I never thought of my family as one for holiday traditions. Sure, we decorate the house while munching on cheese and shrimp cocktail every year, and we always play Yankee Swap on Christmas Eve, but to me, that was just standard holiday fare, not a bona fide tradition. Now, of course, after some reflection, I’ve realized that while doing the same Christmas tree hunt every year and baking the same German cookies are traditions, my family’s best Christmas tradition technically takes place on another holiday. Every Thanksgiving evening, we watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and it’s the best tradition of them all.
For those unfamiliar with this particular holiday film, it follows the Griswold family in their nondescript Chicago suburb home. In the name of having a “good old-fashioned family Christmas,” Chevy Chase’s Clark W. Griswold invites the entire extended family over for the holidays, and obviously hijinks ensue. The movie doesn’t have a direct plot per se, it’s just holiday vignettes loosely tied up over a storyline of a holiday bonus and an annoying second cousin, but it’s the perfect balance of timeless physical comedy and family-related jokes.
I’m not sure when we started watching Christmas Vacation after Thanksgiving dinner. It goes back for as long as I can remember, though I’m sure we didn’t do it when I was a little kid. But every year, when we’d come home from Grandma’s house or finish up dinner at our house, my dad would light a fire, those of age would crack open a beer or bottle of wine, and we’d all eat pumpkin pie and watch Christmas Vacation.
These days, my family doesn’t typically spend Thanksgiving together. I spend it in New York with my husband and cat. My brother spends the holiday in Cincinnati with his in-laws. No matter where we are though, at the end of the day, after the leftover bits of turkey have been stored in the fridge, we all sit down on the couch, serve ourselves an ample portion of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and watch Christmas Vacation.
Our continued tradition of watching this particular film isn’t necessarily a tradition we all consciously chose to maintain even when we’re hundreds of miles away from one another. As a family, though, we all just have really similar senses of humor and decided that Christmas Vacation is the perfect movie to kick off the Christmas season. From the road rage that opens the film to Cousin Eddie emptying out his septic system into a public sewer to Clark’s epic rant at the end of the movie, nothing quite encompasses the madness of the Christmas season quite like Christmas Vacation. And it’s the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit, even if it is technically still a different holiday.
For more quality family time ideas for the holidays, check out these 10 Thanksgiving traditions from around the country.
Carolyn Menyes is the entertain and holidays editor at The Daily Meal. Her life goal is to go to Walley World. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.