How Movies Can Help You Celebrate more Meaningful Holidays

The Holidays are coming fast! Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas! Back-to-back, our lives will be filled with activity, family gatherings, celebrations and–the inevitable–issues that rise when families get together: old, unfinished business; unresolved conflicts; differences of opinions; new, added members struggling to get accepted and integrated, and so on.

If you want to explore a fresh, fun and effective way of enjoying stress-free holidays, try movies. They can teach you valuable lessons of how to deal with some of the perennial issues surrounding holidays. Here are three short lists of movies to watch and their immediate benefits:

1. Halloween: Learn valuable lessons from horror movies:

1. The Shining: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) gets a job as the custodian of the Overlook Hotel, in the mountains of Colorado. The place is closed down during winter, and Torrance and his family will be the only occupants of the hotel for a long while. When the snow storms block the Torrance family in the hotel, Jack’s son Danny – who has some clairvoyance and telepathy powers – discovers that the hotel is haunted and that the spirits are slowly driving Jack crazy.

Benefits: respect the energy of homes, trust your intuition, protect your creativity from negative energies, ask your childrens opinions when you make big life decisions.

2. Rosemarys Baby: Rosemary and her new husband, Guy, move into a new apartment in New York, befriending an elderly couple who live near by. Guy begins to spend a lot of time with them and, soon after that, strange things begin to happen, until Rosemary falls pregnant and begins to suspect that her neighbors have special plans for her child.

Benefits: research your neighbors before you begin trusting them; trust your judgment when something in your life keeps going wrong; protect your creative project from everyone regardless of how close you feel to them until its completed.

3. The Blair Witch Project: Heather Donahue leads film students Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard in the forests near Burkittesville, where they will shoot a documentary about a local legend, the Blair Witch. Many children have vanished in the 1940s and people still avoid going too deep into the woods. The group starts an adventure from which they will never return. One year later, the students film and video is found in the woods, that shows what happened.

Benefits: know your limits when you embark on an adventure; be adequately prepared; dont trust blindly a leader (he or she may not know where he or she is going.

2. Thanksgiving: Learn how Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to build new family relationships:

1. The Ice Storm: Focusing on two families in particular, the Hoods and the Carvers, this is the story of rapid moral deterioration, as the characters shatter their social “roles” in pursuit of meaning and satisfaction, not considering the consequences. Once the “storm” hits, though, during Thanksgiving week, reality sinks in, and the severity of their situation becomes all too apparent in its bitter, and resonating aftermath.

Benefits: If you want to enjoy family bliss, you must work hard on building strong, healthy family relationships. Reconsider your family relationships, be authentic, express your needs, tell the truth to your children.

2. Whats Cooking: In LA’s Fairfax district, where ethnic groups abound, four households celebrate Thanksgiving amidst family tensions. Around each table, things come to a head. A gun, an affair, a boyfriend, and a pregnancy precipitate crises forcing each family to find its center.
Benefits: Embrace other peoples differences and celebrate commonalities; see life as a feast that is to be cherished now.

Hannah and Her Sisters: A family of complicated and problematic New Yorkers comes together during a Thanksgiving dinner. The main characters are three sisters: Lee, who is unhappily married; Holly, who is always in search of fulfillment; and Hannah, the family jewel. Shes f, beautiful, intelligent, successful, and a good mother, wife and sister. All is well until Hannahs sisters get involved in her life and threaten to shred it apart.

Benefits: Get to know the people in your family; get over your judgments about them; accept their shortcomings.

3. Christmas: Discover the spiritual messages of Christmas:

1. Its A Wonderful Life: George Bailey has spent his entire life giving up his big dreams for the good of his town, Bedford Falls. But today, on Christmas Eve, he is about to end his life out of despair, until he meets Clarence, his guardian angel. Clarence takes George on a tour to Bedford Falls as the town it would have been if George had not existed, teaching himand usa precious lesson about lifes true meaning.

Benefits: The Essence of Abundance is in sharing love; we are here to do goodgood depends on our actions; wealth is not just having a lot of money
2. Family Man: On Christmas Eve, Wall Street celebrity Jack Campbell gets a phone message from a woman he almost married 13 years before and who is moving to France. On Christmas day, Jack wakes up next to her, in some sort of parallel universe, in a 12-year marriage. Over the next few weeks, he gets a glimpse of what his life would have been like if he’d married her: completely different from the life he has now, but with a lot of love. What will Jack do once the dream is over?

Benefits: Follow your heart and marry the person you love before its too late; professional success is great but emotional fulfillment is what makes us feel complete

3. Home Alone: When Kevin McCallister is accidentally left ‘home alone’ by his family, vacationing in France, he takes his house into his own hands and haves himself his own vacation. But his delight ends up crashing and burning when he comes into contact with two burglars who try to break into his house.

Benefits: When faced with lifes unexpected challenges, trust yourself, be creative, and protect whats important to you; inner strength is some times more important than physical strengthyou must develop it; be prepared for the worst; loneliness is sometimes a good thingit forces you to stand on your feet.


Maria Grace, Ph.D., is an expert at teaching people how to learn lessons from popular movies to find the job, home, relationship, and healthy body and mind they want. She is a Fulbright scholar, licensed psychotherapist, sought-after public speaker and coach, and the author of Reel Fulfillment: A 12-Step Plan for Transforming Your Life through Movies (McGraw-Hill, 2005). Reel Fulfillment was praised by Publishers Weekly as one of the top self help books out of the self-help box for 2005-2006.

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