When rum balls and gingerbread are bursting at the delicate seams of your holiday guests’ insides, a touching “Hallmark-style” recitation is just the tonic they need. I know this for sure because recently, after starchy meals, I’ve just started watching the Christmas specials on the Hallmark Channel and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. This season, when my insides have felt like there are 11 lords a leaping over precisely seven swans a swimming, I stretch out on the couch with SeaTac the cat and watch a special or two. The “leaping” and “swimming” cease and all is calm. All is bright . . .
I’ve seen the memes on Facebook and I’ve heard a lot of hype about Hallmark Christmas movies, but I’ve been skeptical—until I watched a few and found myself cheering out loud for love and Christmas miracles and reindeer—and rustic inns that don’t get closed down by greedy corporate villains in large cities who just don’t understand Christmas. And now, I’m inspired and I want to capture this warm, cinnamon-spiced feeling and scatter it like crystal turtledove dew drops in a snow-globe. This season, when my friends come to my snow globe, they’re really in for a treat. Sure, I could just turn on the television and let guests watch the movies themselves, but the Hallmark Channel has taught me that homemade, heart-felt gifts have the power to make life special in unexpected ways. Since I can’t sew and my whittling/carving skills are non-existent—and I shouldn’t go anywhere near a potter’s wheel—I can put pen to paper and create an inspiring story for guests to hear. You can too, based on the following model/advice, which I’ve gleaned from watching at least 3 different Hallmark Christmas specials:
1) Start with a love story and a romantic setting. (Throw in symbolic names as a “twist” if you wish.) For my holiday parties, I’m thinking about writing a script that I can recite that is set in the small rural town of Holiday Hollow & Hearth. The main character, Holly, returns to Holiday Hollow & Hearth after years of trying to make it as a movie star in Hollywood, Florida. She runs into her best friend’s boyfriend from high school, but the best friend has already moved on and married someone else, leaving the boyfriend behind. This boyfriend is named Kent Christmaston and, of course, he’s absolutely dreamy.
2) Create tension. In my script, Holly’s return to Holiday Hollow & Hearth is not exactly celebrated. Her parents have moved to California, so she can’t stay with them, and the rest of the townsfolk think it was “uppity” of her to move somewhere else to become a movie star in the first place. They laugh behind her back about how she “failed” in life, but they laugh so loudly behind her back that she hears it. To make ends meet, she gets a job in a boutique, but the owner is not very nice and Holly is a bit of a “butterfingers” who can’t seem to do anything right. Firing Holly is not the “Holliday Hollow” way, so the owner lets her stay, but the owner is definitely not happy about it. Reluctantly, she also lets Holly stay in a spare bedroom above the store, but she’s not really happy about that, either.
3) Spend 20-30 minutes describing the dreamy male lead character. How you want to spend the 20-30 minutes describing this character is up to you. In my script, I’m going to let the first encounter between Holly and Kent go on at length. Holly has accidentally set a $300 check on fire and the beefy/hunky Kent smells the smoke from miles away and bursts through the boutique store doors. Holly and Kent look into each other’s eyes and the magic begins. Not only do they recognize each other, but they also like what they see. Here’s where the description can go on and on. Keep in mind though, that the description can be more than physical attributes. The male lead should also embrace a cause. In my script, for instance, Holly learns that Kent rescues and rehabilitates abused Clydesdale horses.
4) Create more tension. Maybe the leading character decides she doesn’t want to settle down with the male lead. Then, something happens to change her mind. Here’s what I’m envisioning for Holly: Kent’s former girlfriend sends him a letter and Holly realizes he may still be in love with her. She can’t hack it in the boutique store anymore, either and thinks maybe she might still have a chance to move back to Florida to become a professional mermaid at children’s birthday parties. However, as she’s packing, she locks herself out of the boutique—and it’s Christmas Eve and there’s a snowstorm. Kent happens to be taking one of the Clydesdales out for a walk, when he spots Holly shivering outside of the boutique.
5) Resolve the tension by pushing the lead characters together in an irresistibly romantic scene. For my script, let’s just say that Kent convinces Holly to spend the night at his ranch, which is equipped with a wonderfully decorated Christmas-themed princess room that she can have all to herself. To pass the time away, they sip cocoa by the fire and share all of their thoughts and dreams and realize they were meant to be together forever. Before they know it, Christmas has arrived and there are presents under the tree—and one is a gigantic sleigh and Holly feels the Christmas spirit.
6) Bring the “outsider character” into the fold. At the end, there should be a merry celebration for all of the characters in the script. In my version, Holly and Kent hitch up the Clydesdales to the sleigh and ride through the town. All of the townspeople smile approvingly. “She really does belong here!” they say. “She does believe in Christmas!” Then, they join hands and sing Christmas carols and Holly realizes there’s no other place in the world she’d rather be. The End.
Of course, once you’re done with the script, you have to memorize it and rehearse it and make masks for the different characters so that your guests can keep up with all of the dialogue you’ll create, but they’ll certainly remember the pageantry for years to come. However, they might not, so if you’re crafty, you could also send everyone home with a gift bag that features rum balls, gingerbread, and snow globe “dioramas” of your favorite scene from your script.
Your Turn: What are your favorite movies to watch this time of year? (They do not have to be holiday/Christmas related.)