The excessive amounts of consumerism and the holiday season often seen to be one in the same. I cannot remember a time where people didn’t tear down stores, destroying property to do so, just to get certain sales for their family or themselves because, why not? What better way to show love than to buy those you care about lavish gifts and electronics and vanity items. I am not preaching here, I do it too… I’m just saying that it often feels like this money-grubbing by businesses and the insane way shoppers flood stores can often be a detriment to the holiday itself. In many ways, that’s exactly why a lot of folks out there hate the holidays.There is something heartwarming and simplistic about Miracle on 34th Street (1947) which was made pre-Black Friday culture. There are many things that today’s shoppers can relate to… be it the heavy shopping shown within or the money-grabbing of the companies, but overall the experience doesn’t seem as crazy or extreme as what we have grown accustomed to.
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In this Christmas classic, an old man going by the name of Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) fills in for an intoxicated Santa in Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Kringle proves to be such a hit that he is soon appearing regularly at the chain’s main store in midtown Manhattan. When Kringle surprises customers and employees alike by claiming that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental health and, more importantly, his authenticity.
Edmund Gwenn plays a perfect Santa Claus, he isn’t vain or overly pushy with his message. He is perfectly happy waiting for those around him to work through there problems naturally. Sure he is there as a wise-guiding-sage but he is never too over the top with his ways. The worst he does is hit someone with his cane, but we can give Kringle a pass on this one as he did it to protect a dear friend of his. The best way I can describe Kris Kringle is… well.. charming? He is like the old-man who really adjusted well to life and has everything figured out and seems younger than he is? So Adults and kids alike are drawn to him naturally.
But the crux of this movies centers around two main plots. The first is that Kris Kringle is attempting to restore Doris and Susan Walker’s faith– mostly in Christmas, but faith in general. Doris is a jaded single mother that has taught her daughter to not believe in silly things and be realistic. Little Susan even chooses not to utilize her imagination often because she and her mother think it is “pointless”. Kringle takes it upon himself to sort of save these two young ladies and restore their faiths. The second plot point centers around Kringle being hired by Macy’s to be their Santa Claus for the season and his implementation of an odd strategy. If kids want something he knows Macy’s doesn’t have, he is more than happy referring them to a store that does. Many shoppers are shocked by this but decide to become loyal shoppers to Macy’s because of this act of Kindness. This leads Macy’s as a business to adopt this trend as a “goodwill”-company and Gimbel’s follows suit. This is actually a strategy I wish current stores would adopt, but at the same time I am not sure how appreciated it would be in an age where information is at our fingertips. But hey, it is the spirit of the gesture that counts am I right?
Anyways, this is definitely a movie that parents should watch with their children so that they may be able to appreciate the simpler-shopping Christmases of the past. Additionally, this is a really relaxing film to watch after you’ve had a long day. And I especially recommend watching it if you have ever worked retail– I think you, most of all, will appreciate this film!
Extra Facts About Miracle on 34th Street
- According to TCM, Miracle on 34th Street helped make the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade an American institution. The parade had been around since 1924. However, before the film, the parade was a local New York City tradition that was broadcast locally over television beginning in the 1940s. With its on-location opening scenes, Miracle on 34th Street brought the parade into the national consciousness. National television coverage began for the parade in 1948, the year after the film’s release, and has remained a part of American popular culture ever since.
- The inspiration for Miracle on 34th Street came when writer Valentine Davies was standing in line at a big department store during the Christmas season. The realization that Christmas was becoming more commercialized sparked the first broad strokes of the story that would eventually become Miracle on 34th Street.
- The rivalry between department stores Macy’s and Gimbels depicted in the film was very real. The two stores were just blocks from each other in New York and major competitors for the same business. The rhetorical question “Does Macy’s tell Gimbels?” was a popular phrase used throughout the 1930s-1960s which meant that business competitors are not supposed to share trade secrets with one another.
- Even to this day Macy’s mentions the film by name on its website, boasting proudly, “The still-classic holiday filmMiracle on 34th Street opened in 1947 and is set in Macy’s Herald Square, proving that Macy’s has the one and only true Santa Claus.”