Our Evil Child will travel here in a few days. I realize that most families watch Jimmy Stewart pitchers at this time of year, but for us, part of our war on Christmas is to screen Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947). It’s one of the very few things left in the world that haven’t been subsumed into the craven iconography of the Nazarene carpenter’s birth, including the date on which it is celebrated.

Out of the Past, 1947

But along with the incorrect date — there’s nothing about December 25th anywhere in the Bible1 — we get Teutonic elves, red-suited polar toy-makers, flashing lights, flying deer, pagan tree worship, ghosts, snowy scenes in the Levantine desert, Meleagris Gallopavo (otherwise known as the North American Turkey), Elvis Presley (but only from the End Times, or Judo Period, of his career), chestnuts, Druidic mistletoe cults, the ancient flu remedy posset (usually called “eggnog”), gingerbread homunculi, miniature striped blindman’s canes, inflatable festive Apache AH-64 choppers in front yards, and so on. No wonder America’s Puritan settlers got the whole holiday banned.

She’s old enough now, too, to read between the lines. Not long ago, she would have taken Mitchum to mean that Jane Greer might not turn up immediately.

  1. Only about three centuries (AD 336) after Jesus’s death does the Gregorian date 25/12 assume any connection with his birth.