In our house, Christmas movies adhere to a strict schedule.
First, there’s Elf, followed by Home Alone. After that, it’s usually The Holiday and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. My wife will sneak in a couple of those wonderfully predictable Hallmark movies in both during that time and after. Sometimes I feel like she’s contractually obligated to watch at least five of them during the month of December, but as of now, I have yet to prove it.
I will though. Don’t worry.
Last on the schedule is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We usually watch this one on Christmas Eve or Christmas night. We might catch bits and pieces before that but we don’t sit down to watch the whole thing from start to finish until the very end of the season.
Now, I think this is because it might be our favorite, although I’m not entirely sure. It’s become a tradition to watch it last, and as with most traditions, neither of us can remember why it started. I will say that it’s one of three Christmas movies (the others being Elf and Home Alone) I have absolutely no problem rewatching. Why? Because it’s hilarious and literally never gets old. It’s full of great quotes, great scenes, and (probably most importantly) great characters and goes perfectly with a few cups of eggnog.
Speaking of these great characters (and speaking of drinking), I’d like to set out to determine which character from Christmas Vacation would be the best one to hang out with and throw back some mugs of hot chocolate laced with peppermint schnapps alongside.
Let’s get to it.
20. Art Smith
Ugh, Art is the worst. He’s Ellen’s father, making him Clark’s father-in-law and he is the epitome of a terrible father-in-law.
I bet when Clark asked Art for his permission to marry Ellen, Art said no and claimed Clark wasn’t good enough for his daughter. Clark didn’t take it personally, though, because no one had ever been good enough for Ellen. No one would ever be good enough for Ellen and that is just the way how things are going to be.
Ellen eventually went ahead and married Clark anyway, which could be part of the reason why Art is such a dick to him.
But it’s the holidays, Art. Give it a break, bub.
19. Todd Chester
Todd, the Griswold’s neighbor, is a no-go not only because he’s a textbook 1980s yuppie but because he definitely would want to drink something weird and expensive. I don’t ever want to drink something weird and expensive.
If I spend more than $12 on a bottle of wine I need to spend ten minutes really thinking about it first.
What would I talk about with Todd? I’d like to think I can talk to anyone about anything but we all have our limits and I feel very strongly that those limits would be tested when hanging out with him.
I guess we could talk about both being white dudes? Maybe we’ll just talk about tennis or something instead. Regardless, he’d definitely talk way too much about whatever we’re talking about because he definitely also does cocaine.
18. Frank Shirley
What do we know about Frank Shirley?
We know he’s Clark’s boss and that he’s cheap because he elected to skip Christmas bonuses in favor of signing up his employees for a subscription to the Jelly of the Month club.
We know he has a big house and wears old man pajamas to bed.
We know that when he doesn’t want to talk to someone, he pretends he’s on the phone.
That last one I can appreciate. Who among us hasn’t done that? Frank Shirley would love cellphones because it’s so much easier to pretend you’re on the phone now than it was in 1989.
But that’s not enough to make me want to spend any time with Frank.
17. Rocky Johnson
Eddie and Catherine’s son seems like a great kid, albeit a quiet one. I’m not going to hold being quiet against him. I’m quiet too.
However, because I’m quiet, I don’t want to hang out with someone else that’s quiet because then we’re just two quiet people hanging out together being quiet and that sounds terrible. I mean, it is terrible. I’ve done it. It leads to lots of staring off and seemingly endless uncomfortable silences.
No offense, Rocky, but we’re not hanging out anytime soon.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Well, it’s also you, but whatever. You’re too young to drink and I feel like that’s important to note.
16. Margo Chester
If you think Margo should be ranked lower—maybe even tied with her husband Todd—I wouldn’t really argue with you there. They are both pretty terrible.
The only reason why I did rank Margo here is because I’d be willing to bet that after a few drinks, she’s actually probably kind of fun to hang out with.
I can imagine her talking a bunch of shit about people we both know and making fun of Todd, who we both agree is a tool. Plus she’d definitely be rude in a funny way to the bartender, and from a spectator’s standpoint, that could be fun.
Until it isn’t.
Then I’m out.
Rocky is picking me up.
15. The Squirrel
The squirrel was the victim and it was in no way his fault that he ended up in the Griswold house. Homeboy was collateral damage. I feel like he’s painted as a villain but that is just not the case.
Did you know that one time I found a dead squirrel in my backyard, and upon inspection, found absolutely no evidence of foul play? There was no blood. There were no missing limbs. There weren’t even any branches surrounding the tree; nothing to indicate that there had been some sort of incident in the tree that the dead squirrel was laying under.
My conclusion was the squirrel either died of natural causes, suffered a massive heart attack, or worse, was poisoned. I did not conduct any kind of toxicology tests on the body so I can’t confirm this. But I have my suspicions.
Why is this relevant here?
Well, it’s not really other than that it’s a story about a squirrel but I had to tell someone about it.
14. Ruby Sue Johnson
Eddie and Catherine’s daughter was a sweetheart. And at least she talked, which gives her a leg up on her mute younger brother.
I like hanging out with nice people and Ruby Sue certainly seems like a nice person.
I don’t really know what we’d talk about but hey, at least we could talk about something unlike hanging out with old Rocky over there. She’s the daughter of Eddie and Catherine and they live in a busted up RV. I’m sure she has some wild stories.
Plus she can talk. I really can’t stress that enough. Sure, she might not be able to drink but I’d still be down to shoot the shit with her.
13. Francis Smith
Ellen’s mother-in-law isn’t much better than her husband but that’s not saying much. It bears repeating: Art is an asshole.
But you know, rarely did you ever see Francis without a glass of wine in her hand and that tells me that Francis is down to have some fun. She’d probably get a little “old lady drunk” and that’s always entertaining.
Well, at least until she says something inappropriate, and when it comes to being old lady drunk, that’s always on the table and always a gamble. It could be something relatively minor, like letting a family secret slip, or it could be super cringe-worthy, like dropping the n-word or something. You just never know.
But hey, until then? It’d be hilarious.
12. Cousin Catherine
You know what they say, right?
You have to look out for the quiet ones.
You know why they say that, right?
Because it’s true.
You do have to look out for the quiet ones, especially after they’ve had a few drinks. For some reason, the quiet ones get a few drinks in them and everything they’ve been keeping inside comes pouring out.
All those things that they’ve been thinking about—all the snide comments they’ve been sitting on and all the hot takes, the cold takes, and the lukewarm takes—reveal themselves. Out come the good jokes and the bad jokes and the not in any way appropriate jokes.
Somewhere in between drink two and drink three, the bumpers come down, the wheels come off, and it’s all systems go from then on.
Cousin Catherine is one of the quiet ones for sure.
11. Clark Griswold
Now, before you get upset and fired up that Clark is ranked so low, let’s discuss this like mature adults and agree that Clark is a lot to deal with.
As the kids would say, this dude is extra.
Clark is a man of big dreams and big hopes. He wants everything to be perfect and for everything to be a certain way. If things aren’t that way, he tends to lose it, and from there, things get dark. He threatens people, he holds people hostage, he recklessly cuts down trees, and damages people’s property.
Clark is a loose cannon who is driven by emotion and that’s a dangerous combination.
As with a few other people we’ve talked about so far, Clark would be fun but only to a certain point. For those first few drinks, Clark is probably a good hang. I don’t think anyone is denying that.
It’s after those first few drinks where things can take a turn and I don’t like to be part of situations that take a turn. It makes me uncomfortable.
You’d end up apologizing for Clark at some point. It’s bound to happen.
10. Aunt Bethany
What can I say? I enjoy the company of an elderly firecracker.
With Aunt Bethany, you just pull that cord and see where it goes. It could go in a variety of directions and I’d venture to guess that a good amount of those directions are wonderfully entertaining.
However, I think it’d be helpful to have some topics in mind and prompts ready. Like, “Aunt Bethany, what do you think about climate change?” or “Aunt Bethany, do you think there’s life on Mars?”
Aunt Bethany seems like the kind of gal who could (and would) definitely be willing to give you her thoughts on just about anything and I for one am down to hear every single one of them.
9. Nora Griswold
Clark’s mom seems like a very nice person. She seems pleasant and sweet and I bet she listens to NPR a lot and is well-versed in murder mysteries set on Cape Cod or Long Island.
I also bet she knits.
I don’t knit. I made a pillow once in a middle school Home Ec class but it came out hard as a rock and would have been better used as a weapon than as a pillow. Seeing as how it was in middle school, I probably did use it as a weapon. Middle school-aged boys are idiots. That’s a proven fact.
But I’d drink some Chardonnay and talk with Nora about something she had recently learned about on NPR or maybe even talk about knitting.
I bet it’d be a treat and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
8. Mary the Lingerie Saleswoman
Mary is a blank slate. She is an unknown. Her name is Mary and she sells lingerie.
Is her name even Mary or is it an alias? Does she go by Mary during the holidays to help lure in clueless, middle-aged husbands who are shopping for their wives? Is that something that would actually work? I never really worked in retail so I’m not sure if that’d be an effective strategy or not.
Does Mary even exist or is she just a figment of Clark’s imagination? I mean, she’s probably real. Rusty saw her, after all.
But what if Rusty saw someone else—the person who was really there selling lingerie as opposed to Mary, who Clark saw but really just imagined because Clark has the tendency to live in a fantasy world?
I might be over-thinking this. It’s very possible. It’s happened before.
Well, whether she’s real or not, I’d be down to hang out with her (or “her”) for a bit and I really don’t feel like I have to explain why.
7. Uncle Lewis
When it comes to Uncle Lewis, it’s pretty simple.
Uncle Lewis is either going to be a great time, the worst time, or he’s going to pass out after two drinks and that will be that.
There’s no in-between.
6. Audrey Griswold
Let’s get into some high school gossip. Let’s do it.
Who’s dating who? Who hates who? I want to know all of it.
Audrey looks like the kind of gal who can talk some shit and I’m game for that too, especially if I’m a little drunk.
I want the dirt and I want to throw some dirt and Audrey seems like a good candidate to be involved with both.
5. Cousin Eddie
I know Cousin Eddie looks like he’d be fun and that he looks like he’d be a good time but that’s all on the surface. I’m not here to make judgments based on what’s on the surface. I’m going to go deep, kid. I’m operating beneath the surface because beneath the surface is where the truth lies.
The truth about Cousin Eddie is that, for starters, if you go out with him, you are definitely paying. Don’t kid yourself. Eddie might say he’s buying (or at the very least say he’s buying a round) but he’s not. Homeboy rolled up in a beat-to-shit RV and needs Clark to help buy his kids Christmas presents. Eddie isn’t buying a damn thing.
He’ll order, though, and that’s where it gets problematic.
I don’t mind paying every so often but I’m no Frank Shirley. I don’t have much in terms of means and I have to live within the few means I do have. I’d be worried that if I offered to pick up the tab, old Cousin Eddie over there might go a little overboard and I’d be stuck paying more than I had planned. I don’t even think he’d do it maliciously. I think he’d just do it; he’d just start throwing back Coors Lights and that’d be the end of it.
That leads us to another problem and that is that Cousin Eddie might go too far. Clark was spouting off about his boss and Cousin Eddie took him seriously and ended up kidnapping a dude. I don’t want the same thing to happen to me. I say some ridiculous shit when I’m drunk. We all do! But rarely are we saying things that we actually want to see happen. There’s that wall that separates drunken ramblings and boastings from reality. I very much appreciate that wall in my life.
I suspect Cousin Eddie doesn’t know about the wall and that would make me nervous.
I’m not saying I’d never hang out with Cousin Eddie. He is ranked pretty high on this list.
I’m just saying that if I were to go out drinking with him, I’d be keeping an eye on him. That’s all.
4. Rusty Griswold
For this to work, I think it’s better if we imagine Rusty is a bit older. And it’s also this version of Rusty, as opposed to the older version of Rusty that was in Vegas Vacation and then the even older version that was in the Vacation reboot.
I feel like this designation is important because Christmas Vacation Rusty is super chill. If he had been nursing a beer during that scene where he’s watching the parade, that would have made complete sense. Maybe he was? He might have been.
Rusty was kind of cool and I would venture to guess that a Rusty that was a decade or so older would also be pretty cool and a good hang.
Obviously, a lot can happen in 10 years but I feel pretty good about this one.
3. Ellen Griswold
Ellen could hang. I know this because she hid cigarettes and that’s a move I can not only respect but can relate too.
Also, Ellen figured out why the lights weren’t working when no one else could. I don’t think this is at all indicative of whether or not she’d be fun to drink with but I do think it’s helpful overall in figuring that out because it shows she has a good head on her shoulders and is cool under pressure.
She knows how to get things done.
Ellen walks into a crowded bar and knows exactly where to position herself so as to best get the bartender’s attention.
Ellen walks into a crowded bar and instantly knows what group of people are about to get up from their table.
Ellen walks into a crowded bar and doesn’t need to see the drink list.
Ellen walks into a crowded bar and finds a good place to put her coat where no one will mess with it or steal it.
Ellen walks into a crowded bar and five people say hi to her but she only says hi to three of them.
Those other two people can pound sand.
2. Clark Griswold Sr.
Well sir, I present the following tweet as evidence:
This, of course, is when Clark Sr. is consoling his son, explaining that not everything is perfect. Clark Jr. is upset because his big old-fashion family Christmas isn’t going as planned and he wants to know how his dad did it back in the day.
With help from Jack Daniel’s, of course.
Clark Sr. is a true O.G. family man. He never let his kids see him sweat and worked out his frustrations in private. I respect that. I want to know more about that; I want to know how a dad pulls that off.
More importantly, Clark Sr. knew what to say and when to say it and that’s just Good Dad 101.
I don’t care if Snots (I always thought it was “Snot” but I did some research and, yes, it’s “Snots”) has “a bit of Mississippi Leg Hound in him” or not. I like dogs. I love dogs. Cats are fine. I don’t have any problems with cats. I mean, I don’t trust them and think they’re always up to something, but other than that, I’m cool with cats.
But dogs are just the best.
I know Snots has his issues and might not be the most well-behaved dog out there but I’m fine with that. He’s a little rough around the edges. Big deal. Who among us isn’t also a little rough around the edges?
If you have a dog, then you know that just chilling with a dog is one of the best things in the world. Happiness is sitting back—whether it’s on your couch or on a deck or in a park—and relaxing with a dog by your side. Dogs have a way of telling you that everything is going to be OK and it’s incredibly reassuring. You need that from time to time, especially these days when things are so fast-paced and frantic and crazy.
It’s a lot and the calm that a dog can provide is a game-changer.
So what if Snots is going to tear through the trash or hump my leg until it damn near falls off? I can get past that and I’m sure you could too.
Well, unless you’re not a dog person.
Then there’s always Clark Sr. if that’s more your speed.