The bakeries and coffee shops in my new neighborhood look straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie.
We all know the plot. It goes something like: Big city girl is dumped right before the holidays, leaves her stressful corporate job, and hops on a plane to visit her grandmother in a snowy small town. Upon arrival girl stumbles into well-decorated bakery to ask for directions to Grandma’s because cell service (always shoddy) or phone (always breaks on plane). Bakery store owner is interested in girl, somehow single in a small town, charming, and looks like Chad Michael Murray. (He’s often played by Chad Michael Murray.)
Despite this being every single woman’s ultimate fantasy, girl is mean to him and refuses to let him take her on a date because her heart is broken and men are untrustworthy. After a literal song and dance from the town’s people in the city square convincing her of Christmas magic, a pep talk from Santa, and a carriage ride with Chad Michael, she comes around though and the two get married the following week. They move into a gigantic house we have idea how they can afford given that she’s left her corporate job for the simple life and he owns a small bakery, but we don’t question any of it because (so pretty!) and (Christmas!).
Ah, the Hallmark Christmas movie fantasy. We love it. We can’t get enough of it. We secretly want to live it, but how?
As a writer of love stories, I’ve compiled a list of ways you can experience a bit of that Hallmark movie magic in your own life this holiday season.
Give, give, give! Besides the small-town baker, in Hallmark Christmas movies we never seem to know what anyone does for an actual career. All we do know is that they are damn good volunteers. Whether it’s playing the role of Joseph in the Christmas play at the community theatre that everyone looks forward to ALL YEAR, or stringing up Christmas lights in the town square, or helping Mrs. Martin get her Christmas gifts to the post office by plowing her driveway after that snowstorm hits, Hallmark characters lend their time. Sure, it’s easier when it seems all they have is time on their hands, but there’s a lesson to be learned here. Get involved in something that’s outside of yourself. That’s where the Christmas magic is.
Bake away! There’s nothing a plate of cookies or a well-frosted cake can’t fix in a Hallmark Christmas film. Whether you feel the need to make amends with a loved one, or simply brighten up a co-worker’s day, try out some new recipes and wrap them up to share.
Reflect on Your Life: Leading ladies in Hallmark movies are constantly reflecting on their lives and reevaluating them with the complete-strangers-turned-instant-best-friends in the small town she’s visiting. So you might not have an entire town invested in your personal development and more importantly your romantic future with Chad Michael Murry, but with the New Year right around the corner, the holidays are the perfect time to reflect. On a serious note, I had dinner the other night with a hospice nurse and she said her biggest takeaway from the job was that life is so much shorter than most people realize. Why do we so often not live in a way that reflects this?
Simplify your life: In Hallmark films, the moral of the story is always the same: slow down Big City Girl, don’t be afraid to fall in love, and remember life is not about acquiring things, but spending time with those we care about. Keep it simple this holiday season. Enjoy that bakery treat, the time spent volunteering, and that a kiss underneath the mistletoe.
Make small talk with strangers: In Hallmark towns everyone is warm and welcoming. We’re reminded that new friends can be around every corner—when we’re holiday shopping, buying groceries at Trader Joes, or waiting in line at the bakery.
Let your guard down and be vulnerable: In Hallmark movies everyone ultimately shares her true feelings with that love interest she cares about over a cup of hot chocolate by a warm fire or on a carriage ride through snow covered hills. If I’ve learned one thing as a love story writer from talking to people about relationships constantly it’s that most people have bottled up feeling they don’t share. Open up this holiday season. Read more about that here.
When all else fails break out in song: There’s nothing like a Christmas song to get you in the holiday spirit and no one knows this better than the characters in a Hallmark film. So maybe you don’t go to the town square to sing a tune on an off day, but playing Justin Bieber’s Mistletoe at max volume and singing at the top of your lungs in your can certainly help.