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29 signs that you are watching a Hallmark Christmas movie

It’s that time of year again! Each winter, the holidays bring with them scarves, family gatherings, and a fresh batch of Hallmark Christmas movies. Beginning in November, the Hallmark Channel celebrates the holidays with their Countdown to Christmas, premiering two new Christmas movies nearly every weekend until New Year’s.

I’ve always been fond of these made-for-TV holiday films, possibly because of my deep and passionate love for Christmas, or possibly because I am a young New York professional hailing from a crazy family in the Midwest and my life is ripe for a Hallmark movie. (I sincerely expect to find love on every delayed flight home for the holidays, and I am disappointed every single time.)

It is my mission each winter to consume every new hour of Christmas entertainment given to me by Hallmark (and some old hours too), and my DVR currently holds 12 TV Christmas movies. So, seeing as I am somewhat of an expert on the subject, I give you the (nearly) definitive list of the 29 signs you may be watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. These recurring themes may come in any variety of combinations, but throw a couple of these together and you have a Hallmark classic in the making.

1. Musical performance: This will probably be a Christmas carol and will be sung by a choir, carolers, or a protagonist in a romantic gesture.

Angels and Ornaments

2. Travel trouble: A given if someone is headed home for the holidays.

3. Santa-like character: Old man with a white beard. Possibly overweight, probably named Nick or Chris.

4. Santa’s kid: They are almost always reluctant to take over the family business.

5. Christmas magic (literal or figurative): Yeah, this will literally always happen.

6. Santa is real: Like an actual, magical, human dude—North Pole and all.

Matchmaker Santa

7. Angels: These occur less frequently than most signs on this list, but if there’s literal magic and no literal Santa, keep an eye out for an angel.

8. Dysfunctional families: If families are involved, they are probably dysfunctional at some level. This is true in Hallmark as well as life.

9. Kissing in the snow: Unless the story takes place in California, it probably ends with two people smooching under falling snowflakes. (And even sometimes when it does take place in California. See “Christmas magic.”)

10. Rediscovering the joy of Christmas: There is a reason that stories like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol exist; “grumpy Christmas hater” is a holiday trope.

11. “Christmas hasn’t been the same since ________ died”: If someone has lost their Christmas spirit, it’s probably because they lost a relative. And there’s a good chance that they will utter this exact sentence at some point.

12. Widow/widower: A spouse is normally the deceased family member whose memory ruins Christmas, because the late husband or wife loved Christmas, and it’s just not the same without them.

13. Family bonding: Usually occurs on visits home, but can also happen when widow(er)s reconnect with their children and rediscover Christmas together (usually with the help of new boy/girlfriend or angel, or possibly both).

Christmas at Cartwright

14. Workaholic: The Christmas grumpies occur commonly in the overworked professional …

15. Going home for Christmas: … who is probably begrudgingly traveling from the big city to their small hometown for the holidays. See “Dysfunctional families.”

16. Small town: If someone’s going home for Christmas, it’s to a small town.

17. Local business (that’s probably being shut down): Small towns = local business. And if the business is in danger, the prodigal son or daughter is probably going to find a way to save it.

18. Community Christmas tree lighting: What do small towns love more than local businesses? Christmas! And nothing shouts Christmas more than a community tree lighting.

19. Character named Nick or Chris: See “Santa-like character.” (But not always.)

20. Girl named Holly: On rare occasions, a Noelle may appear too.

Christmas with Holly

21. Hidden identity: This could be any number of things, from a reporter pretending to be a runaway bride to an elf pretending to be a nanny.

22. Fake relationship: Nothing makes you feel more single than family pressure during the holidays. The obvious solution is to hire an actor or make a deal with a similarly afflicted stranger to make everyone think you’re happy and in love.

23. Huge misunderstanding: Deceit never ends well. A hidden identity or a fake relationship usually leads to a huge misunderstanding that drives someone away or gets someone fired or starts a family fight—or, really, any consequence that could have been easily avoided with a little communication.

24. Falling in love in approximately three days: The timing on this one varies, but it’s rarely longer than a week, and more typically over a long holiday weekend. This is often instigated by a fake relationship turned real, or occasionally by reconnecting with a long-lost love.

25. Terrible boyfriend/girlfriend: If the main character is not single or widowed, they are probably in a terrible relationship with a selfish, rude, awful person, whom they then dump for their three-day love.

26. Decorating montage (be it trees, homes, or cookies): Holidays mean decorations of all types. And there’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than with a little montage!

27. Picking out a tree: Slightly different from the decorating montage, picking out a tree usually comes about after the Christmas lover of the movie is appalled that the Christmas grouch has a fake tree.

The Christmas Secret

28. Winter activities (sledding, skating, snowball fight, building a snowman, etc.): If there’s snow, one of these things will happen.

29. Token celebrity: This one is subjective, but generally there will be either a beloved ’80s/’90s sitcom star (Candace Cameron Bure and Alan Thicke are frequent flyers—sometimes together), or it will be Lacey Chabert.

Royal Christmas

Which Hallmark Christmas movie is your guilty pleasure?

New movies air every Saturday and Sunday at 8/7C on the Hallmark Channel.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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