Christmas Specials Wiki
Christmas Specials Wiki

NationalLampoonsChristmasVacation Poster

The poster for the film's theatrical release.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (titled National Lampoon's Winter Holiday in the United Kingdom) is a 1989 Christmas comedy film directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. It is the third installment in the National Lampoon's Vacation film series (following 1983's National Lampoon's Vacation and 1985's National Lampoon's European Vacation, and preceding 1997's Vegas Vacation), and is also considered the most popular movie in the series. It was written by John Hughes, based on his short story "Christmas ‘59", published in the December 1980 issue of National Lampoon magazine.

The film debuted at #2 at the box-office while grossing $11,750,203 during the opening weekend, behind Back to the Future Part II. The movie eventually topped the box-office charts in its third week of release and remained #1 the following weekend. It went on to gross a total of $71,319,546 in the United States while showing in movie theaters.[1]


The film begins with Clark Griswold taking his family - consisting of his wife, Ellen, their daughter, Audrey, and son, Rusty - on the search for a perfect Christmas tree. After aggravating nearby motorists, getting stuck under a big rig, and walking in the woods for a long time, he finally finds the tree he's looking for. Unfortunately, because they forgot to bring a saw or any tools to cut it down, Clark is forced to dig it out of the ground. When they bring it home, he breaks several windows and gets covered in tree sap setting it up, as it barely fits in the yard, let alone the living room.

Later, while shopping for gifts at a downtown Chicago department store, Clark meets a saleswoman named Mary. He makes a series of Freudian slips to her on their first encounter, and later fantasizes about her skinny-dipping in his future pool (interrupted by his cousin-in-law's daughter).

Clark has been working on a project at his firm which he expects will bring in a good Christmas bonus. He plans to use the bonus to put in a swimming pool, which he has already laid down a $7,500 deposit on.


As Christmas approaches, the many relatives of Clark's extended family begin arriving to stay with him. His and Ellen's parents are the first to arrive. This drives him to go set up the lighting on the house with Rusty. He covers nearly every inch of the home's exterior and yard with lights (according to himself, a grand total of 25,000 Christmas lights). He becomes very frustrated after many attempts to get them working. Unknown to him, the electricity wasn't on to begin with. When Ellen heads to the back store room to get something, she flips a light switch, lighting the house (and causing the power plant to switch to nuclear generators for backup power), and blinding their unfriendly yuppie neighbors. After the lights are up and running, Ellen's cousin and cousin-in-law, Eddie and Catherine, along with their children, show up to stay with him for a month, with their dilapidated, rusty RV parked in the driveway the whole time. Stifling his disappointment at their surprise arrival proves difficult for Clark. However, he and Ellen are concerned about Eddie's children, as they won't have many, if any, gifts for Christmas, due to Eddie's seven year unemployment. Later on, Clark treats Rusty, Eddie, Catherine, and others to a sledding trip. He then adds a sheeting of a "Non-Choloric, Silicon-Based Kitchen Lubricant" that his company had made, but results in the chemical compound shooting him at 800 mph for about one mile, leading to him becoming severely injured.

On Christmas Eve, the eldest relatives, Uncle Lewis and Aunt Bethany, arrive for dinner. Numerous disasters occur that evening: the turkey is cooked for far too long and it dries out, Aunt Bethany's white Persian cat is electrocuted when it chews on a strand of Christmas lights, Uncle Lewis burns the tree down while lighting a cigar, forcing Clark to quickly search for a replacement. He takes one from the yard and sets it up, and a maniac squirrel leaps out and "terrorizes" everyone. A delivery from the company arrives at the house that evening, everyone expecting it to be the long-awaited bonus. Unfortunately, Clark's boss cut out bonuses without informing his employees. As a substitute, Clark is enrolled in the "Jelly of the Month" club.

Clark has now reached his boiling point, going through several outbursts out of severe frustration. Everyone attempts to leave due to the events of the evening. Eddie then kidnaps Clark's boss, and he finally sees reason about the Christmas bonuses. A SWAT team, called by Ellen, raids the home, but he explains that it is all a misunderstanding and admits he was wrong to withhold bonuses from his employees. He then decides to give Clark his bonus, along with an added 20%.

Uncle Lewis' cigar ignites the gas from the sewage Eddie had earlier dumped down the storm drain while emptying the holding tank on his RV, blasting a Santa ornament into the sky. The film ends as Aunt Bethany sings the National Anthem as everyone watches the strange but touching sight, as Clark realizes his dream of the perfect, albeit weird, family Christmas.


The film's score was composed by Angelo Badalamenti and conducted by Shirley Walker.

Soloist Instrument
Tom Boyd Oboe
Jeff Bunnell Trumpet
George Doering Guitar
Norman Ludwin Bass
James Thatcher French horn
Michael Waldrop Drummer


Title Performed by
"Christmas Vacation" Mavis Staples
"That Spirit of Christmas" Ray Charles
"Mele Kalikimaka" Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters
"Hey, Santa Claus" The Moonglows
"Here Comes Santa Claus" Gene Autry
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

This is the only installment of the National Lampoon's Vacation movies that does not include Lindsey Buckingham's song "Holiday Road".

Home video releases[]



Jeremiah Chechik's cameo on the cover of People Magazine.

  • The film's director, Jeremiah S. Chechik, has a cameo on the cover of the People Magazine issue that Clark reads.
  • The label on the home movie reel that Clark finds in the attic is labeled "Xmas '59", in reference to the original short story.
  • This was the last movie to feature the late Mae Questel (who played Aunt Bethany) before her death. She was best known as the original voice of both Betty Boop and Olive Oyl from the Popeye cartoons, and had even reprised her role as the former character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit the previous year.


Actor/actress Character(s)
Chevy Chase Clark Griswold, Jr. (adult)
Devin Baileyn (uncredited) Clark Griswold, Jr. (age 9)
Beverly D'Angelo Ellen Griswold
Juliette Lewis Audrey Griswold
Johnny Galecki Rusty Griswold
John Randolph Clark Griswold, Sr.
Diane Ladd Nora Griswold
E.G. Marshall Art Smith
Doris Roberts Francis Smith
Randy Quaid Cousin Eddie Johnson
Miriam Flynn Cousin Catherine Johnson
Cody Burger Cousin Rocky Johnson
Ellen Hamilton Latzen Cousin Ruby Johnson
William Hickey Uncle Lewis
Mae Questel Aunt Bethany
Sam McMurray Bill
Nicholas Guest Todd Chester
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Margo Chester
Nicolette Scorsese Mary
Keith MacKechnie Speed Ball Delivery Boy
Brian Doyle Murray Frank Shirley
Natalia Nogulich Mrs. Shirley
Tony Epper
Hank Hooker
Alexander Folk SWAT officer
Jeremy Roberts
Woody Weaver
Michael Kaufman Young executive
Doug Llewellyn (voice) Parade announcer




See also[]

External links[]

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Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Pictures Christmas in ConnecticutGremlinsLethal WeaponNational Lampoon's Christmas VacationBatman ReturnsJack FrostThe Polar ExpressKiss Kiss Bang BangFred Claus
New Line Cinema The Long Kiss GoodnightElfThe Nativity StoryFour ChristmasesA Very Harold & Kumar 3D ChristmasThe Conjuring 2Collateral BeautyShazam!8-Bit Christmas
Blue Ribbon Content A Christmas Story 2A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish
Warner Bros. Television National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island AdventureThe Year Without a Santa ClausChristmas on the Square
Live-action television episodes
Friends and Joey "The One With the Monkey" • "The One With Phoebe's Dad" • "The One Where Rachel Quits" • "The One With the Girl from Poughkeepsie" • "The One With the Inappropriate Sister" • "The One With the Routine" • "The One With All the Candy" • "The One With the Holiday Armadillo" • "The One With Monica's Boots" • "The One with Ross's Step Forward" • "The One With the Creepy Holiday Card" • "The One With Christmas in Tulsa" • "Joey and the Plot Twist" • "Joey and the Christmas Party"
DC Comics "Season's Greedings" • "Home is Where the Hurt Is" • "Twas the Night Before Mxymas" • "Lexmas" • "Gemini" • "Year's End" • "Three Ghosts"
Other shows "A Semi-Merry Christmas" • "Mel, the Magi" • "Mel's Christmas Carol" • "'Tis the Season to Be Jealous" • "A Christmas Story" (Growing Pains) • "The Kid" • "It's Not Easy Being Green" • "A Christmas Story" (Just the Ten of Us) • "Santa Goes Downtown" • "Let It Snow" • "The Night Court Before Christmas" • "Santa on the Lam" • "Have Yourself a Merry Winslow Christmas" • "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Urkel" • "Christmas is Where the Heart is" • "Miracle on Elm Street" • "Fa La La La Laagghh!" • "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" • "Deck the Malls" • "The Christmas Show" • "The Man Who Canceled Christmas" • "Christmas Day-Ja Vu" • "A Country Christmas" • "The Gift" • "A Miracle Happens Here" • "Homeless for the Holidays" • "Do You See What I See" • "The Miracle Worker" • "How the Finch Stole Christmas" • "The Greatest of Gifts" • "I'll Be Home For Christmas" • "Hindsight" • "Twas the Night" • "All About Christmas Eve" • "City of Mercy" • "Meet the Cuban Parents" • "Christmas Punch" • "A Clear and Presentless Danger" • "George is Being Elfish and Christ-Misses His Family" • "Santa's Secret Stuff" • "A Very Supernatural Christmas" • "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" • "The Maternal Congruence" • "The Santa Simulation" • "The Cooper Extraction" • "The Clean Room Infiltration" • "Christmas" (The Middle) • "A Simple Christmas" • "A Christmas Gift" • "Christmas Help" • "The Christmas Tree" • "The Christmas Wall" • "Not So Silent Night" • "A Very Marry Christmas" • "The Christmas Miracle" • "It's Beginning to Stink a Lot Like Christmas" • "Jolly Red Elf" • "The World Ain't Over 'Till It's Over" • "Santa's Village of the Damned" • "Walnuts and Demerol" • "Warning, It's Dirty" • "One False Move, Zimbabwe!" • "Give Santa a Tail-Hole" • "On Vodka, On Soda, On Blender, On Mixer" • "Family, Bublé, Deep-Fried Turkey" • "Home for Christmas" • "Jingle Bell Glock" • "The Walk-Out" • "Yule Never Know" • "Merry Ex-Mas" • "A Very Carrie Christmas" • "Veronica's Christmas Song" • "Veronica's Secret Santa" • "An Echolls Family Christmas" • "One Angry Veronica" • "Hell Hath No Furies"
Animated productions
Looney Tunes and related shows The Shanty Where Santy Claus LivesBedtime for SnifflesGift WrappedBugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales • "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special" • "'Twas the Day Before Christmas" • "Jingle Boo" • "The Great Wakkorotti: The Holiday Concert" • "A Christmas Plotz" • "Little Drummer Warners" • "No Time for Christmas" • "A Pinky and the Brain Christmas" • "It Happened One Night Before Christmas" • "In Arms Way" • "The Twelve Days of Christmas" • Christmas Eve with Yakko, Wakko & Dot • "Noel" • "The Christmas Tree" • "The Banks of the Delaware River" • "Feather Christmas" • "Yule Be Sorry" • "Christmas in July" • Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas • "A Christmas Carol" • "Tis the Seasoning" • "Winter Blunderland" • "The Legend of Burrito Monday" • Bugs Bunny's 24-Carrot Holiday Special • "Looneyburg Lights" • "How the Brain Thieved Christmas" • "Santamaniacs"
DC Comics "Christmas With the Joker" • "Holiday Knights" • "Frozen Out" • "Comfort and Joy" • "Storybook Holiday" • "Invasion of the Secret Santas!" • "Second Christmas" • "The True Meaning of Christmas" • "Halloween v Christmas" • "Teen Titans Save Christmas" • "Party Animal" • "Beast Boy on a Shelf" / "Christmas Crusaders" • "A Holiday Story"
Hanna-Barbera co-productions "A Dickens of a Christmas" • A Scooby-Doo! Christmas • "Ho Ho Horrors" • Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker TaleScooby-Doo! Haunted HolidaysTom and Jerry: Santa's Little Helpers • "The Plight Before Christmas" • "Scary Christmas" • "Scroogey Doo" • "It's a Wacky Life" • "Dashing Thru the Snow" • "Signed, Sealed and Wacky" • "The Spirit of Frostnos" • Tom and Jerry: Snowman's Land
Other cartoons "Yuletide and Redtide" • A Cool Like That Christmas • "Santa Mask" • The Polar Express • "The Match Before Xmas" • A Miser Brothers' Christmas • "Da Grinchy Code / Duck" • "FROST / Undercover Claus" • "Fantastic Four Christmases / Red and White Collar" • Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas • "Christmas in Oz" • "Top of the Naughty List" • "Mandora Saves Christmas" • Beebo Saves Christmas
Have Yourself a Looney Tunes ChristmasA Hip-Hopera ChristmasMerry Christmas: Animaniacs & Looney TunesThe Looney Tunes Kwazy ChristmasA Looney Tunes Sing-A-Long Christmas