Have no fear, my friends, old-fashioned, warm and fuzzy Christmases with close families passionate with tradition still exist! How do I know? Because I am one of millions of television viewers addicted to the Hallmark Christmas channels.
Many are so addicted to these tributes to “Christmas values” that Hallmark now has two channels broadcasting movies seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Many people are admitted binge watchers. When I asked a few of my friends what they were doing to get ready for the holidays, their unanimous response was one word, “Hallmark.”
So I asked myself, what was there about those formulaic TV movies that has captured such a large and diverse audience? Perhaps it’s just a hunger for holidays that seemed sweeter and simpler in the past?
I admit that my own early memories seem to have taken on an almost Norman Rockwell painting feel in my mind. Living in Michigan, I indeed had a white Christmas, with beautifully decorated homes all around and so many colored lights it looked like rainbows reflected in the snow. Of course, this was all before the first energy crisis back in the ’60s.
Then, part of a very large family, our Christmas gatherings were gigantic, multi-generational events, whose preparations seemed to take forever. Kitchens went on over-overload, and the enticing aroma of baked goods was delightful. There were large parades and constant parties, and “caroling” was a normal event. All this warm, holiday spirit was fully complimented by filled church services. There was no use then for a slogan reminding us that Jesus is the reason for the season. Nativity sets, displayed everywhere, were obvious proof of that. Then the schools called it Christmas vacation and not the more politically correct “winter break.”
When did some of these changes start taking place? A process beginning with cultural change as families began to spread out across the country. Work hours have lengthened, too, so less time seems available for participation in local and school events. Budgets touched by economic downfalls have pulled back on local holiday events.
How we shop has drastically changed. I think that began when the shopping season was slowly pushed to begin earlier, Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween. Friendly local shopping has, in many cases, been replaced by the internet. And instead of sending traditional Christmas cards, many people now just post a generic greeting on Facebook or send a tweet.
Could all these factors have us all craving a closer, warmer and more charming time? What does a Hallmark movie offer to those of us with a sweet tooth? Consider that their offerings of romance and comedy can act as family uniters, or reuniters. Christmas caroling, warm church services, charming snow-covered cities, beautifully decorated homes, Santas, toy factories, elves, gingerbread, angels, cookies and generous bosses along with various forms of Ebenezers and more, all waiting for you on Hallmark, and best of all, there are only happy endings!
While I enjoy these movies myself, I am fortunate to live in a community that also inspires me with Christmas spirit. We have maintained much of our small-town feeling here, so Santa not only still comes to town in a traditional parade, he still comes to breakfast.
Thanks to Kiwanis and all the support they get from the community, we also still have our Christmas Eve meal open to all. Our downtown is festively decorated, and churches are busy with concerts and services. A reminder here that to spread our arms to include those amongst us who do not have family or health this Christmas season can truly result in enhancing our own joy.
On Dec. 25, Christmas will come. Despite all the changes in the world and all the stress, Christmas will come. But it is up to us to let it in. Wishing you a merry and meaningful Christmas this year, and until the next time, may all your news be good news.
Diana Ingram Thurston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.