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My all-time favorite Christmas movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.
I first discovered this film when I was around 12-years-old. It was at this age I had become newly obsessed with old Hollywood, and spent my time watching Turner Classic Movies over any other TV network. Can you blame me? The style, the beauty, the talent, the glamour.
When It’s a Wonderful Life played that Christmas Eve, I was immediately in love. For obvious reasons: the charm and grace of Donna Reed, the intensity and comedy of Jimmy Stewart, the visual style, and the beautiful, and at times dark, narrative of the film.
Since first discovering Capra’s classic, I’ve made it a tradition to watch It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas Eve. Not just because it’s a fun, classic, Christmas-time movie, although that certainly is a reason why. Each year the film continues to make me laugh, cry, and discover new and deeper meanings and themes laced throughout. Here are a few of my favorites:
We’re All George Bailey
There are times where we can all be guilty of being George Bailey. We don’t always realize the great impact we can have on others. One life can touch and influence so many others, like a domino effect. You may never see every positive impact your actions have on each person (the war heroes Harry saved because George first saved Harry). Every action, no matter how big or small, can have an effect on so many people. We truly don’t realize how much of a significant impact our life can have on the lives of so many others. As Clarence reminds us, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
Prayer Can Heal
When George Bailey is desperate with nowhere to turn but suicide, he prays to God to “show him the way.” As George is about to throw away “God’s greatest gift” Clarence jumps into the water. George does what he has done his entire life: demonstrate pure goodness and sacrifice to save Clarence. Through prayer, God gave Clarence to George to help heal him of his despairing outlook on his life. Prayer brought George back to life, and back to being the good and sacrificial man he was his entire life.
Things Don’t Matter the Most
Gifts are wonderful; I love putting together presents for my friends and family for the holidays. But gift giving shouldn’t mean breaking the bank to feel like you had a successful holiday. We can all forget what the holidays are really for and get so caught up in the shopping and gift giving experience. Things have gotten a bit overwhelming and dramatic with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day and stores staying open for 24 hours for the days leading up to Christmas. When giving and receiving gifts, its best to remember that this is a time to appreciate your friends and family. George Bailey is referred to as the “richest man in town” not because of how much money or things he has, but because of the love he has in his life.
Every Life Has Purpose
Perhaps the most obvious lesson the film can teach its audience: every life has purpose. When Clarence takes George on a tour of his life had he “never been born”, George learns the immense impact his life has had on so many people. Without George, Mr. Gower (the drugstore owner) would have given deadly capsules to a child. His brother, Harry, would have drowned and never became a war hero, saving hundreds of lives. Mary would have remained an intimidated “old maid”, and their four children would never exist. Mr. Potter would have taken over Bedford Falls (renaming it Pottersville) forcing those in town to rent out Potter-owned homes, as opposed to purchasing their own homes with the generosity of George. In a nutshell: the friends and family of George and all residents of Bedford Falls would not be living the supportive and satisfying life they could have with George Bailey in their lives.
It truly is a wonderful life!
What’s your favorite Christmas movie?