Hallmark Christmas movies have become a popular holiday tradition. They’ve become so successful that the films start airing in late October and other networks like Lifetime, Ion and Netflix have copied the genre.
What makes these movies so fun to watch, is that they come with a very unique set of storylines or tropes that viewers can expect to see in most movies. These go beyond average romantic comedy plots, these are the ones you only see during the holidays. Put Mariah Carey on a loop and check out the ten most common tropes in Hallmark Christmas movies.
10 CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT MORE THAN PRESENTS
No matter their age everyone loves getting Christmas presents. It’s one of the best parts of the holiday. Of course, it’s not the only reason to celebrate Christmas, and Hallmark is not especially subtle about reminding viewers of that fact.
Several of its movies revolve around workaholics being reminded that there’s more to the season than presents. In case you’re new to the genre, the real meaning of Christmas is love and family. Something the network will repeatedly let you know, in between commercials for its newest ornaments.
9 QUAINT SMALL TOWNS ARE BETTER THAN THE BIG CITY
While it’s true that several Christmas movies take place in New York, Hallmark definitely has a preference for small towns. Usually a former resident has to come home because life has taken a turn, and that’s when they figure out they never should have left.
There’s also a version of this story where a woman is passing through a beautiful little town on her way someplace else, and when fate intervenes, she’s forced to stick around. She inevitably falls in love with the town and the local heartthrob. In the end, the message is clear, only family friendly small towns really know how to celebrate Christmas.
8 CHRISTMAS CEREMONY WILL SAVE THE TOWN
Every city has their own special Christmas tradition. From tree lightings to concerts to parades, these events bring everyone together and force them to all get along for a few small moments. In the Hallmark universe, these celebrations are usually central to keeping the town alive.
There’s never a solid reason given why the celebration is so crucial to the town’s survival. It’s usually something vague like, “we’ve lit the tree every year since the town was founded, we need it.” All viewers know is that the fate of everything important rests on those kids singing at the Christmas concert.
7 SOMEONE IS SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH THEIR BEST FRIEND
Romantic comedies are built on the premise that someone has secretly been in love with their best friend for years. With that in mind, it makes sense that Hallmark decided to set the trope during the holidays and make it Christmasy.
You know the story. A guy or girl has a significant other who is clearly wrong for them, and even though everyone else can see how perfect the two friends would be together, the person doesn’t break up with said boyfriend or girlfriend and realize who they’re really in love with until it’s time for the big tree lighting.
6 CORPORATE BIG SHOT WANTS TO CLOSE THE FACTORY/LODGE/TREE LOT
These movies all feature a business central to the town. It’s either a factory, lodge, department store or Christmas tree lot. Sadly, it’s usually in financial trouble, but luckily a big corporation wants to invest. Of course, they really just want to turn it into corporate copy or shut it down completely, and they’ve sent someone to facilitate the takeover.
Fortunately, spending time in the charming town has melted their cold business heart and they no longer want to close down the factory/lodge/store/tree lot. Naturally, they also fall in love. It’s really shocking how many corporate takeovers lead to romance.
5 SANTA OR HIS ELF INTERFERE
Sometimes problems get so big that only Santa and his elves can fix them. Whether it’s a single mom struggling to make Christmas special or a man who’s lost faith in the holiday, Santa seems to always be around to help random people figure out their lives.
What’s most surprising is how concerned Santa is with the love lives of small town residents. We’ve seen a few different movies where Kris Kringle or one of his representatives feels compelled to fix up two star crossed lovers. The film always ends with the duo realizing that maybe that mysterious man with the beard was the real Santa.
4 KIDS PLAY MATCHMAKER FOR SINGLE PARENT
Nothing screams Hallmark romance like two single parents who meet during the holidays and bond over creating a great Christmas for their kids. Once the kids figure out what a perfect family they make, they will stop at nothing to make their parents fall in love.
This story can occasionally veer into Parent Trap territory, but if the child actors are cute enough, it works. Single parents finding true love and making a family is a year round favorite for Hallmark, as this one is also popular for Valentine’s Day, June Weddings, and Fall Harvest.
3 THE ALL WORK, NO ROMANCE BOYFRIEND
In order to show how great its leading man is, Hallmark has a habit of giving its heroines terrible boyfriends at the start of a movie. This guy is typically a very handsome, shallow workaholic who is uninterested in making a serious commitment.
Thankfully, while she’s travelling to meet said boyfriend, she runs into a super nice guy who loves Christmas as much as she does and makes her see her boyfriend for the wrong choice that he is. Variations of this also feature the shallow, materialistic girlfriend and the ex loved by the parents.
2 SUCCESSFUL WOMAN MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN FAMILY AND CAREER
Of all the recurring themes Hallmark uses, this might be the most annoying. There’s an often used idea that whenever a successful woman is having a bad day, it instantly means she’s made the wrong choice in focusing on her career and not having a family.
These movies take place in a world where women aren’t allowed to have both. When the moment finally comes where she has to choose, she picks having the family every time, realizing that the goals she’s worked her whole life for are bad and wrong. We get that Hallmark is a family oriented channel, but this is a seriously insulting, outdated storyline.
1 BOYFRIEND IS SECRETLY A PRINCE
Honestly, it's not Christmas until you're watching the story of a girl who meets a guy with a cute accent, impeccable manners and a mysteriously powerful family, who surprise, is really a prince.
If there's one plot Hallmark uses more than any other, it's the secret prince. This story also works when the boyfriend turns out to be Santa's son. Plus, his parents are usually played by familiar '80s and '90s TV stars. Keep an eye out next time you head to the coffee shop, because that guy you bump into might be royalty.