So many things have been upended and turned on their head during the pandemic - so many things cancelled, postponed, re-arranged - but the one thing that has remained constant is our Saturday family movie night.
Come 6pm or 7pm, you’ll find us all huddled in our sitting room, movie projected onto our back wall, munching on popcorn. Anything could be going on in the world outside - but for that hour and a half to two hours, it’s just the four of us, engrossed in whatever fantasy, or tale, or adventure that is on the big screen.
It’s the one thing that we have been able to control.
We started these movie nights after then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made his famous speech on March 17, 2020 - two weeks later we were in lockdown and all we had was the four walls around us.
It was something we could all sit down and do together at the end of another week, as we navigated this pandemic as best we could. It cost us nothing - after half our household income was gone in an instant, that was an important part too.
The first week, the kids were so excited about this ‘new’ Saturday movie family night that they made tickets for everyone and had name plaques on the seats.
Week in, week out, our front room is turned into a mini cinema of sorts - the furniture gets shuffled around, the projector gets pulled out, bean bags are rolled down the stairs and cosy blankets are wrapped around us. We all start out on our own seats or bean bags, but inevitably, someone ends up on someone’s lap for a cuddle, usually the youngest.
In the interest of democracy, we take it in turns to choose what the screening of the night is! Our eldest picks the movie first, then our youngest the following week, then it’s my turn to choose (although most of the time I tend to forfeit my turn for the sake of peace) then it’s my husband’s choice - who’ll rarely, if ever, give up his turn! Movie buff that he is. And then the cycle starts all over again.
Back in March, 2020, we started with some old classics, like The Goonies, ET, Big, Harry and the Hendersons… We use everything from Netflix, to Disney Plus, and DVDs - my husband studied filmmaking in college and so has a large collection. Going to the movies with his dad as a child is a memory he speaks fondly of, often.
Going back to these oldie movies may have been a way for us to relive a bit of our childhood days - a time in our lives when we were safe and happy, carefree. Or maybe we just wanted to share the love we had for those classic films with our kids, now that they were the perfect age and we finally had the time to do so - a time to slow down, to pause, not to be running and racing.
Our viewing over the weeks and months progressed to Star Wars, the Avengers movies and recently the X Men series. If I am totally honest, these are things I never thought I would be watching! But I’ve enjoyed them all.
We did a big Harry Potter binge last Christmas, as our eldest had read the books. Saturday movie night turned into a bit of a Christmas week-long movie event.
Heading into another Christmas season, we made a start last month with Home Alone (the new version) then the classic Home Alone (the original is much better, can I add!) and then Elf - which really never fails to make us laugh until we want to throw up. Tonight it’ll have to be another festive film. And over the holidays, a re-watch of Harry Potter is most certainly on our radar again.
Yes, the kids go to bed really tired… and we never seem to get the Sunday morning lie in pay off - but more importantly, they go to bed happy. Maybe it’s the belly full of popcorn… or I’d like to think it’s just the time sitting together, finding comfort in each other’s company, happy doing something that we love - oblivious to what’s going out in the world outside - something that is even more important now, given the Omicron variant and the unknowns we face in the weeks ahead.
Over the past almost two years, we missed maybe two or three movie nights - one when my husband and I snuck away for a weekend and my brother babysat (he kept up the movie tradition at his house). The only other Saturdays we missed were one or two hot summer days, when we simply couldn’t justify sitting in the darkness watching a movie.
We’ve only been to the cinema maybe twice during the pandemic - something we used to love to do too as a family. The first time we went, cinemas were reduced capacity. The second time that had been removed and I felt hugely uncomfortable sitting so close to a stranger… almost shoulder to shoulder.
Sometimes we over-think and over-look the simple joys in our lives. At this time of year, when we are drowning in consumerism, maybe we need to look and see what are the little things we can enjoy with our families, week in, week out.
You don’t necessarily need a bit projector screen, or a subscription to Disney Plus - but my advice is to snuggle up, grab the remote and watch whatever family movie is on the TV!
Santa Claus the Movie
The Polar Express
A Christmas Carol
Miracle on 34th Street
The Christmas Chronicles
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
Lego Star Wars Holiday Special
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Nightmare Before Christmas