A Biltmore Christmas

I Watched Hallmark Christmas Movies For a Week Straight. Here's What Happened

A binge to remember.

In an effort to connect with my fellow man (and by that I mean Blake and Gwen), I recently watched my first-ever Hallmark Christmas movie. Spoilers: I had a heck of a good time. But one thought kept nagging at me. Could I sustain this? Could I, one day, be a dyed-in-the-wool Hallmark fan? Momma didn't raise no quitter, so I resolved to find out by undergoing a week-long Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.

For seven days straight, I watched at least one Hallmark holiday flick each night. My binge began with a 2014 Hallmark classic and continued with 2023 Countdown to Christmas premieres. I tuned in with everyone else to the Hallmark Channel's new movies on the weekend beginning Friday, December 1, then peppered in a few more 2023 releases and picks from the vault.

Throughout my journey, I experienced the majesty of Lacey Chabert, reigning Queen of Hallmark Christmas, as well as the truly undeniable charm of Tyler Hynes and Kristoffer Polaha. I saw Brooke D'Orsay's gravity-defying hair for the first time, and I reconsidered my commitment to Hallmark's royal Christmas movies. Some meet-cutes and jingle bell flourishes left me baffled, but in a good way? Take it from me: The allure of Hallmark is difficult to define. Below, I try my best to approximate exactly what the Hallmark Channel does to the unsuspecting.

Here's every anguished, fist-pumping beat of my Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.

Day 1: 'A Royal Christmas' (2014)

A Royal Christmas


My binge began with my first-ever Hallmark Christmas movie: Lacey Chabert's "A Royal Christmas." I'm a sucker for any Prince-in-disguise story, and this one's routinely cited as a Hallmark best. So I made some hot cocoa, put my adjustable mattress in Zero G mode (bougie, I know) and prepared to be... Dazzled? Quietly entertained? I had no idea what to expect.

While this secret Prince inspired nothing in me, Jane Seymour OBE as the Evil Queen gave me life. I miss big, Disney Channel-esque performances, and there are at least three in this movie. I realized halfway through that I am, thankfully, much less allergic to cringe than I previously thought. I'll always have time for bonkers lines like "Mi castle es su castle" or the simply stunning "Cordinia, a small sovereign state in the south of France." 

I had a great time moving with the perfectly-laid beats of this story and experiencing commercials again for the first time since, I dunno, 2016? Still feeling like an outsider, I put my faith in tomorrow's "My Norwegian Holiday," a new premiere. Maybe in the decade since "A Royal Christmas," Hallmark movies will have gotten a little less cutesy. 

Day 2: 'My Norwegian Holiday' (2023)

My Norwegian Holiday


I had a strange sense of community when I tuned in to the world premiere of this Scandi love story, starring Rhiannon Fish and David Elsendoorn ("Ted Lasso"). Tyler Hynes (probably Hallmark's most beloved leading man) apparently had insane chemistry with this Rhiannon Fish, who reminds me of an Aussie Emilia Clarke, in 2023's "A Picture of Her." Would the so-called Hynies be tuning in to see how Fish fares opposite Elsendoorn? Am I about to witness a moment in Hallmark history?

Don't know if I did, but this movie knocked my socks off right from Go. It opens with some bigoted woman destroying her poor boyfriend in public for being Norwegian. Come to find out, our leading lady has the exact same name as nightmare girlfriend, so she takes her plane ticket to Norway. Come to find out, our Jessica has a secret grandfather there. Come to find out, nightmare Jessica wasn't poor boyfriend's girlfriend at all! She was his assistant. Still wildly unacceptable insults from an underling, if you ask me. By the end, we get a full-on "Forrest Gump" run and the Northern Lights.

To be clear, that is an insane series of events. I came away baffled and totally impressed. How did they manage to twist so wildly at every turn, yet maintain a comfort-watch quality? Do all Hallmark movies do this? Is it just the ones filmed abroad? Is it just the ones with fabulous Scandi interiors? Is it just (gulp) the power of Rhiannon Fish? 

I texted "I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. Downhill racing is all I know" to the group chat and the girls lit up. Am I part of it now? I added "A Picture of Her" to my Letterboxd watchlist and laid down for a restless sleep.

Day 3: 'A Not So Royal Christmas' (2023)

A Not So Royal Christmas

Steve Wilkie/Hallmark

I could've died happy knowing I had experienced "My Norwegian Holiday," but I wasn't even halfway through my Hallmark Christmas movie marathon. I tuned in to the next new premiere, "A Not So Royal Christmas," starring Brooke D'Orsay, She of the Massive, Gorgeous Hair. (No, really. Give her a medal or something.)

This one wasn't gloriously off-the-wall like Scandi "Forrest Gump," much to my chagrin. But it was quippy, shockingly ruthless (apologies to the citizens of Daytona Beach) and actually romantic. Will Kemp—who really is British, I discovered—might be my favorite leading man yet. 

What's more, I felt keyed-in during this screening — not that I was immersed, but that I was giving the movie all the goodwill in the world. Rooting for Brooke D'Orsay and her hair. Googling around for her wine-colored wool coat for a good 20 minutes and finding nothing. Cracking a smile whenever that quirky clarinet solo promised something silly was about to happen. Something was happening — to me. I was becoming a Hallmark movie fan.

Day 4: 'Christmas with a Kiss' (2023), 'A Biltmore Christmas' (2023)

A Biltmore Christmas


Sunday was the last new premiere of my binge. I suspect "Christmas with a Kiss" is your average Hallmark movie: Sweet, uplifting, cutesy. But by this time, I realized my needs are only met by the network's biggest swings. 

So I opted for a double feature with "A Biltmore Christmas," which premiered the week before my movie marathon began. I had to see what the crown jewel of 2023's Countdown to Christmas was all about. 

I prayed to the TV gods that it would be a fast-talking ode to Golden-era Christmas movies with a schmaltzy time-travel twist — I am an "Outlander" girlie, after all. And, golly, did it deliver! Manna from heaven was this little gem! Bethany Joy Lenz shouldered the whole movie-within-a-movie plot with ease, and Kristoffer Polaha's 1940s star persona came fully-formed. It was smart, and it tried things.

"Biltmore" is the one that inspired me to do some digging into these well-groomed Hallmark stars. I knew they were talented given the number of pages they film in a day. Wildly capable performers, all. But what got me was their squeaky-clean public images. They seemed like nice people with fun Instagram accounts. Folks I'd want to see in my living room.

This is not to say that I began a parasocial relationship with the Hallmark hunks and hunkettes, but that I looked forward to seeing them on my TV screen every night doing the most while I giggled along in Zero G. 

Day 5: 'A Very Merry Mix-Up' (2013)

A Very Merry Mix-Up


On Day 5 of #MyJourney, I decided to up the ante and dip into vintage Hallmark again. I had identified 2013's "A Very Merry Mix-Up" weeks before my binge for the simple fact that it stars the most adorable person on the planet, Alicia Witt. I loved her in "Justified," and she plays deer-in-headlights better than anyone. I needed to know whether she shone as brightly at Hallmark.

Short answer? She most definitely did. I gasped. I cackled. Yes, I cried! This was the most unhinged thing I'd seen since Scandi "Forrest Gump" changed my life three days before. A deeply, deeply nuts movie about a pair of lovable doofuses who were made for each other. And you actually care! And it feels true to life in the way all the best farces do! And her villainous boyfriend is actually verbally, emotionally abusive. It stings. Hallmark went there. 

I'd never really seen anything like it. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" did the whole awkward romance thing the year before, but "Very Merry Mix-Up" was two intensely childish adults finding love in increasingly idiotic circumstances. By this time, I was giving it up for Hallmark's unsung experimentation. We need more movies like this.

Day 6: 'A Royal Christmas Crush' (2023), 'A Princess for Christmas' (2011)

A Princess for Christmas


Before we reach the grand finale of my Hallmark Christmas movie marathon, let me clarify two points I haven't really addressed yet: (1) How to watch Hallmark movies and (2) Whether all that Christmas cheer rubs off. 

After a little trial-and-error, I perfected my Hallmark movie viewing environment by Day 3. I was relegated to the bedroom, where our "good TV" sits, but I made the atmosphere as expansive as possible. I preferred leaving a lamp on during my watch, and keeping the door open so my boyfriend could pop his head in from time to time.

I made a few tweaks to my usual viewing routine in order to best soak up all that residual Christmas magic. I listened to Christmas music while making dinner, lit a pine-scented candle and drank a lot of hot cocoa. Like, a lot. I wrote in my Day 1 entry that I "made" hot cocoa. Lies. There's a coffee machine in my apartment lobby that also serves the chocolate stuff. I made multiple pilgrimages (in my pajamas) during each movie to fill up. After a while, I began pulling my mug out before the machine started spitting out water. I needed more potent chocolate each time — either because I'm now addicted, or because I drank too eagerly and burned my taste buds. Hallmark will do that to you.

Okay, Day 6 taught me that curiosity does indeed kill the cat. I had high hopes for "A Royal Christmas Crush" because Katie Cassidy and Stephen Huszar got together while filming it. (I'm only human.) It was aggressively fine. Because I'm a shameless "Outlander" lover, I checked out Sam Heughan's one-and-only Hallmark title, 2011's "A Princess for Christmas," which also inexplicably stars Sir Roger Moore. Sam is great. The movie is not. I don't care to elaborate!

Day 7: 'Three Wise Men and a Baby' (2022)

Tyler Hynes and Paul Campbell in "Three Wise Men and a Baby."

Bettina Strauss/Hallmark

Ah, the last checkpoint of my mission. My white whale, my Tom Cruise jumping off a cliff. I had saved "Three Wise Men and a Baby," the biggest cable movie of 2022, for this moment. It did not disappoint. And by 'it,' I mean the talents of Tyler Hynes, Andrew Walker and Paul Campbell. The latter co-wrote the script alongside another disgustingly funny Hallmark star, Kimberly Sustad.

If my Hallmark fandom began with the impressively outlandish "My Norwegian Holiday," it was cemented with the heartfelt "Three Wise Men and a Baby." The latter is everything missing from the multiplexes: A raucously funny comedy that's family-friendly but that deals with adult subject matter. We're talking love, abandonment, guilt, regret and hope.

This movie—and really all the Hallmark flicks I binged this week—filled some kind of void. Maybe that's the secret sauce of a good Hallmark Christmas movie: Whatever you're needing at the time, you'll find it there between the jingle bells and the meet-cutes. Count me in.

READ MORE: 'Four Christmases' Cast: Where Are the Stars of the Hilarious Holiday Hit Today?