1. Religion & Spirituality

'Miracle on 34th Street'


Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street

Can Santa Claus convince people to believe in miracles?

Elizabeth Chat / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Asking Spiritual Questions:

Are miracles possible? Is it silly or worthwhile to believe in something that’s beyond your ability to prove? The classic Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street asks audiences those questions as it presents the story of a man who plays Santa Claus at Macy’s Department Store in New York City and forces the people around him to examine what they really believe about Christmas and the nature of faith itself.

Famous Miracle Quotes:

“Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind ... and that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad I'm here, maybe I can do something about it.”

-- Kris Kringle

“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.” – Fred Gailey

“Look Doris, someday you're going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn't work. And when you do, don't overlook those lovely intangibles. You'll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.” – Fred Gailey

“I believe... I believe... It's silly, but I believe.” – Susan Walker

The Plot:

Macy’s Department Store in New York City needs to hire a new person to play Santa Claus in the store during the Christmas season, and Macy’s employee Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) hires an old man calling himself Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) for the job. Kris proves to be enormously popular with the children who come to visit him at Macy’s, but there’s one big problem: Kris believes that he actually is Santa Claus.

Doris is troubled by Kris’ beliefs because she rejects the concept of believing in anything that she can’t prove -- and she has taught her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) that faith in anything beyond what can be scientifically proven is silly. However, Susan grows more and more captivated by Kris, which disturbs Doris even more, since Doris is bitter over her failed marriage and doesn’t want to give up her cynical outlook on life or have her daughter expect miracles that may never happen.

When Macy’s cruel psychologist suggests that Kris is insane, Kris is forced to undergo psychological testing, even though his doctor assures Doris that he’s perfectly harmless. In despair, Kris intentionally fails the tests so he can be committed to an institution and live out the rest of his life there, not bothering anyone anymore.

But Doris’ lawyer friend Fred Gailey (John Payne), who has come to know and love Kris, fights for his release by defending Kris in a dramatic hearing in which the people in the courtroom must take a hard look at what they believe about faith, and why. After Fred proves that the U.S. Post Office has delivered thousands of letters to Kris that were addressed to “Santa Claus,” the judge says that’s enough to constitute legal recognition of Kris as Santa, and he decides to release Kris. By the end of the film, even Doris has changed her mind about faith and decided that miracles are possible after all.

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