Prof: People enjoy feel-good themes of popular holiday movies


While it’s predicted the temperature will be shy of 60 degrees Fahrenheit today, the cold holiday break weather is inevitably around the corner.

And although the outside environment certainly does not scream winter weather, most students are excited and ready to pack up their things and head home for the holiday break.

One of the often most celebrated aspects of the break, besides the holidays, are family traditions repeated year after year. One custom in particular, embedded into the American culture, is holiday movies.

“I think it’s the tradition, the familiarity,” said Richard Harris, professor of psychology, about why people continue to watch the same movies every year.

Harris, who has researched why people watch certain movies, said popular holiday movies bring out the feel-good themes most people enjoy seeing.

And these feel-good movies are anything but limited around the holiday season.

Everything from the 24-hour TBS marathon of “A Christmas Story,” to older classics like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” will be available to watch throughout the holiday break.

Of course, there are plenty of other new movies making their way into the realm of holiday tradition. “Elf,” “Polar Express” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” are just a few.

With numerous movies to choose from over the holiday break, many students have their own family traditions, whether they choose a holiday classic or no movie at all.

“It makes you feel good; it reminds you of how the holidays are supposed to be,” said Antoine Vorden, junior in civil engineering, about why he thinks people watch the holiday movies every year.

For Vorden, there’s one flick in particular that defines his family’s movie tradition.

“‘You’ll shoot your eye out.’ What is that? ‘A Christmas Story,'” he said. “I think when we were younger it was more of a tradition, but I think we watch it now just because my mom likes it so much. She literally says that line all day, all the time.”

Other students heading home have never really paid much attention to the holiday movies or simply have other traditions.

“There’s not really a reason that I don’t. It’s just not been a tradition with my family to watch anything specifically,” said Janessa Wedel, senior in mechanical engineering.

Wedel said while her traditions don’t revolve around movies, her family has other typical traditions, including family get-togethers, church and opening presents on Christmas Eve night.

Kate Robinson, senior in family studies and human services, said her family’s holiday movie isn’t one most people would think of.

“‘Little Women.’ It’s a tradition in my family to watch it,” she said. “Even though it’s not a traditional holiday movie, a big part of it is about Christmas, but it’s more about family than anything.”

Robinson said the themes throughout the movie make it worth watching every year.

“It’s just a really good movie. There are a lot of hardships in the movie, but they overcome them very well,” she said. “It’s about courage and family strength and prayer and love.”