Happy Hallmark Holiday

December 23, 2018

If you buy your holiday tree at a cut-your-own place, what tool do you bring or do they supply you with? Likely it’s a bow saw–a lightweight, efficient tool that nearly anyone, even me, can handle. It’s the tool that the workers at the lot use to even the cut of a precut tree so that it will stand nicely in your container and drink enough water to keep it green through the week or two it will gasp in an overheated room.

“Christmas Tree Farm After Snow,” by Bill Morrow; “Heart Hands,” public domain.

So tell me why in every Hallmark movie, the couple who are in love, but don’t yet know it, head to the tree farm with her niece or his nephew to bring home a tree using an ax big enough to take down a redwood. Typically he knows nothing about cutting trees, which soon becomes obvious, and she has grown up on her grandfather’s farm and has the necessary skills. Or, he does have the skills and is the grandson of the town’s cookie shop owner and who has returned home to save the family business, and she is a high heel-wearing executive real estate developer who wants to buy the town, lock stock and . . . and turn it into a “destination” replete with malls. There will be mistletoe in a coming scene, and there is a MANDATORY snowball fight.

Back to the cutting of the tree. He (always the man) is carrying the ax and is often wearing mittens (no gripping there). You never actually see him take a swing, because then it would be a comedy instead of a “serious” love story. Or maybe a tragedy. You never see a chain saw, I’m assuming because the noise would drown out the dialogue.

Vintage Christmas card courtesy Karen Watson, The Graphics Fairy.

The main characters are picked from a stable of actors and actresses who appear in various movies for Hallmark, making it a little confusing. “Didn’t she move back to New York?” Or “I thought he married that blonde.” Many, usually the women, are established actors. Sometimes an actual “star” embellishes the cast. The male actors are hunky but not as recognizable as the women. My biggest gripe is that the women cast as grandmothers are nearly as beautiful as their daughters, but also only about ten years older. There’s magic in Christmas beyond the magic of the “fake” snow that begins to fall on every Hallmark Christmas Eve.

The historically white cast is sometimes hard to see against the bright white snow, making it necessary for them to wear some of the gaudiest clothing imaginable—in red and green of course. Lately they are including the occasional person or couple of color, but I don’t think the show has progressed enough to show two women or two men of any color signing into the Candy Cane Suite.

Since young children are absolutely necessary in order to create the town celebration and tree-lighting scenes, someone has to be a single parent. The missing spouse is usually dead and left the scene right around the holidays. Divorces just don’t have the same endearing quality. The settings are towns that usually include words like Holly, Christmas or Cookie. Occasionally, they have names that are plausible, but only occasionally. They are so overdecorated it makes my eyes hurt.

The talented lead characters can bake and build a gingerbread house and decorate an entire town hall in an hour. If there are farm animals involved, which is fairly often, the mistakes are awesome, as in I am in awe of the fact that there are no qualified researchers and fact checkers. Our heroine comes from the hen house that contains three hens with a basket containing twenty eggs—in the dead of winter. In another movie, a young woman is handing a horse a handful of straw, not hay. The list is endless. I cringe thinking of how much improved these scenes could be with the help of someone who has actually farmed.

And so, you ask, why am I writing about Hallmark holiday movies if I so despise them. Well, because actually I don’t. I know exactly what to expect when I turn on either of Hallmark’s channels, and I know there will be a happy, if corny, ending. I can curl up with a mug of Bailey’s or cocoa, or Bailey’s in cocoa, with the cat on my lap, white lights twinkling in my windows, and make fun of these classic Hallmark movies, maybe even shedding a sentimental tear on occasion. If only everything else in life were so predictable.

Sheila Velazquez

Sheila Velazquez is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in more than 100 print newspapers and magazines, including Grit, New Woman, the Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, the San Antonio Express-News and Bay Area Parent. Her awards include two from the Society of Professional Journalists for a syndicated column. Sheila has contributed to online websites, including commondreams.org and dissidentvoice.org. She served as contributing editor of Organic Producer magazine and wrote biographical material for reference collections that include “Contemporary Authors,” the “Encyclopedia of International Biography” and “Notable Sports Figures.” Feel free to send her an e-mail.

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