During the days leading up to Christmas is when I most enjoy re-watching some of my favorite holiday films.
What is most rewarding, at least for me, is noticing a phrase or relatively hidden message I may have missed or overlooked in years past.
Just when I think there could not possibly be anything "new" to hear or see in a classic like "Miracle on 34th Street" or "It's A Wonderful Life," I am surprised.
Here are a few "hidden" gems from popular Christmas-themed films that many -- like myself -- may have overlooked or missed the first time around. Or, in my case, the first dozen times around.
º "To me, you are perfect." – This is from one of the many heart-warming moments in "Love Actually (2003)," and is actually a hand-written message from Andrew Lincoln to Keira Knightley. Lincoln, who had a relatively minor role in the hit film, went on to much bigger and better things as Rick Grimes, the longtime star of "The Walking Dead."
º "Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind." -- "Miracle On 34th Street" (1947). No phrase captures pre-Christmas December any better than this film that starred Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. To this day, I can still remember the exact time, day and place I was when I first saw this movie.
º "Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings." -- Arguably the most-remembered and quoted line from "It's A Wonderful Life (1946)." It was said by Zuzu Bailey (Karolyn Grimes), the daughter of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) at the end of this all-time family favorite. Watch the expressions on some of the main characters' faces. (After all of these years, it's still difficult not to have to reach for a Kleenex when George Bailey's friends are all singing "Hard the Herald Angels Sing" and "Auld Lang Syne" during those emotional final scenes.)
º Of course, not every holiday movie is meant to stir those warm-and-fuzzy feelings inside us. Take "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," for example. The 1983 classic gave us Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and the rest of his family -- including Cousin Eddie (Randy ) -- celebrating Christmas. Two of my favorite exchanges:
Clark: "Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?"
Eddie: "Naw, I'm doing just fine, Clark."
Or maybe you remember:
Aunt Bethany: "Is your house on fire, Clark?"
Clark: "No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights."
Each holiday season always needs some comic relief -- thanks, Chevy Chase -- but the best part remains those warm-and-fizzy feelings mentioned a few paragraphs earlier.
º "I believe ... I believe ... It's silly, but I believe." -- It was a young Natalie Wood, whose Susan Walker character gave us that famous line, also from "Miracle on 34th Street."
And I think that may just be my favorite line from any Christmas film.