste of cookies — and watching holiday movies with the family. No matter what your tastes, here are some great ways to get you started. Bring on the popcorn and the cocoa, put on your fuzziest jammies and settle in for a winter’s night.
Begin with Classics
Great for watching after the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947), takes place from Thanksgiving to Christmas, when a little girl is skeptical of a department store Santa, Kris Kringle, who claims to be the real thing. The movie was remade in 1994 and in various stage and television productions, but the original is still the best.
For many people, the yuletide season doesn’t begin until you watch classic flicks such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964), “Frosty the Snowman” (1969), “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966) or “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965).
Weeknights while school is still in session are perfect for Rudolph, the Peanuts gang and Frosty. They’re short, usually in rotation on television and the timeless themes still hold up for children of all ages. Rudolph knows what it’s like to be bullied and left out. Charlie Brown sees the beauty in a pitiful, unpicked tree.
Plus, you can let the kiddos make their own beautiful tree out of pine scraps or construction paper trees, strung with popcorn and paper garlands.
Also, don’t overlook the original Grinch movie, with its delightful narration by Boris Karloff and a wizened old heart that grew three times bigger when exposed to kindness. A new animated version was just released last year and is closer in tone to the original than the live-action 2000 remake starring Jim Carrey.
Or perhaps you’re in the mood for the more adult-oriented, slightly skewed comedy of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989) or “Scrooged” (1988)? Or maybe the fantastical-but-a-little-odd animation of “The Polar Express” (2004)? Or the old school standards like “White Christmas” (1954) or “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946)?
Treat your kids to the vintage wonder of Jim Henson with “The Muppets Christmas Carol” (1992) while learning the classic Charles Dickens’ story — only with fur, frogs and rats. While perhaps not as well known, Henson may even have topped his “Christmas Carol” with “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” (1977). This riff on the “Gift of the Magi” tale is told with otters and an endearing soundtrack. (Plus, a remake is in the works, so you can be ahead of the curve.) Younger children might get a kick out of making their own “Muppets” with sock puppets and singing along.
Maybe your family’s favorite is the original “Home Alone” (1990) or the insta-classic “Elf” (2003)? Laugh along with the exuberant man-child played by Will Ferrell, whose innocence is topped only by his unabashed love of Christmas. The bravest in your family can then challenge each other to try spaghetti with syrup or make elaborate 3-D snowflakes or troop outside for impromptu snowball fights.
Get Out of the House
“The Polar Express” is on the big screen on December 14 at 1 p.m. at Regal Crocker Park and IMAX, 30147 Detroit Road, Westlake. Tickets are $5. Visit regmovies.com.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage” brings classic characters to life on December 10 at 7 p.m. at the Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Tickets are $25-$50. Visit agoracleveland.com.
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is on the big screen, as intended, followed by a chat with star and ‘80s comedy legend Chevy Chase on December 20 at 7 p.m. at Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St., Akron. Tickets are $39-$69 and VIP tickets are $200. Visit akroncivic.com.
Experience a Cleveland Classic
There is no shortage of ways to experience “A Christmas Story” in Cleveland. There’s Ralphie’s iconic house — well, technically, the house used for exterior and some interior scenes of Ralphie’s house — at 3159 W. 11th St. The year-round A Christmas Story House and Museum gives fans the opportunity to take a tour, wear the oversized bunny pajamas, see memorabilia and even stay the night. The owners also now give tours of the next door Bumpus House, the home of the smelly, Christmas-dinner-turkey-stealing hounds. Visit achristmasstoryhouse.com.
The live stage show of “A Christmas Story,” also an annual Cleveland tradition, is running through Dec. 23 at the Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Ave. Tickets are $20-$97. Visit playhousesquare.org.
Of course, you can always stay home and watch the movie during the annual 24-hour cable marathon over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Order Chinese takeout and celebrate with a Nerf war so nobody will need to warn, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Get on Netflix and watch “Klaus,” an animated tale of a postal worker who is banished to the North Pole where he meets a gruff-seeming toymaker, Mr. Klaus. It was released in November and it will have a limited run in theaters.