National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: 7+ Random Thoughts I Had Rewatching The Holiday Classic

For some, the holiday season kicks off with Black Friday shopping. Others ring in the festive season by putting up thousands of tiny little lights on their house. But for me and my family, the holidays can’t get started without the annual viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The 1989 Christmastime classic, which is my favorite of the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise, has been a staple in my house for a number of years now, and has long been our go-to way of getting things going.

That being said, I have watched Chevy Chase’s Clark W. Griswold flip off an angry truck driver, cut down a massive Christmas tree, and dream about an in-ground pool (and the lingerie saleswoman) more times than I care to count at this point. I recently kept that tradition going, and decided that it was the perfect time to jot down some random thoughts about one of the most popular Christmas movies

Chevy Chase looking a tree in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

I Relate To Clark Griswold More The Older I Get

Some guys like to see themselves as John McClane from Die Hard, others George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. Personally, I have felt more and more like a Clark Griswold, especially the older I get. Like “Sparky,” I too take things to the next level with just about everything I do around the house, especially when it comes to Christmas, taking my stress to an extremely unhealthy level. 

No, I don’t climb on top of the roof and install 25,000 some-odd Christmas lights in the dead of winter, nor have I accidentally encouraged my cousin-in-law to kidnap my boss, but it wouldn’t be the holidays without my Christmas joy turning to 12 days of stress and bombastic outbursts that make my in-laws shake their heads in shame.

The Griswolds embracing in the snow in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Johnny Galecki And Juliette Lewis Are My Favorite Versions Of Rusty And Audrey 

One of the biggest gags in the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise is the Griswold children — Rusty and Audrey — being played by different actors each time. And while Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron did a tremendous job in their initial portrayals of the characters, I’ve always felt that Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis play the best versions of Rusty and Audrey, respectively.

The two actors create some of the most memorable scenes in the movie, like Audrey’s eyes freezing while getting the Christmas tree, Rusty surprising Clark at the department store, and the two complaining about their grandparents incessantly. They may have the least amount of screen time of all the Griswold kids, but they make the most of it.

The grandparents arrive in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The ‘Grandparents Arrive’ Scene Is Like Something Out Of A Horror Movie

If National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was a Christmas horror movie, the scene where the grandparents arrive at the house would be the “monster pounding at the door” moment, where the unsuspecting victims come face-to-face with evil. With each ring of the doorbell, the Griswold’s normal lives are upended and thrown into chaos. Rusty watching It’s a Wonderful Life on the couch, Audrey listening to music in her room, Ellen writing Christmas cards, Clark acting like Santa in the mirror. All these moments are the last of normalcy for the family.

And then the grandparents enter the house and start complaining about parking, talking about moles and pints of fluid out of their backs and hemorrhoids, paying Rusty and Audrey in quarters (a quarter, a quarter) to rub their heels. It’s a brilliant, hilarious, and utterly terrifying scene and perfectly encapsulates what “Christmas is all about” as Clark says.

Cousin Eddie after randomly showing up at the Griswold home in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Cousin Eddie Showing Up Out Of Nowhere Is Pure Gold

Sure, Cousin Eddie is a character you’d hate to spend the holidays with, but his unique personality and charm help make National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation such an iconic movie (Shitter’s full, anyone?). And while the aforementioned draining of Eddie’s RV’s waste tank is an all-time great, as are the rest of his scenes, nothing tops his surprise arrival just as Clark finally gets his Christmas lights to work.

Clark’s expression when he realizes that Eddie, Catherine, their kids, and dog, Snots, are there is classic and is full of confusion and dread, and completely wipes away the boundless joy painted on his face just moments earlier. 

Julia Louis-Freyfus in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

I Sort Of Feel Bad For Margo And Todd

I know Margo and Todd Chester are two National Lampoon’s Vacation characters I’m supposed to hate, but I can’t help but feel sort of bad for Clark’s snobby yuppie neighbors. Sure, they’re elitist, rude, and are prone to bickering, but imagine being blinded by lights, and having a window and CD player destroyed by a chunk of ice that also made the carpet wet. That is on top of living next to the Griswolds before the holiday season even kicked up.

Through no fault of their own, Margo and Todd’s house is raided by a SWAT team in the final minutes of the movie, putting the bow on top of their Christmas present from Hell.

The turkey in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

I Have Always Wondered What The Overcooked Turkey Tastes Like

I have always been kind of obsessed with food in Christmas movies, more specifically, how it tastes. The donuts and cheese pizza in Home Alone, the meatloaf and mashed potatoes in A Christmas Story, and spaghetti and syrup in Elf are just a few that come to mind. But the one that sticks out the most is the overcooked turkey in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Sure, the inside looks pretty gross with its dried out and gray texture that makes it look like the inside of an overcooked crab, but the skin doesn’t look half bad. The color is nice, the texture checks out, and the wings (at least from the outside) look fine. I would leave a turkey in the oven for too long myself, but some things are better left unknown, I suppose.

Clark looking at his "bonus" in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Clark’s Christmas Eve Meltdown Has To Be One Of The Best Of All Time

I love a good on-screen meltdown, as I noted a couple of years ago with a rundown of the best Tom Hanks freak outs. But as much as I love watching Hanks lose his cool and demand to be taken to the hospital in The Burbs, that is just child’s play compared to Clark Griswold losing his mind after his Christmas bonus isn’t a check, but a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.

As soon as I hear the banging on the door after the Christmas tree goes up in flames, I know that Clark is about one minute away from going on one of the most epic rants of all time. That incensed laugh/cry combination as he dips his Wally World glass in the bowl of eggnog, the epic rant about his “four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating”’s all great. The cherry on top is the final line of the meltdown: “Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where’s the Tylenol?” It doesn’t get much better than that.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation cast

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Other Random Thoughts

Those aren’t my only National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation thoughts, as I have several other random observations from the 1989 classic:

  • The opening animation and song really kick it off.
  • There are no mountains near the suburbs of Chicago.
  • I still cannot get enough of the short parade broadcast scene.
  • My wife and I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation before any other holiday movie.
  • It’s so weird seeing the old school Walmart.

If you want to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation streaming after going through all these random thoughts, you can do so right now with an HBO Max subscription.

Stream National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on HBO Max.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.