It’s been a stressful year, but at least you can count on Hollywood to come through with the holiday cheer. After all, what’s more relaxing than watching an overworked woman fall in love with a Christmas tree farmer? So decompress with All the Jingle Ladies, our guide to the best holiday movies.
Lacey Chabert played Regina George’s loyal follower Gretchen Weiners in Mean Girls, one of those rare movies that’s become more than just entertainment—it’s a stitch in pop culture’s very fabric. The Tina Fey–crafted film is quoted constantly and referenced religiously; it has a signature song and color. There’s even a day named after it.
But with all that hysteria, Mean Girls still isn’t the project Chabert is asked about the most. Rather, she says, the people who watch her Hallmark Christmas movies are the most passionate. “The fans of the Hallmark movies are incredibly loyal and devoted, and it’s actually enabled me to connect more with them and the people that enjoy the movies,” she says. “They’re so vocal on social media, and I don’t think I’d experienced that to the level I experience now.”
“Loyal and devoted” is a bit of an understatement. Hallmark has turned its holiday-movie-making business into a full-on cultural phenomenon. A whopping 72 million people tuned into Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas lineup in 2017, according to figures provided by the network. Hallmark also brought in the highest ratings on TV for households and women ages 18–49 and 25–54 during the week of November 20, 2017, largely because of its Christmas content. These holiday movies are so popular, in fact, that Hallmark upped its premiere count to 40 movies in 2020. People truly can’t get enough of them.
Nor can the actresses who appear in the films. When I spoke to Chabert in 2018, she was about to start work on her 16th Hallmark movie (over half are holiday themed), and she’s not alone. Here’s a list of the actresses who have appeared in the most Hallmark holiday movies:
Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas (2020), Christmas Waltz (2020), Christmas in Rome (2019), Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (2018), The Sweetest Christmas (2017), A Wish for Christmas (2016), A Christmas Melody (2015), Family for Christmas (2015), A Royal Christmas (2014), Matchmaker Santa (2012)
Christmas She Wrote (2020), Christmas at Dollywood (2019), Christmas at Grand Valley (2018), Coming Home for Christmas (2017), My Christmas Dream (2016), Crown for Christmas (2015)
Christmas Tree Lane (2020), Our Christmas Love Song (2019), Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane (2018), The Mistletoe Inn (2017), Christmas List (2016), I’m Not Ready for Christmas (2015), Christmas at Cartwright’s (2014), A Very Merry Mix-Up (2013)
Holly Robinson Peete
Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing (2020), The Christmas Doctor (2020), A Family Christmas Gift (2019), Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy (2019), Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa (2018), Christmas in Evergreen (2017), Angel of Christmas (2015), Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas Preview Show (2017)
Candace Cameron Bure
If I Only Had Christmas (2020), Christmas Town (2019), A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (2018), Switched for Christmas (2017), Journey Back to Christmas (2016), A Christmas Detour (2015), Christmas Under Wraps (2014), Moonlight & Mistletoe (2008)
But why? Why are the actresses so devoted to the network? “Hallmark has really become like family,” Chabert says. “I really respect the programming. I feel really blessed to be a part of it. I’m really proud of the content, so it’s become a very close relationship. The values that are represented in their films are very much intrinsically who they are as a company.”
Chabert realized this firsthand when the network supported her starting a family of her own. (She welcomed a daughter with husband David Nehdar in 2016.) “I did a movie when I was seven months pregnant, and they hid me behind Christmas trees and presents,” Chabert says. “I went back to work right after the baby, and they allowed me to have the baby on set and travel with my family. They’ve been very supportive. My experience with them has been very special. They’ve supported all the chapters in my own life.”
Peete echoes this sentiment. “Hallmark Channel is very family oriented, so they have respect for us hard-working mamas,” she says.
Of course, the actresses without children have different reasons for staying in business with the network. Witt, for example, enjoys balancing her darker work (like on The Walking Dead) with Hallmark’s lighter fare.
“It’s fun to come out with a movie where every day you have a happy ending and it’s a sweet love story or family story,” she told me in 2018. “I just spent the last week in winter clothes, and people I really enjoy working with and Christmas lights everywhere, and snow and gingerbread cookies and vegan eggnog. There’s very little heaviness on my psyche right now.”
Witt says the more uplifting work makes Hallmark’s movie sets really enjoyable—which is another reason she keeps coming back for more. “There’s something about the lighter material that I think lends itself to everyone just having so much fun,” she says. “If you’re making a movie about something really dark, it does something different to your psyche. You’ll get home from work and try to shake it off, and you’re kind of in a darker place.”
The whimsicality of these films is precisely why they’re such a hit with audiences. Whether it’s the recent rom-com boom or the popularity of movies like A Christmas Prince and The Princess Switch, people are looking for escape in entertainment now more than ever—especially during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Hallmark is arguably the trailblazer of this type of programming, which explains why its holiday movies feel so zeitgeist-y. Viewers are turning to them for refuge—and for a variety of reasons, according to the actresses
“I feel like the country is more divided than ever, and the extremists on both sides are not making things very pleasant for anyone,” McKellar says. “People are looking for a break, they’re looking for an escape from all the noise created by this political climate that we’re in, and Hallmark Channel provides that.”
The channel is also, not so surprisingly, a great place to find friendships. The actresses on Hallmark all follow one another on social media, promote each other’s projects, and attend red carpets together. That camaraderie is one of Chabert’s favorite parts about being in the network’s, well, network. “We’re all very supportive of each other, and we’ve gotten to know each other over the years,” she says. “What’s better than supporting another woman? I’m honored when they tweet about my movies and try to help promote my movies, and I try to do the same for them.”
It’s safe to say these Hallmark actresses aren’t going anywhere. There's an enviable blend of happy content, supportive work environment, and friendship that keeps Chabert, McKellar, Peete, and Witt interested year after year. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a built-in, ever-growing fanbase. As long as viewers keep watching—and I have a feeling they will—we’ll keep getting the Christmas movies we love, both from these women and more.
“I’ve heard the most heartwarming things from people who come up to me and tell me what a specific movie has meant to them,” Witt says. “I’ve had fans write to me and say, ‘I lost my wife five years ago and Christmas has been really hard, but your movies help me get through that.’ That sort of thing is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place: to help make the world a little bit of a better place. These movies give me a chance to do that. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t do them.”
Christopher Rosa is the staff entertainment writer for Glamour. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrosa92.
This piece originally ran in 2018.
Originally Appeared on Glamour