That actually is probably what made Bob Clark the perfect director for this material, the man who previously was famous for "Porky's" of all things. He'd previously mostly done more exploitative fair, although he did direct Jack Lemmon to an Oscar nomination for "Tribute", but about the one thing that "Porky's" does have going for it, is how it captured a youthful perspective and a time period pretty meaningfully. I suspect some at the time, found a nostalgic feeling in that film, about being a horny teenager and the adventures surrounding they're attempted sexual escapades. Transfer that energy to an earlier time period and a younger perspective, and yeah, if you weren't old enough to want sex, than, I guess you'd want a BB gun, at least back then.
Actually, say whatever else you want about the movie, that is an original story. I can't think of too many movies previously about kids, just wanting a toy, at all, Imagine pitching this? A kid wants a toy gun for Christmas, already we're on shaky ground there, he's constantly told that he'll "Shoot his eye out," which, sound about right, and then, he gets the toy gun, and almost shoots his eye out! Take the nostalgia and the slice-of-life feeling out of the story, and this is one sick joke. But it's charming, somehow, 'cause it's the perspective that it takes. From a child's eye view, it's perfectly natural to think he's being reasonable and is just confused by how the rest of the world seems so against him. He's always looking up at them, they're often portrayed in exaggerated and garish demeanor, except for his parents, who he's most afraid of disappointing. One of my favorite scenes is the fantasy sequence where he somehow convinces himself that if he writes a perfect paper on wanting the bb gun that somehow, he'd get the respect and accolades of his teacher and the other students, and they'd carry him around the room.
The fantasy scenes are actually kinda interesting in this movie. There's several of them, more than people remember and they all cover a wide-arrange of stories and emotions. I wouldn't at all be shocked if this movie greatly influenced stuff like "Family Guy" or even "Scrubs" heavily, although the way it's done here, I always compared it to the old Nickelodeon cartoon "Doug", another story about a relatively average kid who's constantly imagining a more ideal life for himself. I have to believe that the show was somewhat inspired by "A Christmas Story"; there's quite a few parallels actually between those two. I can't imagine anybody in the "Doug" universe sticking their tongue on a pole, but I definitely remember characters doing stupid things 'cause of a "Dare" that went out of control, even if it wasn't a Triple Dog Dare.
I think what it also captures that few other things do is that incessant desire for kids to seek out more importance in their life. Everything feels like, they're not let in on what's really going on, and so they create fantasies in their mind where they are the center of attention and the most important person around. That's way, Ralphie's disappointment is so tantamount when he realizes that the Little Orphan Annie decoder just let to an advertisement for Ovaltime. A private, secret message that was for them and them alone, should be a secret worth having, they need to feel important and like they have the ear of those adults around them.
I think that's really what keeps this film around; why it does hold up so well long after most of the audience who appreciated the nostalgia trip the movie brings them has mostly faded away. I can't imagine a kid wanting a gun for a present anymore, unless it had a wire that connected it to a video game console, but there is something for everybody in this film. The moments at the edge of the screen involving the parents and their behavior rings true, the reflections of a simpler time, the smaller emotions and memories that kids have and how they're often struggling more than most to live their fantasies and dreams, especially since, for the most part, that's really all they even know. Not sure how it's gotten so played-to-death even for traditional, or new traditional Christmas fare, (I mean, even with it being in the Public Domain, we tend to only see a couple airings of "It's a Wonderful Life" a year, not that I'm asking for more, that's plenty, and this movie has far more to do with Christmas anyway.) but no, it really does deserve it's place in the Christmas canon. A unique film, with a completely original tone and story, similar to how it took years for people to really recognize how seminal "Groundhog Day" is, "A Christmas Story," works the same way ultimately, and unlike say, my favorite Christmas film, "Love, Actually" there weren't too many people out there trying to remake or copy the formula of it's success, and I'm not sure you could've if you tried