Ah, the holidays. It’s a time to relax, to stuff yourself with delicious food, to spend time to with friends and family, and to…commit the perfect crime. Right?
It may sound a bit jarring, but the film version of Assassin’s Creed (which steals into movie theaters on December 21st) is not the first work to identify the link between the holidays and crime-related capers. Some of the best holiday tales are full of mischief and creative law-breaking! And here at Quirk, we have some particular favorites. Here are the ones that keep us coming back year after year.
The Murder of Simeon Lee – Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot longs for a quiet Christmas in the English countryside with his friend Colonel Johnson, the Chief Constable of a small village. Of course, crime follows Hercule Poirot like jollity follows Santa Claus, and the detective finds himself assisting the police to find out which member of Simeon Lee’s family could have murdered him. The catch? The bedroom door was locked from the inside.
The Lees - Simeon’s sons, their wives, and his granddaughter - were dreading a Christmas with the tyrannical patriarch, who has always tightly controlled the family business and finances. Before his demise, Lee enjoyed belittling his sons, playing them against each other in a quest for his approval. That means anybody could be the killer.
The Lee Christmas may be an extreme example of family conflict, but the novel (written in 1938) certainly touches on an unfortunate reality of holidays. Forced closeness can often lead to thoughts of murder, as anyone who has ever silently muttered over their mashed potatoes as distant uncles expand on their political views knows all too well. That’s why the murder of Simeon Lee makes our list – if you’re one of those people whose holidays might not have Hallmark-card levels of festivity and love, at least you can enjoy the schadenfreude of knowing things weren’t bad enough to drive you to homicide!
The Robbery at the McCallisters – Home Alone
There are so many mistakes and crimes inherent in Home Alone that it seems almost a shame to simply focus on one. Let’s list them:
1. The McCallister family somehow manages to forget their child on a family trip to Paris. Paris. Did they not realize they had an extra ticket going through security?
2. Instead of arranging for an adult guardian to come to Kevin’s rescue, Mom and Pop McCallister simply leave him unsupervised while attempting to return home from Europe. This is child neglect, folks. Which maybe explains Kevin’s more bloodthirsty tendencies…
3. Home Alone rightly points out that empty homes over the holidays are indeed a security risk, but in defending his home from some aggressive would-be robbers, Kevin adopts a scorched-earth policy. He sets numerous booby traps around his empty home, leading to serious injuries of the robbers.
4. Then, of course, there’s the robbery. But we have so many questions about said robbery. Why would the robbers not simply move onto a less vigorously defended house? Why doesn’t Kevin get an adult involved? Does Kevin have any sense of a proportional response?
But there’s something in Home Alone which turns Christmas crime on its head. The love and reunification of the McCallisters overcomes the robbers’ greed, and it’s impossible to watch Kevin’s final reunion with his mother without feeling Christmas cheer warm our cold, dead hearts.
The Takeover of the Nakatomi Building – Die Hard
Hans Gruber’s plan to ruin the Nakatomi Corporation has always seemed a little bit fuzzy. Granted, his grudge seems entirely legitimate – this is an organization which keeps its employees at a mandatory Christmas Eve party after 5 p.m., seems to ignore sexual harassment, and forces workers to listen to “Ode to Joy” on repeat. (The horror…) So when Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his group of German terrorists decide to take over the building, it seems fair. At least they’ll turn off “Ode to Joy,” right?
But despite the work of top-notch actor Alan Rickman (another nice thing taken from us in 2016), the terrorist’s Christmas-related motivations seem far less believable than his interest in taking the Corporation’s millions in bearer bonds. Crazy, right? We mean, who would want those…?
Gruber and his men have no real sense of holiday spirit and certainly express no regret at having left their families behind in Germany for the holidays. Since (spoiler) both bosses who demand holiday overtime – that is, Gruber and Mr. Takagi from the Nakatomi Corporation – end up as causalities of the invasion, perhaps the moral of Die Hard is that it’s best to be a kind boss over the holidays. Throw work/life balance to the wind, and you could end up next in line.
The Theft of Christmas – How the Grinch Stole Christmas
This is the real deal. The big guns. The crime to end all crimes. Stealing Christmas itself is a sin against holiday spirit everywhere.
The classic cartoon we’ve all watched is based on Dr. Seuss’s children’s book and is topped off with the catchy Thurl Ravenscroft song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch.” Most of the emotionally poignant aspects of the cartoon are left unstated, simply understood by the children. For some reason, the Grinch has sequestered himself and his dog Max from companionship, and yet still yearns to be part of the community in Whoville. Sad, right? Still doesn’t excuse his actions.
The recent full-length feature film made the mistake of fleshing out The Grinch’s backstory. Yet he’s always a stronger character when left a bit mysterious. The Grinch is like every person whose scars have left them lonely and in pain at Christmastime, their three-sizes-too-small heart hidden away inside. Unlike all of the other materialistic crimes highlighted here, the Grinch attempted to steal love and cheer, only to realize it’s much nicer when shared within his community. Despite the cliché, there is something really heart-expanding about giving as well as receiving. Say it with us now: awwwwww.
Did we leave your favorite holiday crime out? Share it with us!