After failing to get the Christmas lights to work one last time, Clark Griswold takes his frustration out on the plastic decorations in the front yard. Chevy Chase actually broke his pinky finger while punching Santa Claus. He resorts to kicking and clubbing the decorations after that. The film kept rolling, and the take was used.
According to an article on the making of Home Alone (1990) in Chicago Magazine, Chris Columbus states that he was the original director of this movie. Although he filmed some second unit establishing shots (which he claims are still in the finished film), he left after two meetings with Chevy Chase, and told Writer and Producer John Hughes, "There's no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work, but I can't do it with this guy." He was sent the script to Home Alone (1990) in its place.
After Clark Griswold unsuccessfully attempts to demonstrate his handiwork with the house Christmas lights to his family, he asks Rusty to help him check all the light bulbs again. Rusty looks at his bare wrist, pretending to have a watch, and excuses himself. Looking at a bare wrist and pretending to have a watch, is one of Chevy Chase's trademark gags.
The movie was based on John Hughes' short story "Christmas '59", the second Vacation story to be published in National Lampoon's Magazine (the first was "Vacation '58", which was the basis for National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)). The Christmas story was printed in December 1980. The label on the home movie reel that Clark found in the attic was labelled "Xmas '59", a further allusion.
According to Randy Quaid, many of cousin Eddie's characteristics (most notably the clicking of the tongue) were based off a guy that Quaid knew, from when he grew up in Texas years ago, who had similar traits.
Near the end of the film, Rusty says, "I told you we should have gone to Hawaii!" In the first National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), when asked where in the world he would like to go the most, Rusty said Hawaii.
When Clark and Cousin Eddie are talking in the living room, they are drinking egg nog out of Walley World mugs. Walley World was the destination of the Griswold's in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).
The house in which the Griswolds' neighbors, Todd and Margo, live, is the same house where the Murtaugh family lived in all four Lethal Weapon movies (1987-98). The houses on this street are on the Warner Brothers backlot. Ironically, in each Griswold "Vacation" movie, Rusty and Audrey are played by a different actor and actress, while in all four "Lethal Weapon" movies, the three Murtaugh kids were played by the same actor and actresses. Speaking of Danny Glover movies, two "Christmas Vacation" stars have immediate family who appeared in movies with Danny Glover. Juliette Lewis' father Geoffrey Lewis appeared in the Mel Gibson movie Maverick (1994), during the Danny Glover cameo. Randy Quaid's brother Dennis Quaid starred with Glover in Switchback (1997).
When shopping with Clark, Eddie asks Clark if it was his company that "killed all those people in India". He is referencing the Bhopal disaster, also known as the Union Carbide disaster, in which leaks from a Union Carbide pesticide plant escaped into the air. Thousands of people died, and many more were sickened.
When Cousin Eddie barged into the house with Clark's boss, Ellen jokingly tells (the police officer) him this is the family's first kidnapping, which is actually wrong. In National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Clark held the security guard at Walley World hostage, and forced him to take the family on the rides.
The Warner Brothers backlot used for the neighborhood, in which the Griswolds live, is the same as the one used on The Middle (2009), which featured Brian Doyle-Murray (Mr. Shirley) in a recurring role as Mr. Ehlert, and Doris Roberts (Frances) in a recurring role as Ms. Rinsky.
Brian Doyle-Murray appeared in two of the Vacation movies. In this one, he played Frank Shirley, Clark's boss. In the first one, he played the Kamp Komfort clerk, where the Griswolds stopped to stay on their way to Walley World.
Cousin Eddie explains to Clark that his older kids couldn't make it because his daughter was "at the Clinic getting cured off the Wild Turkey" and his son was preparing for his career as a carnival worker. This is a reference to Cousin Vicky and Cousin Dale from National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). Cousin Vicky returned in Vegas Vacation (1997), as well as Ruby Sue from this film (though played by a different actress).
When Clark and Ellen discuss their concerns over Eddie and Catherine not having any Christmas presents for their kids, Ellen says that Eddie has "been out of work for close to seven years." In National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Eddie mentions having been laid off from an asbestos factory, which would have been nearly seven years before this movie takes place.
John Hughes was asked if he wanted to write a new film for the Vacation franchise. He said he would only do it if he had a good story to use, as by this point, the franchise was a Chevy Chase vehicle, and there was little need for him to write a story. He found one called "Christmas '59" from his time working at National Lampoon Magazine that he thought was good, so he agreed to write the script.
Beverly D'Angelo improvised grabbing Chevy Chase's crotch when the SWAT team holds up the house. She later said she did it on only one take, on the off chance it could make the film's final cut, which is what happened.
Just before Clark got locked up in the attic, he pulled out an old present from a hidden slot, and it contained a card that read "Happy Mother's Day 1983, Love Clark". National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) was released that year.
All the presents that were on the credenza when Clark went in to give his to Mr. Shirley, are identically shaped, and likely the same gift. It is a desk organizer. When this movie came out, pen sets came in an L-shaped arrangement. The writing instruments were on the flat part, and the raised section held Post-It notes. Paper clips and other holders were also a possibility.
A Walmart storefront appeared in the film, with an empty parking lot. At the time of the film's release, Walmart did not have their stores operating twenty-four hours a day, and many still don't. This began when the chain was remodelled a few years later, and the company converted their stores to Supercenters (similar to its Sam's Wholesale Club stores without the annual membership fees). In real-life, the slang for Walmart is "Wally World" (appropriating the name of the Walley World theme park from the first film, when referring to a box retailer).
When the grandparents arrive at the Griswolds' house, Frances says to Ellen, "Doesn't Nora look old?" Diane Ladd was only fifty-three years old when she played Nora Griswold in this film. The film was released in theaters only two days after Diane Ladd's fifty-fourth birthday.
In several outdoor scenes at the Griswold house, a 1963 powder blue Lincoln Continental convertible can be seen parked out front. This was the last of the curved glass slab sides, and is sought after by collectors. The 1964 Continental convertible had straight glass windows to provide more interior space.
Despite acting as the husband and wife duo of Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis, Mae Questel was nineteen years older than her co-star William Hickey. She was eighty-one-years-old, and he was sixty-two at the time of filming.
After cutting down the "replacement tree" with the chainsaw, Clark starts down the stairs and finds the newel post loose. He then lops it off with the chainsaw and announces the he has" fixed the newel post". Similarly, George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) was constantly irritated by a loose newel post at the bottom of the stairs.
When Clark showed his co-worker Bill (Sam McMurry) the brochure about the swimming pool he wanted to put in his backyard, he was seen drinking coffee out of a Tasmanian Devil coffee mug. Miriam Flynn (Cousin Catherine) played the voice of Taz's mother in Taz-Mania (1991). Additionally, Taz's father in that cartoon, was a parody of Bing Crosby, whose song "Mele Kalikimaka" appeared in this film, and who Griswold mentioned, along with White Christmas (1954). Furthermore, John Astin, who played game show host Kent Winkdale in National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985), was the voice of Bull Gator on that cartoon.
The messenger, who delivered Clark's Christmas "bonus", was wearing a jacket that read "Speed Ball Messenger Service". "Speedball" is a street term for a drug cocktail of heroin and cocaine, the same mixture that killed John Belushi.
In the scene when Clark got locked in the attic and the rest of the family left to go shopping, Ellen's father mentioned that the family has another car. However, that second car is never seen at any point in the film. In the first film, the Griswold family did have a second car, a Volvo station wagon, that was seen when the family was first leaving for Walley World.
When Clark was going to look out the vent in the attic as the family was getting in the car, a plaque with Yellowstone Park was seen just above the attic vent. The Griswold's visited Yellowstone on their way out to Walley World in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).
When Clark and Cousin Eddie talked about Eddie's children, Eddie called the Tilt-a-Whirl ride the "Tilty-Whirl," a mistake quite in line with his rather simple-minded personality. A common slang name for the Tilt-a-Whirl is the "Whirl and Hurl".
In addition to Randy Quaid and Natalija Nogulich having the same date of birth, there are several other notable birthday coincidences among the cast. Nogulich was born on the first of October, while her on-screen husband, Brian Doyle-Murray, was born on the last day of October. E.G. Marshall and John Randolph, who play Ellen's father and Clark's father, respectively, were both born in the month of June. Doris Roberts and Diane Ladd, who play Ellen's mother and Clark's mother, respectively, were both born in the month of November. Mae Questel and William Hickey, who play Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis, were both born in the month of September. Marshall and Miriam Flynn were both born on June 18.
Sam McMurray (Bill), Brian Doyle-Murray (Mr. Shirley), and John Randolph (Clark Sr.) all appeared on 'Married with Children.' That sitcom starred Christina Applegate, who played Debbie Griswold, wife of Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) in "Vacation" (2015).
Brian Doyle-Murray and Natalija Nogulich, who play husband and wife in this film, are the only natives of Chicago, Illinois (where the movie is set, even though it was filmed in California, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois) among the film's cast. All other cast members were born outside Illinois. They both guest starred in season three of 2 Broke Girls (2011).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The scene where the cat bit the Christmas lights cord and got electrocuted, was nearly cut from the movie. Prior to the first test screening, the studio executives wanted the scene taken out, fearing that it might offend some viewers, but Producer Matty Simmons begged them to leave the scene in, and they eventually gave in to his request. After the first test screening, the test audience scored the cat electrocution scene as their number one favorite scene throughout the entire movie.