Piper YoutzyCongratulations to Piper Youtzy for Winning the December 2018 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this question:

What is your favorite holiday story or movie, and why do you love it?

Piper shared a joyful and honest account of why she loves one of the less traditional holiday movies. Enjoy her winning submission:

For me, the very best holiday stories are the ones that capture this joyous, twinkling, festive time of year for what it truly is:

Pure, unmitigated, self-imposed chaos.

The kind of chaos that always accompanies high-pressure family gatherings. The kind of chaos that has you indulging in a whole bottle of wine or entire platter of cookies by yourself. The kind of chaos we come to expect every year.

Now, before you write me off as a Grinch, let me tell you something that might surprise you…

I LOVE Christmas.

I love being with family. I love the traditions. I love the smells and music and lights!

But I’ve realized that every year, we go into Christmas with the same silly notion: that this is the year it will all go smoothly.

Just like Clark Griswold of Christmas Vacation.

The opening scene shows Clark taking his family to find their perfect Christmas tree. After trekking through the snow for some time, Clark looks out in front of him, and there it is! The heavens open up, and a beam of light illuminates this perfect tree! He just knows in his soul that this is the tree worthy of his family’s Christmas celebration!

…completely ignoring the fact that this tree is way too big for their living room.

And the moment he crams the tree into the living room and cuts the bindings, it unfurls in a flurry of chaos, smashing windows and flinging sap all through the house.

This metaphor is one we see throughout the movie: Clark’s big dreams, full of good intentions, not quite fitting into the reality of the situation.

We see him gather the family to reveal the 250 strands of lights he’s put up on the house, only to plug them in and have nothing happen. We see his sister-in-law cook a turkey so dry that Christmas dinner is inedible. We see his uncle Louis light a stogie too close to the tree and send the whole thing up in flames.

It’s one thing after another.

So why am I so enamored with this depiction of a family holiday gone awry?

Because in the end, Clark’s grand intentions for Christmas center on one thing: family.

Throughout the movie, we see the Griswolds’ neighbors — a snobby couple who don’t have a single decoration up and judge the Griswolds for all their festivities.

And even though the Griswolds’ Christmas epitomizes Murphy’s Law, I believe every one of us would rather be surrounded in that festive chaos with family than spend one moment with the neighbors.

Whether something catches on fire, or someone has a meltdown, or the police show up (or, in Clark’s case, all of the above), it’s worth it when you get to spend time with the people you love.

We laugh along with Christmas Vacation because we’ve all been there. And then we march right on into our own festive mess, ready to brave it all to be with family.