Christmas culture and the European mind, as explored in film

Even in heat of multicultural era, the push to give Hanukkah and Kwanzaa equal footing on the national stage has been met with resistance in the United States. As a result, the Christmas season continues to be a time of Euro-Christian cultural expression. Nowhere is this clearer than in the films that accompany the season.

First up is A Christmas Story, which offers a fond look at Christmas in the 1950s.  In the 1950s, the Christmas traditions of the country's cultural core played an even greater role in everyday life, from the parades to the rituals that brought together families in celebration. This was a prosperous time in the United States, and the film captures that era nostalgically. The film often airs twenty-four hours a day, non-stop, from December 24th to 25th. The other film of note is Home Alone, which conveys similar themes and messages in a more modern context. So just how do these works match up with the products of Euro-Christian culture an ocean away? How does Europe view the two American classics mentioned above? Journalist Emily Tamkin made a point to find the answers:

edited from "This Christmas Watch These Classic European Holoday Flicks and Home Alone," by Emily Tamkin, Foreign Policy

The United Kingdom has Love Actually.

Russia has the Soviet New Year’s classic, The Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath! The basic plot is this: Zhenya is supposed to go home to his apartment in Moscow after getting drunk with his pals in a bathhouse. His friend is supposed to fly to Leningrad. However, they are both so inebriated that Zhenya ends up on the plane. This being the Soviet Union in the 1970s, the streets have the same name, and the buildings on them all look the same, and the keys all work for all of the locks. And so it comes to be that Zhenya ends up going to his Moscow address in Leningrad, and finds himself in an apartment owned by Nadya. Romantically tinged comedic hijinx ensue. Russia has since given us 2011's Yolki - or Pine Trees - otherwise known as Six Degrees of Celebration, in which a young girl in an orphanage claims her father is then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. As proof, her fellow orphans want her to get him to say the words, “Father Frost helps those who help themselves” in his annual New Year’s address. Her would-be boyfriend puts a plan into action to get the message to Medvedev (played by Medvedev, because 2011 was a simpler time) through … yes, six degrees of celebration.

Sweden takes a different approach. Every year, Swedes watch Donald Duck on Christmas Eve on television. It is followed by Kan du vissla Johanna?, the story of a young boy who wishes for a grandfather he can love.

Finland took a different direction and gave us Rare Exports. Set in Finland’s Lapland, which is said to be the terrestrial home of Santa Claus, it tells the story of a Santa who awakens from his slumber to go on a killing spree. Also, in Finnish, the word for Santa Claus literally translates to Christmas Goat. Scary stuff.

Poland prefers Home Alone, and Poles have reportedly been known to protest on social media when it is not aired. However, in Poland, the film is called Kevin Alone in the House, and is more commonly known as Kevin. The Czech Republic has its very own Cinderella as a Christmas story. But in Three Wishes for Cinderella, a Czechoslovak/East German film made in 1973, Cinderella, who is a sharpshooter with three magical wishes, makes Prince Charming work for her hand. The film is still popular in the Czech Republic, and in other countries, too.

Norway, for example, is a country where the story is so loved that the government paid for the film to be digitally remastered. Norway also watches Germany’s favorite, Dinner for One, every New Year’s Eve.

Germany is probably surprised that Dinner for One is not watched the world over.

France has a Christmas film that literally translates into Father Christmas Is a Garbage Person. Also, it has Mom, I Missed the Plane, which is the French title for, yes, Home Alone.

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