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Holiday survival guide: Tips from film and television

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By Emily Christianson, Los Angeles Times

Don’t let hectic shopping trips, grouchy relatives and complicated recipes zap all your holiday spirit this season. Reclaim the joy and learn a lesson or two from other people’s mistakes -- in this case, your favorite families and friends from film and television. Before you cut down a tree 10 times too big for your living room or burn the Christmas bird, read our survival guide to the holidays. (Warner Bros. / Fox / Miramax / Disney)
<b>Tip: Spread some holiday cheer</b>
Show your friends, family and community you care by spreading a little holiday cheer. If you don’t have the pipes to pull off a performance like the kids at “Glee’s” William McKinley High School did for their teachers, try caroling, baking or donating your time. (Fox)
<b>Tip: Shop early</b>
Don’t find yourself fighting the crowds in the last-minute shopping rush like Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Myron Larabee (Sinbad) in “Jingle All the Way.” These two dads crossed paths one Christmas Eve trying to find the most coveted toy of the year: Turbo-Man. So desperate in their quest, they turned to breaking and entering, stealing and buying from crooked toy dealers -- to no avail. (Murray Close / 20th Century Fox)
<b>Tip: Go easy on the decorations</b>
If Christmas decorations make you giddy, you might share in the enthusiastic approach of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase). As he finds out in “Christmas Vacation,” sometimes bigger isn’t better. Clark’s over-sized Christmas tree takes out several windows once he gets it home. Next come the lights -- 25,000 of them. First they don’t work and then they zap the local power grid. The excess just isn’t worth the headache. (Warner Bros.)
<b>Tip: Behave yourself at the office party</b>
Lay off the spirits at the office holiday party or risk an embarrassing episode with your coworkers. Case in point: Meredith (Kate Flannery) flashing Michael (Steve Carell) after “The Office” Christmas bash. Bet she was kicking herself the next day. (NBC)
<b>Tip: Avoid wearing sweaters featuring Santa, reindeer or snowmen (unless you’re attending an ugly sweater party)</b>
Even if your mother gives you a reindeer jumper for Christmas, don’t humiliate yourself by wearing it. Mark Darcy’s (Colin Firth) holiday sweater in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” proves that it doesn’t matter how good-looking you are, you still can’t pull it off. (Miramax)
<b>Tip: Travel light, but don’t forget the kids</b>
Even the most experienced travelers get harried during the holidays, but keep your head on straight. The most extreme example to avoid might be “Home Alone.” As the McAllisters and their extended family are rushing out to the airport for their big trip to Paris, they forget one thing: Kevin. Luckily, the little guy does OK for himself. This year, be prepared and hopefully you won’t forget your plane tickets, neck pillow or a family member in the rush. (Don Smetzer / 20th Century Fox)
<b>Tip: Start your own holiday traditions</b>
If “It’s a Very Sunny Christmas” taught us anything, it’s that some traditions are meant to be broken. While Mac (Rob McElhenney) realizes his family’s practice of sneaking into the neighbors’ house Christmas morning to open presents was actually stealing, Charlie (Charlie Day) realizes that the Santa Clauses coming over to his house were actually sleeping with his mom. Meanwhile, Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) want to teach Frank (Danny DeVito) a lesson so he’ll to stop buying everything on their wish lists for himself. Sometimes change is a good thing. (FX)
<b>Tip: Cook like Julia Child</b>
If Julie Powell could learn to cook like the culinary queen Julia Child in “Julie and Julia”, so can you. Just remember, practice makes perfect. (David Giesbrecht / Columbia Pictures)
<b>Tip: Give this holiday season</b>
It doesn’t pay to be a miser, at least according to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” So, drop the Scrooge act and give this holiday season ... or risk visits from the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. (Disney)
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