In late November, I phoned Comcast about the amount of our cable bill, which had crept up on us like holiday weight gain. An employee assured me that yes, they could lower it, since we had been loyal customers for fifteen years. In a sudden craving for something sweet, I asked if they could also add a cable package, simply for the Hallmark Channel and only for the month of December. My wish was granted, and I invited the family to join me at our new holiday entertainment buffet. But only one person accepted my invitation: Flicka.
“Let’s see if we can watch one Christmas movie every day in the month of December,” I said in the Triple Dog Dare tone of Schwartz in A Christmas Story.
My girl accepted the challenge, and her stamina matched mine. She and I devoured movie after movie—and not just on Hallmark. We dipped into Netflix and Amazon for some seasonal saccharine too.
“Have we seen this one?” I asked her last week, scrolling through Hallmark’s movie schedule.
She squinted at the offerings. “They’re all starting to look alike.”
“There are only a couple of plot lines,” I said.
“Yeah, I noticed.”
I grabbed a notebook. “Let’s make a list of common themes.”
The following are our findings in holiday movies (and we may or may not have discussed these at length over goodies):
1. The main character, always a female, is most likely young, pretty, single, white, and blonde. She’s often a workaholic and lives in a city.
2. She takes an ex, co-worker, or friend (who’s attracted to her, but she’s oblivious) home for the holidays to fake that he’s her boyfriend/fiancé to please her mother who constantly pressures her to find a man. And a tangled mess ensues. (Plot #1)
3. She goes back to the small town of her upbringing to plunge herself into a cause like saving a bakery, inn, or other, from destruction or commercial redevelopment. She rediscovers the spirit of Christmas and a sense of community, while reigniting feelings for a past love. Her city boyfriend/fiancé surprises her with a visit, and her life unravels—for like five minutes. (Plot #2)
4. A funeral or inheritance brings her back to her hometown at the holidays. She doesn’t want to be there and has long ago lost her Christmas spirit. But things change when she finds love and cheer in the place of her childhood. (Plot #3)
5. The young woman’s mother—if not desperately wanting her married—is dead, and her father has remarried a woman who’s very nice, although the younger woman doesn’t think so. (She hasn’t gotten over the loss of Mom yet.)
6. The idyllic and festive small town often has a holiday-related name: Evergreen, Snow Falls, or Hollyvale, to name a few. Flicka and I wonder how a wintry name for a town feels for the characters in July.
7. The city man she ultimately rejects (in favor of the small town guy) has undesirable qualities, but they’re not too bad. The small town love interest has a past she’ll have to get over, but that’s not really too bad either. The new man (small town guy) is single, because he never found the one, or his wife died; he’s never divorced.
8. The main character is lovably clumsy, adorably bad at cooking, or inept in some other cute way. But rest assured, the new object of her affection will lend a hand and save her from herself.
9. You can count on an elevator scene. And who gets stuck in the elevator? That’s right; the woman and her new man—probably before they even like each other!—and there’s mistletoe hanging in there. Uh-oh.
10. In the final scene, the new couple embraces outside at night. They suddenly look up. It’s snowing! And they act like they’ve never seen snow before.
Holiday movies are as delicious as the cookies we nosh while we watch, because there’s love at the end. But remember that story about the man and his young pregnant wife looking for a place to stay, and they’re out of options? They end up giving birth to their baby in a barn, and shepherds come over for a visit.
There’s love at the end of that one too. And it’s my favorite.
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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.