Campus News
Karl Rejman, Lethbridge College instructor, poses near a Christmas tree.
Karl Rejman, Lethbridge College instructor, film buff and philosopher, says the best holiday movies are more than fun, they speak to something deeper.

Holiday movies become part of family traditions not only because they feature “Christmas goodies” like perfectly wrapped presents, glittering trees, food and family, and well written, quotable lines. The best ones speak to something deeper and give us pause for reflection, says a Lethbridge College instructor, film buff and philosopher.

Karl Rejman, who teaches the humanities in the Centre for Business, Arts and Sciences, says some holiday movies stand the test of time because they balance comedy with serious themes such as loneliness and a desire for togetherness.

“If we compare Die Hard to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, both of those shows are about family,” he says. “The main character in Die Hard is trying to put his family back together. It’s with helicopters and machine guns and this heroic ’80s motif, but that becomes the vehicle for us to think about our own friends and families.”

Rejman says classic films lean into serious and timeless themes.

“If you look at a film like It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or Home Alone (1990), fundamentally they’re both dealing with the same issue,” he says. “In It's a Wonderful Life, the main character wonders ‘Would life be better if I'm not around?’ In Home Alone, the main character wonders ‘Would life be better if no one else is around?’ Both are dealing with the despair of loneliness that's often felt even more at holidays.”

The movies deliver memorable lines, big laughs and a vehicle to get us reflecting on deeper issues, he says.

Lethbridge College employees have a tradition of weighing in on favourite holiday movies. Now in its sixth year, the Holiday Movie Poll gives employees a chance to vote for their favourite holiday flick. Melanie Fast, a communications specialist who has overseen the poll for the last two years, says more than 200 employees voted in the latest poll.

"The poll has become an opportunity for colleagues to debate their favourites and what classifies as a holiday movie,” Fast says. “Employees can suggest new movies for the poll and some share memories of the movies they watched growing up."

Since the first poll in 2018, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) has been the unbeaten choice for favourite holiday flick.

While the top spot has been undisputed, two other movies have been consistently in the Top 5 every year. Elf (2003) and Home Alone (1990) have jockeyed for the No. 2 and No. 3 spot in three of the six polls.

“A Christmas song comes on for two and a half minutes and then leaves, but film you sit with for an hour and a half or two hours,” Rejman says. “A lot of films start and end at the same point. Take Elf (2003). Buddy the Elf starts at the North Pole. At the end of the show, he’s at the North Pole with his family. So what’s changed? It’s Buddy. Buddy changed.”

The one film Rejman watches every Christmas Eve is A Christmas Carol (he likes all of them but is especially fond of the 1953 version starring Alastair Sim).

“Christmas ghosts visit us and we have an opportunity to reflect and think,” he says. “We have an opportunity to forgive ourselves and give others an opportunity to change. It’s up to us to take that if we'd like. That's what I like about Christmas movies.”

Here are Lethbridge College employees’ Top 5 holiday movies, according to a non-scientific poll taken this past week:

  1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
  2. Home Alone (1990)
  3. Elf (2003)
  4. Die Hard (1988)
  5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Other Top 5 contenders over the years include: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), A Christmas Story (1983), Love Actually (2003), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and The Santa Clause (1994).

Lethbridge College will be closed for the holidays Dec. 23 through Jan. 1. Employees return Jan. 2. Classes start Jan. 8. Visit our website for holiday hours and access details.