Students all over have returned back to their hometowns to celebrate the holidays with their families, enjoying the many traditions that come with the season and some very deserved time off. As for traditions, my family doesn’t do gingerbread house contests, themed Christmas trees or run December-themed 5ks (props to the families that do, though). We watch every new holiday-themed Hallmark Movie. Starting the week before Halloween all the way to Christmas Eve, my mother, sister and I park ourselves in front of the couch at least once a week to meticulously review that week’s premiere while my dad shakes his head and goes to fall asleep in front of the History Channel. Sometimes, we have to rinse and repeat when they show new ones on Saturdays and Sundays.

I will concede, the movies are cheesy and extremely predictable. We can basically pin down to the exact minute of when the “conflict” of the movie will start and how long it will take before the two leads are kissing under the mistletoe as the computer-generated snow is falling around them. We love to bicker about which of the same 20 actors/actresses are good matches, which storylines were boring or too overly fake, and which settings were pretty versus clearly a green screen and a little “movie magic.” This year was no different. Even before coming home, my roommate and I would set up our projector and invite some friends over to critique the newest premiere. The whole experience brought a piece of home to Blacksburg, as I bonded with my new family while keeping past traditions alive.

When I came home, we got right into the routine: plan our schedule, watch the latest one (live or DVR), then review. This year, we agreed that while there weren’t a lot of standout premieres, there were a couple we had strong feelings about. Personally, I liked “On the 12th Date of Christmas” for the fun Chicago scenery and the leading lady was a programmer (another woman in STEM.) “Christmas in Vienna” had a great travel vibe, and any Grey’s Anatomy fan might enjoy seeing a familiar face. “The Christmas House” was fun and had multiple heartwarming stories wrapped into it (from high school sweethearts reconnecting to husbands trying to adopt a child), and that one was a Ferrare family favorite. “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” was a great change of pace and allowed Hallmark Channel producers to illustrate the DNA test craze while exploring new traditions. My uncle is partial to the Evergreen series (yes, why come up with more fake Christmas-themed town names when you can just reuse the same one again?), which debuted the third installment last month.

 We didn’t care for “Timeless Christmas” (the confusing time travel concept had her falling in love with a guy from 1908) or “Christmas Comes Twice” (a little too much fairy-type magic can turn the movie into a snoozefest fast). Overall, the 2020 Hallmark season was different than most, but made it easy to forget about the trials and tribulations of the year by immersing ourselves in obscenely decorated living rooms and pristinely iced gingerbread cookies on television.

The best part of the Hallmark movie season isn’t checking each new movie we watch off our list or making fun of the movie sponsors (MeowMix conveniently paid for “The Nine Lives of Christmas,” the story of two cat owners falling in love); it’s the time spent with my family during the holiday season.

 We may not always agree on which actress is the best or which setting is the prettiest, but we enjoy being together and arguing all the same. From my family to yours, may you have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

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