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What if we put everything we loved about Christmas into a Tournament Bracket?

I love Christmas. I love March Madness. It’s about the same deal for me. A month long celebration of something I love. Each day is a present. During December each day gives us something we love about the Christmas holiday, from parties to music, to enjoying movies, decorating, and time with family. And on December 25th, it’s literally a present with gifts we open and gifts we give others. When March rolls around for the NCAA basketball tournament each day of the tournament is a gift as well for me, all of the great action going on, the cinderella upsets, filling out the brackets, cheering your own team on, watching the team stories and individual stories develop. It’s a multi day community event as well. Many of us turn our attention to the madness. The same as we do with Christmas. The NCAA tournament takes place over about twenty days. Christmas falls on the 25th of December as well all know. While the wait for Christmas usually starts on everyone’s watch at Thanksgiving….that’s also comparable as the wait to Selection Sunday for the big dance starts with the conference tournaments about a week to ten days before.

As a Christian there is no comparison of the two of course. I love Advent season. I love the religious elements of the Christmas holiday. But I also appreciate the secular festivities of the season as well. Even more narrow, I love our American traditions to the Christmas season. So there is no comparison to the significance of the day of Christmas itself with a silly sports tournament. That said, as a sports fan, I think the NCAA basketball tournament is thing of beauty. It’s just pure joy to watch. Much like Christmas, there are office parties and discussions about what is going on. How we celebrate both occasions I find oddly similar despite the deficit in the level of seriousness between the two. Both times of the year I anticipate all year long.

This year I wondered what it would be like if I combined the two? I do an occasional podcast called American Awakening, and every year I do a Christmas series of shows with a different theme. This year I decided that theme would be a Christmas tournament. I selected 100 Christmas traditions, symbols, characters, songs, artists, movies, television specials, songs, decorations, foods, etc. and put them up head to head against each other in a bracket much like the NCAA basketball tournament. Now the NCAA tournament is an eventual field of 64. I tried to make my tournament that, but it just proved too difficult. I ended up with 100 “teams” in the field. I tried to pick items with universal appeal, along with a nod to a few niche selections with great followings. The bracket is divided into four regions.

Ages 1 to 92 (Traditions for kids and kids at heart.)

Seasons Greetings (Christmas decorations, symbols)

Christmiscellaneous (Anything and everything)

Do You Hear What I Hear (Christmas entertainment)

I’m allowing people to vote by commenting on my Facebook page, emailing or messaging me their picks, or on polls on my Twitter account. @brandonjames #ChristmasIconTournament

Much like the NCAA tournament, it’s not a perfect science, and I left room for criticism and controversy…somewhat on purpose. That’s part of the fun of the NCAA tournament. The buble teams, who’s in and out, who got the shaft, and so on. For example, is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Many people say YES. So it made the cut…but in doing so I chose to have it represented by a character, a villain, no less, in Hans Gruber. The great movie A Christmas Story is represented a few times, with the movie itself and also with characters and items from the movie — Ralphie, Bumpus Hounds, and the Leg Lamp. It’s A Wonderful Life is represented with the movie title as well as the character George Bailey. Think of it as in the case of the NCAA tournament when a conference gets multiple teams into the tournament. Admittedly this initial tournament is loaded with my own bias, but I tried to be very objective and make selections I thought would have wide appeal, a mix of fun and serious, old and new, classic & traditional along with modern, sentimental and trivial, charitable and excess, religious and secular, timeless and the trendy. Still, it certainly wasn’t perfect, and I’m all for suggestions to make this a yearly event.

As a result, some Christmasy things didn’t make my cut. Here’s some examples of what didn’t make it in which one could make a deserving case to be included: Nutcracker, Garland, numerous Christmas songs, the comical line “jingle bells batman smells”, Rankin/Bass productions as an entirety, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the movies Toy Story, Holiday Inn, Little Shop Around The Corner, Jingle All The Way and the Santa Clause series starring Tim Allen. We could make this list go on and on. It is actually my hope this becomes a new tradition with each year bringing a new field to the table so some things left out in years past get a chance the following year for Yuletide glory. Plus each year there could be new match ups between former teams. But first thing first, let’s get through the 2016 tournament. Here is the 100 team field and why I selected each team.

Here it is, the Road To The North Pole! The Full bracket:

Notably Jesus is missing with the explanation on the bracket page. I explained earlier how important my faith is and that is my primary love for the Christmas holiday. Christ is already the ultimate symbol. I felt it was below Him and the holiday to insert him into a fun but trivial part of holiday enjoyment. That said, I did ensure that religious elements of the holiday season were included: Nativity Scenes and Advent Calendars for example.

Santa Claus is the overall number one seed. I actually didn’t seed teams by rankings, but I did consider Santa Claus to be the number one seed of the tournament. He has the top slot in the Ages 1 to 92 region.

The other number one seeds:

Christmas Trees (Seasons Greetings region)

George Bailey (Christmiscellaneous region)

White Christmas (Do You Hear What I Hear region)

Santa Claus seemed like the logical overall number one. Christmas Trees seemed like another logical choice, especially as the top seed for Seasons Greetings region which is all about symbols. White Christmas is said to be the most recognizable Christmas song, so it got the top slot in Do You Hear What I Hear region. For the Chrismiscellaneous region I made the fictional character from It’s A Wonderful Life the top dog. I felt that George Bailey represents many of us and what we hope to live out in our treatment of others. I felt White Christmas deserved a top spot of its own, so George Bailey was put into the Christmiscellaneous region, while the movie It’s A Wonderful Life did get a spot itself in that entertainment division of Do You Hear What I Hear.

I tried to mix in some exciting first round match ups, as well as set a path for good future matches in the bracket. For example start with the Ages 1 to 92 Region, in the first round the Chipmunks faced The Muppets and John Denver. How about the Burl Ives Snowman vs Frosty the Snowman? Nestor The Long Eared Christmas Donkey (Claymation Christmas movie) took on Dominick The Italian Christmas Donkey (Lou Monte song). The first round byes in the Ages 1 to 92 region were Santa Claus, Twas The Night Before Christmas, Santa Tracker (your Christmas Eve weatherman update), Charlie Brown Christmas, Christmas Cookies, Yukon Cornelius & Bumble from Rudolph, and Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer himself.

Looking at the Season Greetings region there was a battle of tree toppers — Angels vs Stars. A play on words with Caroling vs. Wrapping. Fruitcakes vs. Gingerbread Houses. Religious elements squared off in a pod section. In Seasons Greetings I placed Midnight Mass against 12 Days of Christmas (also a ChristmasTIME battle) who would face the Advent Calendar who had a first round bye. Below it is the War on Christmas facing Light Displays. While the “War on Christmas” (real or imagined) is diametrically opposed to the celebration of the holiday, at least in the public square, the ongoing yearly fights have seemingly become a Christmas tradition itself. What better match than the War on Christmas to face Light displays and the winner then facing Nativity Scenes? And that winner facing the Advent Calendar/Midnight Mass/12 Days of Christmas winner? The first round byes for Seasons Greetings were: Christmas Trees, Stockings, Christmas Eve, Candy Canes, Christmas Morning, Advent Calendar, and Nativity Scenes.

In the Christmiscellaneous Region I inserted a Christmas villain pod section. Old Man Potter took on Scrooge. While below it was a match of the Grinch vs Burgermeister Meisterburger, two animated Christmas naysayers. Black Friday Shopping vs. Last Minute Shopping seemed like a logical match. The Battle of Trenton is the story of George Washington’s heroic Christmas week battle over the redcoats, Hessians, and crossing the Delaware. That battle faced the Christmas Truce of World War I. Mele Kalikimaka vs Feliz Navidad is not only a battle of Christmas songs, it’s an ethnic Christmas clash. One of my favorite first round matches is Batteries Not Included vs. Some Assembly Required, a fight over Christmas annoyances. The first round byes for Christmiscellaneous were George Bailey, Chestnuts, Egg Nog, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, Red Kettles, Christmas Dinner, and Leg Lamp.

In the Do You Hear What I Hear region my mind was pressed to the limits of pitting matches of Christmas favorites with wide appeal, to deciding what movies, songs, and books perhaps deserved more than one representation, and how those multiple representations would break down to specific elements of what they represented. I also wanted to make sure film, music, and literature of the holiday were adequately represented. I also tried to make matches that made sense, while at the same time setting up a bracket that would present compelling matches further into the tournament. Here’s a look at those matches of Christmas entertainment. A battle of “threes” in the first round between Vince Guaraldi Trio and the Three Spirits who visit Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Next was Ralphie of A Christmas Story vs. Kevin of Home Alone — a fight of mischievous young boys from two of our favorite Christmas comedies. Silent Night vs. Joy to the World presents a fight of Christmas hymns. The winner facing the most recognizable secular Christmas song, and perhaps overall, White Christmas. I put a duo vs. duo match next with Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddie vs. Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. Clark and Eddie presenting the humorous side of Christmas, which Bob and Tiny Tim presenting us the more serious heartwarming charitable side of the season. Both duos come to us from beloved classics, one from literature and one from movieland. Both also represent characters that resonate beyond the stories they are in. The Gift of the Magi is a popular short story I put up against A Christmas Carol, the Dickens classic which prior characters in the field of Scrooge and Bob Cratchit & Tiny Tim, and Three Spirits all come from. The movie Elf was represented by Buddy the Elf himself against the bully from A Christmas Story, Scut Farkus. Home Alone faced Frozen. While Frozen isn’t a Christmas story itself, it is an animated tale doing a lot with winter, with a lovable snowman character and is enjoyed by many children this time of the year. Perhaps another selection should have made the cut instead? While I included it, I gave it the daunting task of facing Home Alone. When you think of modern Christmas music Trans Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller come to mind — both faced each other in round one. While Gene Autry represented traditional Christmas music took on a full class of New School Christmas Music. Consider Mariah Carey, Michael Buble, Piano Guys, Pentatonix, etc in that match. The byes for first round in this region were White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Bing Crosby, and Andy Williams.

I’m predicting a Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, Leg Lamp, and a White Christmas final four. (White Christmas was defeated!) What I’d LIKE to see is a final four of Santa Claus, Christmas Eve, George Bailey, and Andy Williams.

Here’s some of the interesting results after two rounds.

Ages 1 to 92 Region:

Coal has knocked off Krampus, and Elf on a Shelf to face Santa Claus in the round of 32. People preferred the Christmas Pageant to the School Christmas Party. But the pageant couldn’t overcome Twas The Night Before Christmas. Santa’s List narrowly defeated Letters to Santa 51% to 49%. John Denver and The Muppets had a nailbiter against the Chipmunks, also 51 to 49. But when it came to the Muppets vs. Charlie Brown, it was no contest with the Peanuts gang winning 80% to 20%. Mickey’s Christmas Carol won over the Polar Express. Mickey then beat Christmas Cookies. The Burl Ives Snowman probably pulled off the biggest upset of round one 51 to 49. The cinderella story continued as Burl beat out fellow Rudolph alum duo Yukon and Bumble 51 to 49. Nestor took the battle of Christmas Donkeys and then took a commanding loss to Rudolph 80 to 20. Rudolph now faces Burl Ives Snowman in another inner Rudolph showdown. Charlie Brown Christmas vs. Mickey’s Christmas Carol presents another compelling match in the Ages 1 to 92 region.

Seasons Greetings Region:

You chose Angels over Stars 70 to 30. When it came to Christmas floral the Poinsettia won a close one of 51% to 49%. Wreaths beat Tinsel 65 to 35. Caroling/Wassailing beat Wrapping 65 to 35. The Christmas Village beat out Snow Globe by an astounding 85% to 15%. Gingerbread Houses ran up the same score on Fruitcakes. Secret Santa defeated Returning Gifts. 12 Days of Christmas won over Midnight Mass. Light Displays shut out the War on Christmas 100 to 0. Angels then beat Poinsettias 80 to 20. Christmas Tree gave Wreaths a beatdown 100 to 0. Caroling/Wassailing got the slight edge over Stockings. Christmas Eve was liked 90% to 10% over Christmas Villages. Candy Canes beat Gingerbread Houses 70 to 30. Christmas Morning shutout Secret Santa. Advent Calendar won one of the religious faceoffs 51 to 49 over Advent Calendar. Next up is Nativity Scenes for the Advent Calendar. The winner will face Candy Canes of Christmas Morning. In the top half of the bracket the tree topper (or bible account of the Nativity) face Christmas Trees. Caroling/Wassailing get the task against Christmas Eve.

Christmiscellaneous Region:

Scrooge knocked off Old Man Potter 85 to 15. I thought that would have been closer. Even more drastic was the Grinch at 90% to 10% over Burgermeister Meisterburger. Scrooge then won 60 to 40 over Grinch in round two. We preferred Last Minute Shopping to Black Friday Shopping 55 to 45. I’m still puzzled by that one, but there’s the result. George Bailey took out Last Minute Shopping 70 to 30. George Bailey faces Scrooge next. In the next section people voted for the Hawaiian Merry Christmas of Mele Kalikimaka over the Mexican Feliz Navidad 65 to 35. Chestnuts then beat Mele Kalikimaka 55 to 45. The Battle of Trenton took out the Christmas Truce, 85 to 15. I really thought that was going to be closer, and the opposite direction, even though I’m a huge lover of George Washington. Egg Nog then beat Battle of Trenton by one vote. This gives us a wonderful Christmas food match of Chestnuts and Egg Nog in the round of 32. Bumpus Hounds tore into Hans Gruber 70 to 30. When it comes to frivolous fun of Christmas we liked watching Bowl Games and the NBA Christmas Day Game over the sometimes awkward Work Christmas Party. Bowl Games/NBA was no match for the Salvation Army Red Kettles 60 to 40. Red Kettles faces Bumpus Hounds next. Batteries Not Included had the easy ride over Some Assembly Required at 85 to 15. Christmas Dinner had the bye and took out Batteries Not Included 88% to 12%. I was very surprised that Yule Log/Yule Log on TV not only lost but was crushed by Candles 70 to 30. Next in the Christmas illumination battle Leg Lamp took care of Candles by the score of 75% to 25%. Next is Christmas Dinner vs. Leg Lamp.

Do You Hear What I Hear:

I was pleasantly surprised the Three Spirits of A Christmas Carol beat out the Vince Guaraldi Trio. As much as the light jazz of A Charlie Brown Christmas is adored I expected it to win. Ralphie soundly defeated Kevin McCallister 80 to 20. Ralphie then took out the Spirits 88 to 12. Silent Night won over Joy To the World. Silent Night then pulled off the upset/or maybe not upset over White Christmas, and fairly wide 65 to 35 margin. Silent Night vs. Ralphie presents us debate of wide spectrums next round — music vs film, religious vs secular, comedy/sentimental vs faith/sentimental, old vs new, modern classic vs traditional classic. Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddie won over Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. Clark & Eddie then took out Miracle on 34th Street by a shutout of 100 to 0. A Christmas Carol had the shutout over Gift of the Magi, but lost a close one 55 to 45 to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Christmas Vacation then faces itself against Clark & Cousin Eddie. Do we love the movie itself more, or is it the characters that make us love that crazy Christmas comedy? In the bottom side of the bracket Buddy the Elf socked Scut Farkus with a snowball to move on against It’s A Wonderful Life. Home Alone easily defeated Frozen 90 to 10. It’s A Wonderful Life beat Buddy the Elf 60 to 40. And A Christmas Story had an overwhelming victory over Home Alone 75 to 25. This sets up a great match in the round of 32 — It’s A Wonderful Life against A Christmas Story! In the music pod of the bracket we voted for TSO over Mannheim Steamroller. But we liked the classic crooner of Bing Crosby by a 65 to 35 margin over TSO. The Russian Christmas Express heads home. Gene Autry got the easy win over New School Christmas Music, but was crushed by Andy Williams 88% to 12%. This gives us another amazing game in the round of 32 — Andy Williams, Mr. Christmas himself against the timeless Bing Crosby!

Now so far the sample size on these first two rounds has been small, as it’s been mostly my family and close friends weighing in. I hope to get some more votes for each match as the tournament rolls on. There’s a lot left to decide! Who will advance in the Road to the North Pole?!

The voting is now open for third round to determine the Sweet 16! Here are all the Twitter links for the next match ups. Or go to and comment on each match with your picks.

Coal vs Santa Claus Round 3 Game 1/Ages 1 to 92 Region

Night Before Christmas vs Santa Tracker Round 3 Game 2/Ages 1 to 92 Region

Charlie Brown Christmas vs Mickeys Christmas Carol Round 3 Game 3/Ages 1 to 92 Region

Burl Ives Snowman vs Rudolph Round 3 Game 4/Ages 1 to 92 Region

Angels vs Christmas Trees Round 3 Game 1/Seasons Greetings Region

Caroling/Wassailing vs Christmas Eve Round 3 Game 2/Seasons Greetings Region

Candy Canes vs Christmas Morning Round 3 Game 3/Seasons Greetings Region

Advent Calendar vs Nativity Scenes Round 3 Game 4/Seasons Greetings Region

Scrooge vs George Bailey Round 3 Game 1/Christmiscellaneous Region

Chestnuts vs Egg Nog Round 3 Game 2/Christmiscellaneous Region

Bumpus Hounds vs Red Kettles Round 3 Game 3/Christmiscellaneous Region

Christmas Dinner vs Leg Lamp Round 3 Game 4/Christmiscellaneous Region

Ralphie vs Silent Night Round 3 Game 1/Do You Hear What I Hear Region

Clark Griswold & Cousin Eddie vs Christmas Vacation (characters vs movie itself) Round 3 Game 2/Do You Hear What I Hear Region

Its A Wonderful Life vs A Christmas Story Round 3 Game 3/Do You Hear What I Hear Region

Bing Crosby vs Andy Williams Round 3 Game 4/Do You Hear What I Hear Region