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Twelve years ago, I wrote this article, naming the 10 best moments from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s a total shit review by today’s standards, but I still agree with my choices.
The squirrel? Duh. Clark’s stress-induced obscenity-laced tirade? Definitely. Aunt Bethany in general? Holy hell yes.
Also on that list were the Griswolds’ fantastic moose mugs. If you’ve never seen the movie, there’s a scene where Clark and Eddie shoot the breeze over some eggnog, drinking from the most glorious mugs in the history of glassware shaped like heads.
I don’t want to pat my own back, but I believe I was one of the first people to make a huge fuss about those moose mugs online. That old article collected gobs of search engine hits through the years, and for a while, it was even the #1 match for “Christmas Vacation.” It was all thanks to the moose mugs.
Turns out, I wasn’t alone. Thousands of people shared in my fascination. In the years following, we collectively busted a nut when specialty retailers began selling accurate replicas, even though they cost a fortune. (I remember the prices being higher than $150 a pop!)
Of course, now it’s much easier to take them for granted. Christmas Vacation sort of became a newer generation’s version of A Christmas Story, and as its popularity kept growing, the people who make-and-sell-us-things took notice. These days, you can buy moose mugs for a song, and in various sizes, to boot!
…but there were certainly other items in Christmas Vacation deserving of tributes. None can match the power of the moose mug, but they’re still pretty cool.
So, behold, ten MORE items I’ve always wanted from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!
#1: The Model Swimming Pool!
Where to see it: Early in the film, Clark’s at the office. He’s fantasizing about gifting his family a swimming pool. And he’s doing it while fiddling around with an adorable model of one.
Why I like it: I’ve seen Christmas Vacation four billion times, and I still can’t piece together exactly how Clark came to own a model swimming pool. Maybe it came with the purchase, or maybe he worked in one of those offices where swimming pool models were easily obtained. Honestly, as soon as that model hit the screen, I couldn’t see anything else. Everyone’s lines felt like they were being delivered from underwater. I completely lost myself in the image of that cute little pool. Nothing else registered.
I was still pretty young when Christmas Vacation came out, so my infatuation had a lot to do with the model being perfectly sized for action figures. I had grand visions of Serpentor risking damage to his gold-plated snake costume, all for the sake of a Cobra cannonball.
#2: The Advent Calendar House!
Where to see it: Seen throughout the film.A tabletop Christmas house doubles as an advent calendar, helping to “chapterize” the movie. Between scenes, we’d often see someone’s hands (I’m guessing Johnny Galecki’s) propping open new windows and doors, counting down to Christmas Eve.
Why I like it: I’d always loved the concept of advent calendars, but until Christmas Vacation, the ones I knew most were the simple cardboard kinds with the cheap pieces of chocolates inside. But this? This was so much grander, and I wanted it badly. Didn’t even care that there weren’t any “prizes” inside. A giant Christmassy house was prize enough.
#3: Todd & Margo’s Neon Shelves!
Where to see them: After Margo gets mauled by a squirrel and Snots, she staggers home and punches Todd in the face. Todd sells it like a champ, but never mind that. Get a load of the awesome neon shelves at the back of their living room!
Why I like them: Todd and Margo were supposed to be snooty yuppie stereotypes, and as such, the décor of their home was chic but still somehow gaudy. We were supposed to think it looked bad, and largely, it did. But you can’t tell me that those neon shelves weren’t BOSS.
Many of my own décor choices came from watching TV and movies, but I never did make good on that “neon shelves” vow. Huge mistake. I have a vast collection of things that cost less than five dollars, and I can think of no better way to display them than on shelves that cost five hundred.
#4: Clark’s Pajamas!
Where to see them: You’ll spot ’em in a few scenes, but most notably when Clark traps himself in the attic.
Why I like them: You may have seen Christmas Vacation a hundred times and never noticed that Clark’s pajamas had an animal pattern. I know I did. Now that I’ve seen the truth, he’s that much cooler, and I’m once again open to the idea of wearing pajamas. It’s been over twenty years since I was last open to that.
I’ve always related to Clark, and now that I’m old and decrepit, I relate to him more than ever. He’s a secret man-child who remembers things the way they never were. I get that. But the pajamas just push it over the edge, and it’s because of them that I will never again board the “hey let’s talk bad about Chevy Chase” gravy train. You can’t play this so well if you’re not at least a little bit this.
PS: I’m pretty sure I see dinosaurs on those pajamas, too. Maybe they’re ALL dinosaurs. Yeah, let’s go with that.
#5: Pink Christmas Trees!
Where to see them: Early in the movie. The Griswolds narrowly avoid death and literally land the family car at a tree lot. Look VERY close and you’ll spot what appears to be a couple of Christmas trees, spray-painted pink.
Why I like them: Remember that scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas? The part where Chuck ignores the too-commercial trees in favor of the scrawny thing that just needed a little love?
Charlie Brown chose well, but I still think he was too hard on the other trees. Especially those random metal pink ones, which for a lifetime have fascinated the holiday shit out of me. I’d later consider spending hundreds of dollars on a vintage pink tree, and though I never went through with it, a small part of me still believes that I someday will.
And no, I won’t buy one of those new ones that are only meant to look vintage. They’re too pink. The old ones were like, snowy Pepto-Bismol. I need the real deal. Of course, I might make an exception for a spray-painted tree sold at a lot out in the middle of the woods.
(And if that’s an artificial tree, don’t tell me. I know it’s possible, but I’ve decided to see what I want to see.)