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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Happy Holiday Season!!!

Halloween is finally over – that means the Christmas tree can go up!!

Alea and Breck joyfully (?) show off their handiwork

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Alea and Breck. New tablets for enjoyment during our winter break vacation. Spending the morning downloading apps, uploading books, and getting all the custom settings just right. Off tomorrow for 3 weeks in Vietnam!!

Proud owners of new Samsung Tab 3's

Christmas 2012

Our holiday season was festive and bright! We got the tree up and lights lit in November – the latest we’ve waited in a long time! The White Elephant was a huge success, and we had loads of fun getting everyone set for the holiday. Presents were opened on the 16th, and we are off in the morning for a 3-week adventure through Cambodia and Laos. Happy holidays to all!!


(another installment – probably the second to last – of travel adventures and pictures from our just-completed winter break)

Borobudur is Java’s largest Buddhist temple. Historians think it was constructed before Prambanan during a time when Hinduism and Buddhism co-existed peacefully on the island of Java. According to our LP, when viewed from the air, the structure resembles a colossal three-dimensional tantric mandala. While we can’t speak to that, we sure agree that it looks very much like the thanka we got in Dharamsala!

The temple is visible from all around the surrounding farmlandMist in the Borobudur valley as the sun rises

We woke up at 4:30 one morning to watch the sunrise over Borobudur.  While the clouds hid much of the sun, we still enjoyed the peaceful landscape, rice paddies, lush jungle walk and misty valley. After wake-up drinks, we headed down to the site to beat the real heat of the day.

Before the sun came up, the temple site was shrouded in the morning fog

Morning mistThe Stutz family enjoys the early morning above Borodubur

There are four entrances to the temple – one on each side – and three layers. The first layer represents the human experience. The 2nd level has panels that reveal the life of the Buddha and lessons from Buddhism. The 3rd layer represents enlightenment. The first two layers are square and the top is circular with stupas that have Buddhas on the inside.  A pilgrim (or tourist) can walk clockwise around the entire monument – a total of almost 5 kilometers.

We were true rock stars at the temple - everyone wanted pictures with us!Dave and the girlsThree out of the four Stutz's pose with Buddha and the volcanoA Buddha statue with a new friend...

The sculptures are incredible. There are 2 million stone blocks, 1460 narrative panels, 1212 decorative panels, and over 500 Buddha statues. We marveled over and over that there was such detail left after 1,000 years of rain, earthquakes, and volcanic ash inundations.

The Borodubur stupas look down over the valley belowThe rows of carvings and stupas are silhouetted against the skyFabulous views from on top of the templeFaces in the wall

We noted there were several figures that actually faced into the monument – so the carvings were of the back of the head. This is highly unusual – we’d never seen that in Buddhist sculpture before. There were several scenes of a boat – representing the sea trade between West Africa and Java many hundreds of years ago. There was a museum dedicated to this same boat, as some rich guy from England took it upon himself to build it and re-create the sea voyage!

Boy - were we ready for some cold drinks after traipsing around!!We had to dodge the hordes of hat sellers

Fancy hats

One of the old ladies who sold us the hatsBorodubur at sunset, as seen from our hotel's rooftop

Dream diving vacation

We’re back from our vacation on Lombok and the Gili Islands. We had an absolutely spectacular time learning how to scuba dive and just soaking in the sunlight on some of Indonesia’s deserted white sand beaches. While the lack of internet connectivity cost me any shot at a fantasy football championship, that was a small price to pay for such splendid isolation!

We are throwing a little New Year’s party tonight, so rather than a full travelogue, here are some pictures with quick descriptions from our travels. Click on the first shot to begin – and have a happy new year!!

Holiday Greetings 2011!

The Stutz family is very excited to be sending season’s greetings from a new part of the world (for us!).  After four fabulous and rewarding years at the American School of Bombay, it was time to move on and explore another part of the planet.  In mid-January, we accepted jobs in sunny Jakarta, Indonesia at the Jakarta International School.

It was harder than we expected saying good-bye to India and all our friends and colleagues at ASB; not one of us was dry-eyed boarding the plane in June.  A summer of family and travel brightened our spirits and prepared us for new adventures in Indonesia.

Breck and Alea with their walleyeWe started off the summer in our “new home” in Minnesota, and got right to the serious business of supporting the American economy. Perennial early highlights of our vacation include shopping in Target, chowing down at Denny’s, and playing trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings. This year was doubly special, as we also had the chance to get together for a lunch with Dave’s sister and family, who were in Minnesota visiting their family farm.

Susan’s parents celebrated 50 years of marriage this year, so all five families trooped off to Canada for a week of fishing, playing, laughter and love.  The phrase ‘double double’ still emerges in our home in reference to fabulous fishing: two people, two bites, two fish in the boat and then two minutes later… two people, two bites, two fish in the boat…

Breck and Alea at Devil's TowerLeaving Canada, Susan immediately flew to New York to attend a reading conference, so Dave and the kids took off through Canada to spend a week at the cabin in Rimini. They had an epic journey on the trans-Canadian highway across 4 provinces, and then swung down through Montana and back across to Minnesota. They went through 4 national parks & monuments (Glacier, Little Big Horn, Devil’s Tower, and Mount Rushmore), spent quality time with the Montana Stutz’s, and survived “roughing it” with each other in the very best of spirits.

End of July brought us to Jakarta and we have been busy settling in ever since.  At JIS CIL, Dave teaches 6th grade math and at JIS PEL Susan teaches 1st grade.  Alea is now in high school (with a campus that prepares her for any university in the USA!) while Breck rocks the 7th grade.   We have a lovely, old home in the suburb of Cilandak.  After years in a tiny apartment in Bombay, we are free and easy with single-floor living, a huge lawn and a pool!  We were welcomed to the house by rats who had taken up residence, so Dori and Linsea soon joined the Stutz family as honorary four-legged members.

Alea has adjusted well to high school.  She is taking Spanish III, Physical and Life Science, Asian Studies, Algebra and Geo II, English 9, Concert Band and PE.  She is actively involved in a Gerakan Kepedullian (ask her) service-learning club and LOVES her rock climbing every Monday after school.  She went to Monado for a week of service learning and planted trees at the base of a volcano and removed Crown of Thorns from a local reef.

Breck has Algebra, Science, Drama, PE, World Studies, English, French and Band.  He joined baseball, basketball, softball, and track and field (top 5 in long jump AND javelin at the meet – a huge accomplishment given the size of the schools competing!!).  He also joined an animal rights service club and is supporting the animal aid network where we got Linsea and Dori. Rumor has it he also landed a role in the Middle School drama production for 2nd semester!  Slowly but surely, both kids have made new friends among the 2,500 students here.

After adjusting to a new country, new city, new house, new school, new colleagues, and new friends, we thought we needed something familiar for October break, so we returned to Bali for a week of fun in the sun.  We spent 3 days in Ubud getting our fill of culture and then continued on to Pemuteran Bay so Dave could actually snorkel the scene given he couldn’t last time we were there (because of the infamous monkey attacks!).  We went to Mengangan Island reserve and had a fabulous day of snorkeling – we saw sea turtles, clown fish, jellyfish, hard and soft coral and…  a wonderful day!

December holiday fever has begun as we prepare to go on our first tour around our new host country.  We head off to the Gili Islands near Lombok on the 18th.  All four of us will get PADI open-water diving certified.  Wish us luck!  We’ll also spend a few days driving the interior around Gunung Rinjani, Lombok’s largest volcano.  We’ll fly back to Jakarta for the New Year and then go to Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java.  Our main plan there is to climb the temple ruins of Borobudur and Prambanan.

Dave’s Grandma, Mildred Robison Stutz, died just last month.  She had a long and wonderful life and we celebrate her memory as we head into the holidays.  She was a delightful part of many of our summer trips out West; we are fortunate to have had her in our lives as long as we did.  Dave’s brother, Rob Stutz, is running for Congress for the state of Montana.  Sisters Karla and Shari have helped run, manage, and negotiate an active campaign. We wish him all the best and firmly believe he is the best candidate for the great state of Montana!

We continue to be blessed as a family – we have so much for which to be thankful – and we are!  We send forth all our best wishes to family and friends for a safe, joyous, and wonderful holiday season and 2012.

Christmas time’s a-comin’

And the tree is up! We had a slacker evening for homework, so we decided to get this holiday show on the road. Judging by the cats’ reactions to the new living room denizen, we’ll have to wait a few days to put any decorations on it, but at least the first step has been taken!

A few from Oman…

Yeah, we’re just back from spring break, but still knee deep in Christmas pictures. No promises that they’ll all be up by the time we leave India. I still have shots from Varanasi last May to put up! There are a few on the webpage now to go through, go get ’em while they’re hot…

End of year greeting!

So here it is, our Alea-designed Christmas/New Year’s card. Our yearly summary is much more succinct than usual, but you are welcome to read it.

Merry Christmas 2010!

(click for an even larger version)

Wishing you and yours the very best of holiday seasons!

The Stutz family

Christmas morning!

Presents under the tree!Breck decided, based on a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon he read, to let us sleep in “until quarter to six this year.” Actually, he was very responsible, getting up quietly, looking around, and getting into his stocking (Santa neglected to put up a sheet this year; obviously the beer ‘n cookies bribe worked). The rest of us – with the girls both fighting colds – rolled out of bed around 7:30.

We got the tunes going and the lights on, and busted into the goodies. By the time all was said and done, there were some definite trends in the gifts received. Breck had an “all flying” year, with Star Wars legos, 2 model airplanes, a dart set, and a Wii fighter pilot game. Many of Alea’s gifts were construction-based, with jewelry making, rock tumbling, and dollhouse furniture putting together all making an appearance in her pile. Dave had a heavy metal Christmas, with a set of steel plates and bowls for the cabin, a Ganesh bell set, and a pair of silver candle holders. Susan was picturing the perfect year, with a shot of her and Dave at the PTA gala and an Omani trip.

What a great Christmas morning – now I’ve got to go play Wii with Breck!!

Susan and Alea reading the instructionsBreck making LegosSusan and Dave at the gala

Christmas Eve

Buddha hanging out in the Christmas treeYes, yes, it is technically about a week early, but who really knows what went on in that Judaen manger so many years ago? I’m sure the birthers are demanding a notarized birth certificate, but I’m going to cut JC some slack and claim that celebrating a few days ahead of time is perfectly ok.

We are off to Oman tomorrow for our winter break, and we figured that Santa needed to be able to hook up with us before we took off, so we set the table and got everything all ready for him. Breck and Alea put out cookies and beer, just the sort of thing to encourage him to leave lots of gifts! Unfortunately Mrs. Claus has really not been feeling well the past few days, so that put a bit of a damper on things.

As I was waiting for Kris to show up, I thought I’d take a few artsy fartsy Christmas tree light pictures, and they turned out pretty cool. The thing I found worked well was not to take the pictures of the lights themselves, but rather of their reflection in the window behind the tree.

In any case, I like them, and one of these is now my desktop wallpaper!

Christmas tree lights Christmas tree lights

White Elephant

Breck with his puzzles, Alea's jewelry box, and Susan's 2 gobletsQuick wrap up from last night’s activities – it was a crazy stealing laughing drinking eating evening, and as always, most people went home happy. The poor guy who had the very first pick was stuck all night with a beautiful set of unmatched flower drawings and picture frames – but since he and his wife had the final 2 picks last year, my empathy is diminished somewhat! 🙂

Popular swaps included a bottle of lousy Indian wine, a mini hooka traveling kit, a soap/bangles/brass bowl combination, and two sets of fancy goblets (brought by two different people after each received them as Christmas gifts from the same student!). Susan ended the evening with one of the chalice sets, Dave got the hooka, Alea ended up with a fancy incense bowl or jewelry box (depending on your taste), and Breck got 2 Lost puzzles, a “Deal or No Deal” dvd game, and a mini Stonehenge set. Wow!!

School ended today (with only a half day), and we celebrate Christmas tomorrow and get on out of here to Oman. Winter break, here we come!

Christmas Concert

The Middle and High School bands and choirs held their Christmas Concert this evening, and we had kids playing twice tonight! Breck’s 6th grade band got things going with an especially rousing rendition of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th! See him in the back row on his trombone with the other low brass?

Alea demonstrated beautiful embrasure as her band rocked out to “Legends of the Ghost Dance.” OK, while not really a Christmasy song, it was still pretty cool, with all the thumping percussion and swinging saxophones!

Both kids have worked really hard this year and made huge growth as musicians. Maybe we’ll have to invest in instruments for the family this summer!

And what kind of concert would end without a Stutz wave to the audience? 

Christmas tree lighting ceremony

Tree lighting ceremony 2010Facing what is probably our last Christmas season in Mumbai, we took another step down that holiday road last night with what has become our favorite yearly community event. The elementary school choir sings at the local Grand Hyatt hotel, the tree’s lights are lit, Santa appears, and we all eat ’til we burst courtesy of the best buffet in town.

Although there is a little something disconcerting about celebrating winter and snow as we all stand around sweating in shorts, the evening still manages to convey the best of the season. Throw in the singing voices of a bunch of elementary school kids (and the shuffle-shuffle-shuffle of their parents jockeying for the best spot from which to get that perfect video/picture), and you have the makings of a fun evening.

Last night Susan was not feeling well, so Dad, Alea, and Breck made the Stutz family appearance, and boy did we have a great time! See the pictures and read the rest of the story over on the webpage!

The Christmas season is here

Putting the Christmas tree up for the last time in India!We made it past Halloween this year, but not quite into Thanksgiving. The music has been playing for about a week, and today all the decorations went up too. We did leave the Thanksgiving/fall banner on the door for next week’s feast, but we are all tricked out in our Santa Claus finest.

(that is the tree being assembled in the living room. We have a school function to take care of this afternoon and evening, but maybe I’ll add a night shot of the finished tree and lights)

And by the way, happy birthday, to my littlest sister!

Follow up – here’s the tree at night:

Here's the tree at night!

Final Bali pages

They are finally up and ready! Only three months after the end of the vacation, we have sorted the photos, written the stories, and organized all the different stuff that needs to be organized to post our Pemuteran, Bali pages online and finish the trip!

Allow me my soapbox for a moment: I realize that many people prefer to post things on Facebook after their trips, and I’ve been given some grief for not doing so (*cough* Karla *cough*). I also realize that there are some very important positive aspects to doing so, especially 1) the immediacy and 2) the ability to get feedback.

In all fairness, I could easily enough put together an album of 142 pictures from every trip and upload them the day after our trip (taking care of #1 above). The problem that I see with doing this is that A) then there would be none of the quality control/cropping/etc (aka Photoshopping) that goes in to touching up the pictures on the webpage, B) there would be no descriptors or travel talk like we try to put in the webpages, and C) who really looks through albums of 142 vacation pictures with no idea of what is going on in them?

Since all of these take time, having the choice between putting things on Facebook or my own webpage, I prefer to put them on our own webpage. There is an additional reason to consider: what happens to those pictures on Facebook? If something happens to the site (notice the news about Bebo today?), what happens to all your pictures?

But having said that, I also realize that the number 1 thorn in my side right now is the inability for people to comment on pictures (or even just pages) in a static webpage. That is an ENORMOUS advantage that putting something on Facebook enjoys, and one that I’m really not sure how to address. If I could find a snippet of code that would allow me to turn my Web1.0 pages into something with more interactability, I would certainly do so.

But, until I find that magical snippet of code, please enjoy the Pemuteran pages from our Bali trip!

Bali trip – First stop, Snore!

We’ll get this chronological order stuff figured out someday. Susan wrote the webpages from the first part of our Bali vacation and we’ve got them posted now (even though we already had the second stop online. Go figure).

In any case, our point of origin on the island was the beach resort of Sanur – also known as Snore for its boring nightlife: perfect for us!!

After settling in our villa with some welcome drinks, we spent the next few days, sunning, snorkeling, and recovering from the detrimental epidermal effects of sunning and snorkeling!! Enjoy the pictures…

Bali trip – snorkeling off the east coast

Our second stop over the Christmas vacation was to a dive area on Bali’s east coast.

I’m sure you are saying to yourself, “But wait – what about the first stop?!!” Really, I know you are.

Don’t worry – we are putting these up all out of order. This is the second stop (Amed), next up will be the first stop (Sanur), and then we’ll go on with places three (Ubud) and four (Pemuteran). Trust me.

In any case, the Ahmed webpages for our Christmas trip are now online.They don’t hold any navigation to other parts of the Indonesia pages because, honestly, none exist right now. But scoot on over and enjoy the pictures and stories that are already posted – if you are enjoying a nice cold winter, the sun will help warm you up inside!

Happy New Year – we’re back!

View over the Balinese rice paddies to a volcano in the distanceInstead of the traditional “pine cones and holly berries” this holiday season, we enjoyed “palm trees and lots of snorkeling.” Our Christmas jaunt was to the island paradise of Bali, where we enjoyed 3 weeks of sun, water (both in the seas and from the skies), shopping, and a bit of culture all rolled up with a healthy dose of relaxation.

Part of that relaxation piece was a complete disregard for any sort of electronic access. Sorting through hundreds of emails this weekend has been a daunting task, but I think we’re just about caught up. Now all we have to worry about is school starting again!

In terms of stories and pictures and all, those are all coming up at some point – but not tonight! Here is a quick list of some highlights (and lowlights) of our time in Bali: snorkeling right from the shore, schools of gorgeous fish, colonies of radiant coral, sunburn, sunken warships, rice paddies, motor scooters, monkey attacks, wood carvings, dances and chanting, tropical skin disease, sea turtles, and of course – ice cold Bintang!

We’ll start getting things sort of organized for the webpage and all, but for now this is just a shout out that the Stutz family is back online. Whoo hoo!

Holiday greetings!

Our last post of 2009 is simply a link over to the annual wrap-up letter we sent out. In case you missed the paper version, or just prefer the electronic variety, you can catch up on our events of the past 12 months.

We are currently on holiday in Bali and – deliberately – not electronically connected. How sweet is that?!

Family Christmas Rickshaw

Catching up before taking off

So I finally got around to finish up our Egypt webpages from the trip way back in April. At least I got them online in the same year!

We are leaving Friday evening for an extended vacation to Bali, and will probably not be posting too much between now and the start of the year (although I will pre-post one more entry to appear right around Christmas). On behalf of the Stutz family, let me wish all readers (both of you) the merriest  Christmases and the bestest New Year ever!

Free verse Friday – Rats on the Rooftop

Our first Christmas-themed poem of the season, relating to events from last weekend:

Up on the rooftop, barbecuers pause
Sounds like the clitter clat of little paws
Skitter cross the guard rail with lots of noise
Little ones shriek, both girls and boys

Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go? Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go?
Up on the rooftop, pit-ter pat
Down through the drainpipe with a great big rat

Dead rat in the road (not on the rooftop)We’d always thought that being ‘up’ in a building would protect us from rodential infestations, but apparently not. A group of us saw a rat running around up there while we were cooking dinner – hence the inspiration for this week’s rhyme!

And just for reference, here’s one that was outside our building the other day. Maybe this is what happens is a rat loses his grip and falls…

Merry Christmas!

Because we are on our way to Thailand early, early Monday morning, we’ve combined a number of “Holiday Steps” together.

First and foremost, we wrote up our Season’s Greetings: The 12 Days of Stutzmas for your reading pleasure.

Secondly, we made a special arrangement with Santa to stop by early, so we celebrated Christmas morning a few days ahead of schedule.

And third, to join the Wagner Christmas event, we recorded our very own super-secret 13th Day of Christmas holiday greeting.

As we head out for almost three weeks, we wish everyone the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of New Years, and the jolliest of holiday seasons!!

Udaipur and Hawaii

Two great tastes that taste great together, right?

Actually, they have nothing to do with each other, but both are bouncing around in my brain tonight.

Udaipur is bouncing around for a “good” reason, as I’ve finally finished our trip pages. We visited the city during our Diwali break at the end of October/beginning of November, and what with all sorts of craziness going on here I just have not been able to get the pages done. But – done they are – all eleven of them! I kind of skimped on cool shots from the last day, but Susan already thinks I have enough ‘pictures of India’ anyways, so I guess that’s no big deal.

Hawaii is bouncing around for a “silly” reason. All day long I have been unable to get the Christmas song Mele Kalikimaka out of my head. And all day long it has been echoing through my skull with the word “Hawaii” replaced by “Mumbai.” I finally asked one of the school drivers how to say “Merry Christmas” in Hindi (he didn’t know it in Marathi), and now, to exorcise this demon, I present the verse of the song (hum along in your best Bing Crosby voice):

Shuber Nadal is the thing to say,
On a bright Mumbaiian Christmas Day,
That’s the Hindi greeting that we send to you
From the land where rickshaws sway.
Here we know that Christmas will be hot and bright,
The sun to shine by day and all the fireworks at night,
Shuber Nadal is Mumbai’s way
To say “Merry Christmas to you.”

Please let the madness end!!

Breck, guns, and Christmas movies – oh my!

So I might have made a mistake in my conversations with Breck the other day. We were talking about Christmas movies, and I happened to have a brain flash about one of my favorite Christmas movies – Die Hard.

[Don’t believe me, that Die Hard is a real Christmas movie? Read the rest of the story below, after the tale of today.]

Now, you might think, “Even if Die Hard is a Christmas movie, why tell your kid about it?” Good question, one to which I have no answer.

In any case, Breck was asking what made it a Christmas movie and I was explaining it to him – you know, the lights, the music, the Christmas trees, all that good stuff – when I happened to mention that there was a guy in a Santa suit. Certainly you remember: Bruce Willis sends one of the bad guys down in an elevator with a Santa cap on and wearing a sign that says ‘Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.’

Admittedly another pretty questionable call according to the “What you should tell your kids as a father” handbook.

Well, I got my comeuppance. With all of the beefed up security at our school, guess what the guards are now carrying around? That’s right.

And guess what Breck shouted out in front of all the teachers and parents as we were coming into school today: “Hey dad, it is just like your favorite Christmas movie – Now I have a machine gun, ho ho ho!”

Yes, I got some looks from people. Ah, the joys of parenthood.

(that’s the end of the main post; if you’re not interested in Die Hard (an action movie) then you can quit here)

Now for what makes Die Hard a Christmas classic. I’ve had the thought before, but this blog put it much more eloquently than I could ever hope to to do. Enjoy:

Here it is, the single greatest Christmas movie of all time — no joke, no doubt, no question, it’s Die Hard. And before any quibbling begins, can we agree, in general, that it’s a good movie? Seriously. Step back from the Christmas assertion for just a moment and consider the film as a whole. Die Hard is a classic.

Die Hard ranks 39th on AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Thrills list. Die Hard turned Bruce Willis from a television star into an A-list movie star. Die Hard spawned three sequels. Die Hard spawned countless imitators and wannabes.  And, Die Hard takes place during Christmas.

Sure, it’s not a “traditional” Christmas movie. But it takes place during Christmas, has Christmas carols, and has a number of standard defining characteristics of Christmas films.

First, let’s look at John McClane (Bruce Willis’s character) and who he is. To start with, there’s his name, John McClane. In Irish the prefix “Mc” means “son of,” making him John son of Clane, or J son of C, or, to shorten it further, JC. McClane is therefore a stand-in for Jesus Christ, something the “son of” portion only aids in, as he, Jesus, is the son of God.

And, certainly, McClane is a Christ-like figure. Where do we find him at the beginning of the movie?  In an airplane, returning to Earth. It’s as though he were descending from the Heavens, being sent, as it were, by God back to Earth. And, in Die Hard, it’s on Christmas that John McClane is reborn.

Additionally, this night also represents McClane’s walk in the wilderness, which was a crucially important time in the life of Jesus. Nakatomi Plaza (the building in which the movie takes place) is a perfect stand-in for the wilderness, and it is only after McClane leaves Nakatomi, exiting the wilderness, that he is a changed man. McClane has faced his nightmarish opposite in the form of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Gruber is everything that McClane is not; he is the anti-McClane, much as the Devil is often referred to as the anti-Christ. McClane, like Jesus, has been tempted, and has passed his trials.

One could say that JC has been ‘baptized in blood,’ and then comes back to life. In fact, when the ‘resurrection’ scene begins, John is shown bloody and backlit with radiant light. As he confronts Hans, who is holding his wife hostage, her response on seeing him appear is “Jesus.” Of course, as he gives himself up to Hans, McClane has an ace up his sleeve, but then so too did the son of God.

Putting aside this blatant analogy, the plot of the film as a whole is unquestionably Christmas movie-themed. Outside of their ornamentation, Christmas movies are all notable for having several common principles. Often there is a love story element to these movies (It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol serve as two perfect examples); these love stories always have the couple overcome their difficulties to be stronger in the end.  Check. McClane and his wife are estranged when the film starts, but by the end are together again.

Another similarity that the truly great Christmas movies all share is that they create phrases that enter our popular culture. Examples include “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings;” “God bless us, every one;” and “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Die Hard actually contains one of the most well-known entries into this category: “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf***er.”

It is also essential to note that the film itself is quite clearly trying to be a Christmas movie. It understands that it is not a typical Christmas movie, but it still wishes to be counted in the genre. Remember McClane’s discussion with his limo driver, Argyle, once he gets in the car? Upon hearing the up-beat rap music Argyle has on the radio, McClane asks Argyle about Christmas music, and if there are no carols on. Argyle laughs at McClane and says they are listening to Christmas music and turns up the volume. Sure enough, once the lyrics to the song start, they’re all about Christmas. True, it’s not your traditional Christmas carol, it’s updated, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

So, to recap, Die Hard is a great movie and Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Is there anything then that separates a great movie that happens to take place during Christmas from being a great Christmas movie? Any number of criteria would push a movie from the former to the latter; chief among these criteria is that the movie should promote the spirit of Christmas and the holidays.

Die Hard, as a film, does just this. It is a movie about the triumph of good over evil; more importantly however, it is a movie the throws into stark relief the importance of family, particularly during the holidays. McClane makes his family, during the holidays, the most important thing in the world. He goes through hell in order to rebuild his family and strengthen those bonds. And McClane certainly makes Christmas morning one of the happiest days ever for those he saves.

It’s not easy to believe, but it’s undeniable. Die Hard just may be one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made.