By Dan Snierson
December 23, 2020 at 11:00 AM EST
Credit: Hulu; Gareth Gatrell/NETFLIX; Hallmark; Lifetime

Christmas is just around the pine-tree-lined corner — two days from now, more specifically — and perhaps only now you're allowing yourself to slip into the spirit of the holidays via your television or computer screen. Or maybe you're a legendary procrastinator and you were planning to inhale an unhealthy percentage of the 99 new Christmas movies debuting on cable networks and streaming services before the chimney-sliding begins. Whatever the case, it's time to finalize your holiday binge schedule — and we're not talking about peppermint chocolate chip cookies. (And yet, we kind of are.)

Yes, you'll find plenty of first snowfalls, second chances, happy endings, cable-knit sweaters, and sad-eyed widows willing to give this crazy thing we call love a shot. And, sure, there are time-travel flicks (Hallmark Channel's Christmas Comes Twice and A Timeless Christmas) and gotta-make-it-home-through-this-blizzard-by-any-means-necessary adventures (UPtv's Dashing Home for Christmas and Hallmark's Cross Country Christmas) as well as a fake-dating rom-com (Netflix's Holidate) and even a straight-up Hanukkah flick (Hallmark's Love, Lights, Hanukkah! ). But we're here today to highlight some of the biggest trends of the 2020 holiday-movie season so you can decide which to add to your naughty nice watch list. (NOTE: All 40 Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films can be found on after they premiere, while Lifetime's slate — consisting of 30 movies — can be viewed at Check the websites of those and other networks to find out when the movies will re-air.)


Bakers were big in 2018, but 2020 revolves around restaurants. Lifetime orders up A Taste of Christmas (open an Italian bistro by Dec. 24), Christmas on the Menu (food critic falls for chef), and Lonestar Christmas (single mom falls for restaurateur). On OWN's Cooking Up Christmas, a fired chef takes a gig cooking for a single dad and his kids, and a cafe is scheduled for demolition in Hallmark's Christmas By Starlight. Are you a baking enthusiast who thinks this is all well and good but is still craving a gingerbread house competition? In Lifetime's A Sugar & Spice Holiday, an architect is guilted into a contest while visiting her family, who own a… restaurant.


It's not the same old same old this year, as same-sex couples have finally started to enter the spotlight. (The 2020 slate also is more racially diverse). Need a matchmaking mom in your life — or someone else's? In Lifetime's The Christmas Setup, one such matriarch reunites her lawyer son with his high school crush. Hulu's Happiest Season offers up a twist on a Meet the Parents scenario that nearly derails a couple (Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis). Elsewhere, the LGBTQ-inclusive fare includes a ranch romance in Paramount Network's Dashing in December, an adoption story in Hallmark's The Christmas House, and a best-friend-and-barista flirtation in Hallmark's Christmas With the Darlings. Meanwhile, BET's The Christmas Lottery involves three estranged sisters — one of them married to a woman, and they're hoping to adopt — who will need to mend their broken bonds if they wish to partake in their dad's $10 million lottery windfall. But this holiday season, isn't the real Mega Millions prize — everybody together now — love?


It's not Christmas unless something has to be rescued in the St. Nick of time. Cross your fingers for the survival of: a shopping district (Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' Christmas Tree Lane), a newspaper (Lifetime's The Christmas Edition), a winery (Lifetime's Christmas on the Vine), a school (Lifetime's A Christmas Break), a skating rink (Lifetime's Christmas on Ice), a ranch (UPtv's Christmas on the Range), a toy shop (Netflix's Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey), a military base (Netflix's Operation Christmas Drop), the North Pole (Netflix's The Christmas Chronicles 2), and an entire town (Netflix's Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square).


Christmas TV movies increasingly have been following their big-screen counterparts in churning out sequels. Hallmark conjures up Vermont magic again with Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing, while HMM unveils A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love and Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas. Netflix doubles down with Vanessa Hudgens in The Princess Switch: Switched Again and Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in The Christmas Chronicles 2, UPtv embarks on A Very Country Christmas Homecoming, and Lifetime cordially invites you to Kelly Rowland's Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding.


Things don't make Christmas important, people do. But things are a really close second, specifically items that must be tracked down. Folks go on quests/adventures involving: a charm bracelet (Hallmark's A Little Christmas Charm), an antique ring (HMM's The Christmas Ring), a prized invention (Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey), Mom's old red Cadillac (Lifetime's Christmas on Wheels); lucky mistletoe (UP's Mistletoe Magic); and a special flower that can be found all the way up in Alaska (Hallmark's Jingle Bell Bride). Meanwhile, mysteries are set into motion by a donated old book, letter, and coin in Lifetime's A Crafty Christmas Romance as well as by a key and holiday riddle in HMM's Unlocking Christmas.


An already overworked bunch, journalists are staying busy over the holidays, as they tend to do in Christmas movies. This year, nearly a dozen movies involve inquisitive writers or folks in related fields. Watch as a reporter: investigates a guy who claims that the gifts he gives are actually from Santa in Lifetime's Christmas Unwrapped, runs a small-town paper in Alaska in Lifetime's The Christmas Edition, tries to impress her boss with a story about a portrait of a mysterious woman in OWN's A Christmas for Mary, follows around a recently dumped actress in Lifetime's Spotlight on Christmas, attempts to unveil the identity of the person granting wishes in HMM's The Angel Tree, uncovers the love story of an antique ring in The Christmas Ring, and returns home to cover a Days of Christmas Wonder celebration in Syfy's rather bloody Letters to Satan Clause. Also tracking down holiday scoops are competing TV hosts in Hallmark Channel's Good Morning Christmas, a social media travel writer in Lifetime's Christmas Yule Blog, a travel blogger in Lifetime's A Very Charming Christmas Town, a romance writer in Hallmark's Christmas She Wrote, and a reality TV producer in Lifetime's Forever Christmas.


Santa's boots aren't the only ones on the ground, as a few movies close ranks on military themes. An Army toy drive, Officer's Christmas Ball, and veteran-volunteer romance factor into Lifetime's A Welcome Home Christmas, while Netflix's Operation Christmas Drop centers on a U.S. Air Force base in Guam that makes special deliveries. Hallmark salutes the holiday spirit with HMM's USS Christmas, which involves a reporter, a Naval officer, and because you requested a little intrigue, a mystery in the ship's archive room.


Music often factors into Christmas movies (see/hear: Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square), but this year's roster of movies is pulling all the strings — heart and beyond. HMM's The Christmas Bow revolves around a gifted violinist recovering from an accident, Hallmark Channel's Christmas in Vienna focuses on a concert violinist who lost her love of music, and Hallmark Channel's Chateau Christmas centers on a concert pianist who is recruited by her ex (Luke Macfarlane) to stage a hometown holiday show. (Distinguished fact: Macfarlane is a classically trained cellist.) Oh, and Hallmark Channel's Christmas Waltz features Lacey Chabert as a woman reeling from a canceled wedding who learns how to dance (and, sure, to fall in love again).


Are you the type to judge a book by its cover, or, in keeping with the holiday theme, to judge a present by its wrapping? Ion TV decked its halls with Beaus of Holly, in which a woman named Holly is torn between to the cold-footed boyfriend she just proposed to and a sleigh driver. Hallmark wants you to slip on its single-mom-meets-unexpected-houseguest flick Never Kiss A Man in a Christmas Sweater. Leave it to Lifetime, though, to bring you a flick about a lonely widowed father (Mario Lopez!) that could only be titled… Feliz NaviDAD.

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