From fake snow to fake princesses, Hallmark movies have all the holiday staples

By Ruth Kinane
December 13, 2016 at 05:00 PM EST

In her Hallmark movies, Lacey Chabert plays characters who truly understand the spirit of the holidays.

Whether she’s a web designer trying to remind her boss of the joys of yuletide (A Wish For Christmas), a bakery owner caught up in a romantic dilemma (A Matchmaker Santa), or a single mom at odds with Mariah Carey’s PTA president (A Christmas Melody), she celebrates the holidays to the fullest — come Scroogey employers, unexpected lovers, or headstrong pop stars. And while we can appreciate that variety, the heartening draw of Hallmark holiday TV movies is that every single one feels familiar and guarantees a happy ending.

“They’re like comfort food,” says Chabert, who says she’s as obsessed with Christmas as her characters are. “You know you’re going to sit down, be uplifted, feel some emotions, and be left in a good mood.”

So, what’s the secret recipe for a deliciously delightful holiday movie? We tasked Chabert with making a list of Hallmark holiday movie musts:

Going home for the holidays

“I would say the most important message Hallmark movies promote is that there’s nothing more important around the holidays than being with family,” says Chabert, who also mentions that Hallmark has become part of her own family. “Now that I’ve gotten to know them in a personal way, I consider them my ‘Hallmark Family’ and a part of my life,” she says. “I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame when I was growing up, and as long as the Hallmark Channel itself has been around, I’ve always watched their holiday movies.”

Chabert was seven months pregnant on the set of 2016’s A Wish for Christmas, so it was a family affair in more ways than one. “I love to always have a little part of myself in the movie, if possible, something personal,” she says. “This one I loved because I was pregnant – that’s obviously very personal. I’ll always be able to show my daughter and tell her she was in mommy’s belly.”

A romantic proclamation of love against a picturesque backdrop

“The first Hallmark holiday movie I did was Matchmaker Santa. It was such a sweet script, and it really captured the essence of the holidays,” says Chabert. Then there’s A Royal Christmas where her character falls for Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of the fictional land of Cordinia (which probably borders Genovia). “I really loved A Royal Christmas because we got to film in castles in Romania,” she says. “It was a great adventure, and I wore my real wedding dress in the movie.”

Encouraging another to reignite their lost holiday spirit

In A Wish for Christmas, Chabert plays a Christmas-obsessed web designer who proposes a holiday website, only to have her boss steal her idea. She then makes a wish to Santa — in a joking way, not thinking that it would ever come true — for some gumption. “You understand from the very beginning that she’s kind of a pushover and has a really hard time standing up for herself,” says Chabert. “Suddenly, she finds herself sticking up for herself, which causes some trouble along the way, but in the end, it inadvertently causes her boss to embrace the Christmas spirit, and it’s a great message.”

A decorating scene, always

“It’s kind of magical to me, being on set,” she says. “Whether it’s on a sound stage or in a neighborhood that’s decorated normally and then around the corner you’re on set with fake snow everywhere and lights and trees. It’s decked out to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, and it makes me wish it was Christmas right then.”

That dedication to decoration translates to Chabert’s real life too.

“I think the day after Halloween it’s okay to start celebrating Christmas,” she says. “Oh, I’ve decorated and I’ve been listening to Christmas music since Nov. 1. Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I’m ready.”

An enchanting scene with Santa Claus

“I feel like Hallmark is very vigilant at protecting the image of Santa Claus and making sure he’s somewhat magical,” says Chabert. She remembers the childhood feeling of believing and how important it is to hold on to that. “When I was little, my siblings and I would sleep in the same room and stay up all night on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to see if we could hear him,” she says.

A weather disaster that leaves someone stranded (but filmed in hot weather)

“Typically, they are shot in the summer, and you’re in coats, scarves, gloves, and cashmere, and it’s 110 degrees outside,” Chabert says. “You’re sweating and trying to act cold. It’s actually kind of a skill to act cold — to have the mannerisms of being cold when it’s the complete opposite of how you behave when you’re hot.”

Ms. Christmas herself, Mariah Carey

Carey directed and costarred in A Christmas Melody. “I had randomly tweeted about listening to her Christmas album during the summer — because I love it so much — like six or seven months prior to A Christmas Melody happening, and we ended up working together,” Chabert says. “She was a big fan of Mean Girls, so it was nice for us to meet each other. It was fun, not only to work with her, but to work with her on a Christmas project because she loves Christmas as much as I do.”

Catch A Wish for Christmas on the Hallmark Channel Dec. 10 at 12 p.m. ET and multiple other times throughout December. And if anyone needs Chabert, she can be found watching Elf, Love Actually, and Christmas Vacation until the new year.