Your halls are being decked with global adventures, sister stories, and a helping of Hanukkah.
Christmas Movies
Credit: Stefano Montesi/Crown Media; Lifetime; Allister Foster/Crown Media

We have truly dashed, danced, and pranced our way into the age of Peak Christmas TV. Santa is shoving 100-plus new holiday TV movies into your stocking, and dammit, he’s going to make them all fit! But how do you, a non-magical-yet-still-festive individual, sift through this epic snowstorm of never-ending happy endings? Allow us to slide down the chimney and highlight a few notable trends to help you maximize your merriment.

Vermont proves to be a holiday hotspot once again, but this year you’ll also be overjoyed to head overseas. There’s a Christmas in Paris (UPTV, Dec. 8), Lacey Chabert’s Christmas in Rome (Hallmark, Dec. 3), and a Vienna getaway in Best Christmas Ball Ever! (ION Television, Dec. 15). Care for something more… fictional? Journey to the locales of San Saverre in Christmas with a Prince: Becoming Royal (UPTV, Dec. 3), or Aldovia in A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (Netflix, Dec. 5). The animated Klaus (Netflix, now streaming) bundles you up to visit Scandinavia and the Arctic, yet the world’s most surprising and far-flung yuletide film — Holiday in the Wild (Netflix, streaming) — boasts Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis, the country of Zambia, and a rescued baby elephant.

Those who light the menorah have been woefully underrepresented in the holiday-movie genre, but this year the networks are starting to make amends, along with latkes. A trio of movies involve the Festival of Lights, though they aren’t straight-up Hanukkah movies; think of them as faith-meets-faith Christmukkah flicks. Holiday Date (Hallmark, Dec. 14) centers on a woman who is dumped by her boyfriend who she billed to her Christmas-loving parents as “Mr. Christmas,” so naturally she hires an actor to pose as him when she goes home for the holidays. (The first of several twists? The actor reveals to her mid-ploy that he is Jewish and doesn’t actually know much about Christmas.) Meanwhile, Double Holiday (Hallmark, Dec. 22) features a Jewish project manager who is tasked with planning a office Christmas party with a co-worker she loathes, and she winds up teaching him about Hanukkah. And in Mistletoe & Menorahs (Lifetime, Dec. 7), a toy-company employee receives a crash course in Hanukkah from a co-worker’s friend so she can land a big account. (Warning: the phrase “Isn’t Hanukkah random?” is uttered.)

Bets and scores will be settled over the holidays, and competitions will be held to save businesses or establish dominance. The most common contest? Cooking. See: A Sweet Christmas Romance (Lifetime, Dec. 6, with Loretta Devine), Christmas a la Mode (Lifetime, Dec. 8), Christmas Cupcakes (UPtv, Dec. 6), A Christmas Recipe for Romance (UPtv, Dec. 6), and Baking Christmas (OWN, Dec. 6). Siblings see which of them can land a significant other in Dear Santa, I Need a Date (TV One, Dec. 8), while in Christmas Belles (BET, Dec. 14), two best friends vie for the affections of a hot priest (well, pastor), and in the aforementioned Double Holiday, those co-workers battle with each other during the party planning to angle for a big promotion. A Nasty Piece of Work (Hulu, Dec. 6) truly blackens the holiday spirit when a boss invites an ambitious underling to face his rival in a “violent competition.” And speaking of competition — but not exactly actual TV movies — brace yourselves for the Battle of the Christmas Movie Stars (Lifetime, Dec. 21), a special that features the network’s Christmas spirited actors taking on holiday-themed challenges (gift-wrapping a costar! ugly-sweater decorating!) to earn the title of Queen (or King) of Lifetime Christmas. (The winner then enters the octagon to fight Hallmark’s Lacey Chabert.)

The ageless “stranded by snowstorm!” trope blows stronger than usual this winter. (Especially on Lifetime, which created a Lifetime Cinematic Universe of sorts by having Winter Storm Meghan blow through several movies.) The blizzard of options includes Snowbound for Christmas (UPtv, Dec. 15), Let It Snow (Netflix, streaming),The Road Home for Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 16), Twinkle All the Way (Lifetime, Dec. 9), A Christmas Duet (Hallmark, Dec. 17), A Christmas Love Story (Hallmark, Dec. 7), and Grounded for Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 8). Christmas Wedding Runaway (UPtv, Dec. 22) even traps a bride with her ex and her grandma in a cabin. But only Sweet Mountain Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 9) sets a country star adrift before letting her find true love with… come on, you got this!… a snowplow driver!

Attention, giant-hearted do-gooder: If you secretly committed an act of charity this year, someone is eager to figure out who you are. In Radio Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 7), Keshia Knight Pulliam is a DJ trying to uncover the identify a Secret Santa who saved the town’s Christmas festivities, while Random Acts of Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 16) features a reporter trying to figure out who’s responsible for a series of very good deeds. There’s some light investigative journalism in Christmas Jars (BYUtv, Dec. 8), as a reporter sets out to find out why glass containers are being filled with money for people in need. (Maybe it’s just for the city’s snowplow budget?)

Like the plan-snuffing snowstorm, the widow(er)-as-unlikely romantic lead is a treasured trope. They’re empathy magnets, having weathered tragedy and demonstrated that they’re capable of longterm commitment, yet they’re not “sullied” by divorce. Plus, their dedication to their children shows that they’re ready to embrace the future… with a little push. (CBS turned this concept into a Walton Goggins-fronted comedy, The Unicorn.)

This year’s batch of doleful ex-spouses gingerly opening their hearts is especially impressive, heading into double-digit territory. What kind of mourning show do you desire? Let’s flip respectfully through some examples. To see a vegetarian business consultant double as a widowed mother, pack your bags for Christmas in Montana (Hallmark, Dec. 14), starring Kellie Martin. Have few reservations about checking out Christmas Reservations (Lifetime, Dec. 8), where an event coordinator played by Melissa Joan Hart crosses paths with her old college flame (Ricardo Chavira), who’s now a widowed dad. Looking for something different in the widowed dad department? Romany Malco is a DJ and father of four in Holiday Rush (Lifetime, Nov. 28). In another unlikely turn of the urn, Christmas Under the Stars (Hallmark, Dec. 8) offers up a fired investment banker-turned-Christmas-tree-lot-employee (Jesse Metcalfe) who finds a second chance with an astronomy teacher (Autumn Reeser), thanks in part to the Christmas tree lot owner who happens to be a warm-hearted widower (Clarke Peters). And, of course, our deepest condolences to those who suffered great loss in Write Before Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 14), but you just might see a widower (Grant Show) find new life with a widow (Lolita Davidovich).

It takes two to make a Christmas go right — or so say a handful of movies centered on a musical duo. A Christmas Duet (Hallmark, Dec. 17) reunites a legacy act and restarts a romance, while Lifetime’s aforementioned The Road Home for Christmas centers on two rival musicians performing a dueling piano show who may wind up saving a Christmas nativity play. Rock N’ Roll Christmas (UPTV, Dec. 7) centers on a 10-years-estranged mother/daughter country music duo who join forces to release a new yuletide single, while in A Christmas Winter Song (Lifetime, Dec. 14), Ashanti plays a Christmas shop owner who forms a non-Foolish musical bond with a down-and-out jazz singer for the town’s annual Christmas concert.

Sisterly love sleighs: Female siblings play a role — two, technically — in films including No Time Like Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 18), A Christmas Wish (Lifetime, Dec. 3), Rediscovering Christmas (Lifetime, Dec. 15), Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Dec. 3), and A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas (HMM, Dec. 6), in which Rachael Leigh Cook plays a hotel manager helping her sister plan a wedding. Wanna go full meta? In A Christmas Movie Christmas (UPtv, Dec. 2), a Christmas-movie superfan and her jaded sister wake up inside their own yuletide flick. (Maybe they’ll meet handsome rival widowed dads who have to team up to save the town’s ice-skating rink?)

Can’t get a date for this holiday season? No worries! Just hire one. Fake dating is once again a very real thing over the holidays. You already know the plot of Hallmark’s Holiday Date, but in Lifetime’s Grounded for Christmas, a snowstorm-stranded pilot lets a fellow pilot stay at her parents’ home if he pretends to be her boyfriend. Meanwhile, A Beauty & The Beast Christmas (ION, Dec. 15) centers on a spirited Christmas influencer who is encouraged to fake a holiday romance with a “viral bad boy” to boost her social-media profile.
*FAIRLY REGAL Royal holidays have become more prevalent in the late 2010s, and this year’s batch is, well, princely. See ye, see ye: A Christmas Princess (ION, Dec. 15) A Cheerful Christmas (Hallmark, Dec. 15), and two sequels: UPtv’s aforementioned Christmas with a Prince: Becoming Royal and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (Netflix, Dec. 5).
*THE WRITE STUFF Once again, journalists are front-page news in multiple flicks. In addition to the aforementioned Christmas Jars, Christmas in Evergreen (Hallmark, Dec. 4), follows a jaded writer who investigates the town’s “too-good-to-be-true” holiday spirit, while The Mistletoe Secret (Hallmark, Dec. 13) showcases Kellie Pickler in a romantic pickle involving a popular travel writer and his ghostwriter. Tamera Mowry-Housley is a single mother who hopes to land a big story for the lifestyle magazine at which she’s temping in A Christmas Miracle (Hallmark, Dec. 4). Christmas 9 to 5 (Lifetime, Dec. 4) follows a crime reporter who goes undercover in a department store to get the scoop on the true meaning of Christmas.
*YULE DOG Dreaming of a canine Christmas? You’re barking up the right tree. 12 Pups of Christmas (ION, Dec. 21) centers on a canine therapist (yup, that’s a thing) tasks herself with finding homes for a dozen puppies who were left behind at a photo shoot, while Christmas Unleashed (Lifetime, Dec. 7) sees a yellow lab run away on Christmas Eve, forcing Vanessa Lachey in the form of a North Carolina woman to join forces with her ex to find him. In addition, a small pooch brings sweet unexpected joy to a mother (Sharon Lawrence) in the candy cane company-set Merry & Bright (Hallmark, Dec. 15). Also take a paws for the cause in that widow-friendly Write Before Christmas, in which Show’s character fosters a dog that helps foster a romance.

Stay tuned for more trends as the season progresses…

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