Christmas is a holiday of tradition, even for those who don’t celebrate its religious elements, and those traditions have a lot to do with entertainment. Radio stations get all holly-jolly, your favorite TV shows air special episodes, and the same handful of movies are shown in heavy rotation. It’s A Wonderful Life, one of the umpteen versions of A Christmas Carol, and even the relatively more contemporary but still classic A Christmas Story are all staples. But Home Alone?
Yes, in Poland, Home Alone is the national Christmas classic, having aired on television there every year since its release and drawing a record audience of over 5 million people in 2011, making it the most-watched program to air that season.
Polish culture writer Bartosz Staszczyszyn describes the origin of the phenomenon:
“When the blockbuster first hit the cinemas, and then the TV screens across a Poland of the 1990s, 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 on object of worship. The United States were an unreachable paradise for those who lived behind the iron curtain. The only things that seeped through to Poland were some action films and – less frequently – packages full of Western goods sent in by relatives from abroad. On the threshold of the 1990s, Kevin McCallister became an ambassador of the better, Western world. A brief wave of patriotic war films of Reagan’s epoch had previously sweeped [sic] through Poland, with Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone and Clint Eastwood becoming the imported icons of bravery. But Home Alone’s Kevin was the first child hero to mark our consciousness in such a strong way.”
Older generations joined young Kevin McAllister fans in gathering around the TV to watch Macaulay Culkin’s career-making turn as the precocious boy left to defend his family home from bumbling would-be burglars when he’s left, y’know, home alone, and a nationwide tradition was galvanized.
Catherine O’Hara, who also stars in the film as Mrs. McAllister, told The Independent that “neither she nor Columbus quite ‘get’ the Polish obsession,” but I’m certain they welcome the unexpected Polish adoration.