There’s no place like home for holiday movies

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published November 22, 2019

 From left, Warren residents Erin Stein; her mom, Mary Stein; and her sister, Melissa Stein, love to watch Christmas movies at home during the holiday season.

From left, Warren residents Erin Stein; her mom, Mary Stein; and her sister, Melissa Stein, love to watch Christmas movies at home during the holiday season.

Photo by Maria Allard

 From left, Mary Lynne Hunter, of Harrison Township; Julie Breil, of Macomb Township; Molly Kirsch, 10,  of Warren; and her mom, Laura Kirsch, of Warren, watch scenes from “A Christmas Story.”

From left, Mary Lynne Hunter, of Harrison Township; Julie Breil, of Macomb Township; Molly Kirsch, 10, of Warren; and her mom, Laura Kirsch, of Warren, watch scenes from “A Christmas Story.”

Photo by Sarah Purlee

METRO DETROIT — As Christmas lights twinkle, curling up on the couch with a cup of warm cocoa while watching a favorite Christmas movie is how many people get into the holiday spirit.

With a supply of Christmas movies that run the gamut, it’s easy to spread holiday cheer. There are Christmas movies on the cable Lifetime and Hallmark channels, plus tons of films released through the decades that touch upon the reason for the season, family shenanigans and Santa Claus.

For Mary Stein, of Warren, her husband and her two adult daughters, Erin and Melissa, the holiday season officially begins Thanksgiving Day. The family travels to Berville for a turkey dinner and trimmings, and a visit with family.

According to Mary Stein, by the time they return home, “We are in  the mood for a movie.” Stein’s favorite, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” is usually first on the list. Then throughout the season, it’s time for “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” “The Family Stone,” “Home Alone” and more. Some movies are on DVDs, but for some, the Steins go old school with their VHS collection.

Jeff and Charlene Garrett, of Rochester Hills, and their five teenage children ages 14-18 pretty much “do a marathon every night.” The Christmas tree is even fully decorated by Thanksgiving.

“We start before Thanksgiving because there are so many movies,” Charlene Garrett said. “My mom comes up from South Carolina, and we try to do something festive when she is here. We watch all the classics, and my kids watch all the cartoons together.”

The family usually bakes cookies and pops popcorn to settle in — under blankets — for “A Christmas Story,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and others. There’s one rule: no phones allowed.

“They have to put their cellphones away,” Charlene Garrett said.

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” also is a family favorite, plus every remake of “The Grinch.” The adults in the room have been known to take a drink each time “Whoville” is mentioned during the 1966 half-hour cartoon of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

At the home of the Rose family in Warren, including mom Katherine, dad Mark and son Ian, 6, a Hallmark Christmas movie is usually on. Baking cookies and snuggling on the couch add to the festivities.

“Ian and I watch a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies,” Katherine Rose said. “They’re clean and they’re family friendly. I can put them on and know that they’re safe. We’ll have the tree on every year to watch Jim Carrey’s ‘The Grinch.’ It’s cozy and warm.”

Katherine Rose also likes to venture back to her childhood to remember “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Ronnie Gatchell, of Warren, has a list of “must-watch” DVDs. They include the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” “Love Actually,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Holiday,” “The Grinch,” “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” Gatchell also will check out various Hallmark movies.

“I usually pull out the stack of DVDs and randomly go through them. Some I will watch more than once before New Year’s Day,” Gatchell said. “The tree is on and it’s just a warm feeling. Watching them gets you in the holiday spirit.”

Sometimes her husband will watch too, or her son. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a classic Gatchell always watches on Christmas Eve. “A Christmas Carol” is something she remembers watching with her parents while growing up in Hamtramck.

“There weren’t DVDs. You watched it when it was on,” Gatchell said. Seeing the movies can make her a bit emotional, “but then you watch ‘Scrooged’ with Bill Murray and all you do is laugh.”

Warren resident Laura Kirsch admitted to being “a Christmas movie junkie.” Her favorites are “A Christmas Story” followed by “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

“I watch them with whoever wants to watch them. It gets me into the Christmas spirit,” Kirsch said. “‘A Christmas Story’ is about a normal family doing normal things, making normal mistakes. We always have it on Christmas morning. ‘Christmas Vacation’ is pretty funny. Again, there’s normal people doing normal things. Everyone has a version of an Uncle Eddie.”

Another one she loves is “Mixed Nuts,” starring Steve Martin, Rita Wilson and the late Madeline Kahn.

“Nobody has ever heard of it. My mother and I are the only ones who want to watch it,” Kirsch said. “It’s such a funny movie.”

Kirsch and her sister, Julie Breil, have a Christmas tradition of always watching “The Sound of Music” when it’s aired on one of the television networks.

“It’s not a Christmas movie, but they play it at Christmastime,” Kirsch said. “It’s just tradition. We had the album, and we used to sing the songs. We still sing the songs.”

Local author and illustrator team Karen Bell-Brege and Darrin Brege, of Brighton, never tire of  Christmas movies.

“We watch ‘Elf,’ ‘Four Christmases’ and the classics ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and “Miracle on 34th Street,” Karen Bell-Brege said.

The couple’s favorite, however, is the 1945 black-and-white “Christmas in Connecticut,” about a magazine food writer, played by Barbara Stanwyck, who pretends to be a perfect housewife who cooks on her farm, but it’s all a sham. She really lives in the city and can’t cook. She has to try to cover herself when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.

“There’s a bunch of mishaps and misunderstandings,” Darrin Brege said. “It’s kind of a cozy movie. The characters have a lot of personality.”

“It’s really funny and heartwarming,” Karen Bell-Brege said. “It’s snowy and beautiful. You see this beautiful farm country house. We’ll watch it about five times. We’ll settle in, put a log in the fireplace and that’s it.”