Krakow, Poland – Every year, millions of Poles tune in to national television on Christmas Eve to watch the 1990 US family comedy Home Alone. Not Love Actually, not It’s a Wonderful Life nor Christmas Carol, but Home Alone.
Or rather, Kevin sam w Domu, in its Polish version.
Poland’s Christmas obsession with Home Alone
Yes, Poland is obsessed with Home Alone, and in many households across the country, Christmas wouldn’t truly be Christmas without the cult family movie, placed alongside other fascinatingly odd traditions. Since the early 1990’s, the movie airs every year at Christmas time and usually attracts between four and five million viewers (out of a total population of around 38 million).
And don’t you dare try to take that away from them. As Culture.pl reminds us, “in 2010, a Polish TV channel owning the rights to Home Alone made the decision not to include the film in its holiday schedule. Immediately, the Internet went wild with protests and comments. With specials defenders’ groups created on Facebook, the countless internet pleas resulted in Kevin’s triumphant return. It actually became the biggest TV hit of the 2010 holiday season.”
Many foreigners or outsiders have trouble understanding why people in Poland are so fond of that particular film. The tradition dates back to the early 1990’s during the years following the fall of communism.
“When the blockbuster first hit the cinema, and then the TV screens across Poland in the 1990’s, it was a revelation and a must-see picture for all kids. For those of us born in the last years of Poland’s communist regime, all things American were an object of worship”, wrote Polish film critic Bartosz Staszczyszyn, who bills Home Alone as “Poland’s Christmas Carol of the contemporary era”.
Poles are not the only ones who are obsessed with the movie: families in other Central European countries, including Slovakia, are also huge fans of the film, and similarly tune in every year to watch the adventures of Kevin, an 8-year-old troublemaker inadvertently left behind while his family goes on a trip to Paris, and who has to protect his house from burglars during the Christmas holidays thanks to ingenious booby-traps.
For some, this obsession shouldn’t really be a cause for celebration: Katarina Novakova, a professor at Trnava University, deplored that today’s Slovak Christmas is only “a pale imitation of the past”: “We buy a bottle or two of wine from the store, bake a cake from grandma’s recipe, listen to a CD with some carols, watch Home Alone for the 150th time and eat tangerines”.
Have you been Home Alone’d?
The third feature film of director Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), written by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Uncle Buck, 101 Dalmatians), Home Alone stars 9-year-old Macaulay Kulkin in the main role of Kevin, as well as Joe Pesci, better known for impersonating murdering psychopathic maniacs in Scorsese movies.
The movie was an immediate hit as soon as it was released in the US and all over the world, with total box-office taking of $530 million internationally. This came as a surprise to most people, including those involved in the production. Joe Pesci even admitted he never believed the film would be a success, which is why he gave such an over-the-top performance.
Macaulay Kulkin – who, by the way, was doubled for his stunts by a (short) thirty year-old man – became one of the biggest (and richest) kid stars in the history of cinema. The movie became so popular and record-breaking that it gave its name to a verb: to be Home Alone’d is allegedly used by producers and filmmakers in Hollywood to talk about a movie so successful at the box-office that it crushes the rest of the competition.
So, whether you’ve been Home Alone’d or not, get the popcorn ready and enjoy a truly Central European Christmas with Kevin and the entire McCallister family!