Connecting Holiday Movies with Family History


Now that the holiday season is in full force and we’ve dug up some of our favorite holiday films, we’ve noticed just how many beloved classics feature some aspect of what’s most near and dear to our hearts—family history! See which movies made the list and gather a few tips for incorporating family history into your celebrations.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

We’re starting off with a no-brainer for those of us who have been working endlessly on our family trees all year. This comedy classic starring Chevy Chase features big family fun and big family mayhem, and it’s not to be missed in your line up of required seasonal viewing. After all, “nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas!”

Eight Crazy Nights

Inspired by the Adam Sandler hit “The Chanukah Song” first performed on Saturday Night Live, this Sandler film is the only animated one on our list! While the movie is considered a madcap, occasionally risqué comedy, it also deals with family tragedy and reminiscing about holidays gone by.

A Castle for Christmas

Okay, so maybe this hasn’t traditionally been on the top of everyone’s list, but we can’t deny that this 2021 Netflix original had us dreaming of far-off lands where we might have fascinating family ties, especially for those of us with Scottish heritage. This campy romcom about an American writer (Brooke Shields) of Scottish descent who manages to score both a castle of significance to her ancestors, and the handsome Duke (Cary Elwes) who currently owns it, was particularly inspiring for the imaginative parts of our genealogy brains.

Home Alone

No movie opening, holiday or otherwise, captures the raucousness of a house packed with relatives quite like Home Alone. While Joe Pesci’s character, masquerading as a police officer, cases the house he’ll try (and fail) to burglarize, a swirl of cousins, uncles, and aunts tromping in every direction. Beyond the movie’s house-as-holiday-fort hijinx, it also touches on what it means to feel forgotten in a giant family, and, in spite of that, how central and steady family love can still be.


Last but not least, this one has got to be a favorite, especially among us New Yorkers who are *certain* we’ve seen Santa’s sleigh and a man dressed as an elf roaming around Central Park on Christmas Eve. While most of us won’t discover that any of our family members had been raised by elves in the North Pole, Elf reminds us that even the silliest of holiday films are still, at their core, about family.

Five Ways to Incorporate Family History into Your Holidays

There are, of course, many ways to honor our family history during the holidays and we’re going to fill you in on our top five ways to celebrate!

  1. Keep with a family tradition

    What holiday quirks did your ancestors have? It’s a great year to start some new holiday traditions rooted in old ones.
  2. Whip out a family recipe

    There’s nothing quite like sharing secret family recipes.
  3. Pass down an heirloom as a gift

    Inheriting family heirlooms or antiques makes for a priceless gift and memory for the genealogist in your family.
  4. Have a destination holiday

    Why not travel to your ancestral homeland for the holidays for an unforgettable heritage experience?
  5. Make ornaments with old family photos

    And the best part is you get to bring them out and reminisce year after year!

What’s your favorite family holiday tradition or holiday movie with a genealogical flair? Let us know in the comments!


"A Christmas Story" this film has become a favorite as it sheds light on a family from the 40's and 50's that my husband and I lived through. It is a great movie even though it covers the way we grew up in the 20th century. It speaks to us and our families.