Home Alone For Christmas

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In the 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone, Kevin, an eight-year boy played by Macaulay Culkin, is left behind by his family as they go to Paris, France, for the holidays. Alone, Kevin has to face two thieves that want to break into his house and potentially kill him, while his family desperately tries to return to the U.S. He manages to stay safe using a series of ingenious homemade traps, and as a bonus, he learns a Christmas lesson: to value the company of his family.

Home Alone is just one of the vast list of stories where the plot is based on Christmas being in danger of not happening as planned, or not happening at all. We can also mention How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas or A Christmas Carol. The irony is that although every year we have a new “Christmas is in danger” movie, the holiday tends to be very traditional and relatable. We all know that Christmas will come, doesn’t matter how your year was. Well, at least in theory.

Hollywood tells us every year that Christmas can only be fully appreciated if it nearly doesn’t happen. But this has become a reality and I will be spending the holidays away from my family for the first time in my life. And I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation.

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I am aware of my privileges, but still, after this unprecedented year, I find myself trying to decide if I should embrace my inner Grinch or my inner Cindy Lou. The duality between Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim compose the prism through which I look at the 2020’s Christmas decoration.

Like Kevin, many of us have to deal with solitude and some form of “Christmas-fever” while aware of the outside threat trying to break into your house. The harsh reality of the last 12 months is powerful enough to strip down the pine trees. And without all the fantasy and Christmas’ knickknacks, the only thing left is pure, quiet and simple clarity. Clarity to find real gratitude for being privileged enough to have a comfortable bed to sleep and a cozy house to live.

Like the parents who don’t believe in Santa Claus but pretend to, to not disappoint their kids, while their kids secretly don’t believe either, but pretend to, to not disappoint their parents, we try to cope with solitude with extensive video-calls and selfies in the snow. But a good friend of mine told me many years ago that “we must be pessimistic in our analysis but optimistic in our actions.” And that’s the perfect manifestation of the Grinch/Cindy Lou duality. One needs the other. We need contrast to see clearly.

If we want to truly do something good for society, we first need to accept that the world is not perfect, and it’s not always good or happy. For that, I’ve decided to accept my inner Grinch for this Christmas. But only because at the end of the book his heart grows three times. And like him, I’m letting my heart grow.

Grow bigger enough to reach my family thousands of miles away. Bigger enough to fit my friends in Canada, my roommates, my neighbours, and all of those who offered me a seat at their table and a glass of wine. And that’s the Christmas lesson I’m trying to learn. Happy holidays and stay safe.