Making Memories with Iconic Christmas Characters

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Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940s
Photo Credit: MGM/UA Entertainment Company
December 13th, 2012

Making Memories with Iconic Christmas Characters

The first Christmas movie was "The Night Before Christmas", which was made in 1897. The star was, of course, Santa Claus. In addition to Saint Nick, there have been countless other iconic characters that make the holidays festive. While it is difficult to choose only a few, here are five of the most popular Christmas movie characters.

Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) - "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947)
"Miracle on 34th Street" is consistently named one of the top Christmas movies of all time. What makes this film so special is Edmund Given's portrayal of Kris Kringle, a jolly character who just happens to be the real Santa Claus. After playing the role of Santa for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, Kringle lands a job at Macy's flagship store. Everyone who encounters him is spiritually uplifted. Yet some Scrooges are concerned that Kringle is mentally ill because he says that he is really Santa Claus. The doubters put Kringle on trial to defend his sanity. The lessons Kringle provides about belief, love, and joy make this character a holiday staple.

George Bailey (James Stewart) - "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
"It's a Wonderful Life" was a bust at the box office. However, it was well-received by critics and received five Academy Award nominations. Its strength lies in main character George Bailey. Bailey is down on his luck. As a leading citizen in the town of Bedford Falls, he cannot handle the implications that his failing business will have on his reputation. While contemplating suicide, Bailey is saved when Charlie, his guardian angel, shows him what life would have been like if Bailey had never been born. The end of this movie makes viewers everywhere smile with joy.

Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) - "A Christmas Carol" (1951)
Possibly the most influential film version of the classic Charles Dickens tale, this adaptation stars Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.. Scrooge is truly a miserable, miserly, and unsympathetic excuse for a human being He is totally devoid of Christmas spirit, cheer, or generosity towards his fellows. On Christmas Eve, however, Scrooge receives three fateful visitors that show him the man he was, who he is now, and what will happen if he continues carrying a lonely, hateful heart. This character's transformation as portrayed by Sim is a memorable acting achievement. The movie ends with a jubilant Scrooge running through the streets like a madman, offering Christmas cheer and fellowship to everyone he meets.

Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) - "A Christmas Story" (1983)
Like many young children, Ralphie Parker has one special item on his Christmas wish list. Unfortunately for Ralphie, his parents are not excited about providing him with a Red Ryder BB gun. After trying numerous times to make a convincing case for the gun, the only thing left for Ralphie to do is ask Santa. But even Santa agrees that a BB gun is dangerous. What's a kid to do? This tale has long resonated with those who grew up during the time period when the movie takes place. It also receives continual popularity from children of all ages. From epic bully showdowns in the schoolyard to a triple-dog-dare involving a tongue and a frozen flag pole, the character of Ralphie gives this story a classic feel that competes with older movies.

The Grinch (Boris Karloff) - "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966 animated)
Living as a hermit with only his dog to keep him company, the embittered Grinch decides to do something about the problem of the noisy Christmas celebration in Whoville. The mean one hatches a plan to dress as Santa Claus, but instead of bringing gifts to the good citizens of the town, he makes off with their presents, decorations, and even their dinner roast beast! The awakened Whos don't let this ruin the holiday; they pour into the town square to sing, just like they do every Christmas. This causes the Grinch to realize the true meaning of Christmas, which makes his heart grow and inspires him to return everything he took. In the ultimate sign of forgiveness, he's invited to have dinner with the townsfolk and is asked to cut the roast beast.

Gather up the family, make some hot cocoa, and enjoy some of these endearing characters. Their stories are a great way to share the spirit of the season. Whether they evoke a sense of nostalgia, a bit of humor, or deep philosophical lessons, each is a holiday treasure.