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Why Are Christmas Rom-Coms Still So Popular?

Christmas is a special holiday for many, with classic films replaying on repeat and familiar tunes on the radio. While homes and businesses decorate for the season and the weather turns colder, it’s finally time for our favorite Christmas tradition of all to start up again. That’s right; it’s time for Christmas rom-coms to come back on the air.

As Christmas approaches, many of these films can be seen on Hallmark, Netflix, and even HBO. Whether it’s a small-town romance with a suddenly handsome neighbor, a snowstorm-induced coming together of old friends, or a Christmas wish come true, these cheesy and beloved films have a fond place in our hearts. Let’s examine why these charming tales are so popular and which titles to look out for this year.

Update December 7, 2023: This article has been updated in honor of the Yuletide season with more reasons why the Christmas rom-com has endured for so long.

Christmas Rom-Coms: A Tale As Old As Time

Loew’s Inc.

While the very first Christmas rom-com is perhaps lost to time, one of the most iconic is The Shop Around the Corner. Released in 1940, notably in January, just before the Christmas season, the film’s climax takes place on Christmas Eve. The movie stars Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart as two employees at a leather goods shop in Budapest who can barely stand each other, not realizing they are falling in love as anonymous correspondents through their letters. If this premise sounds familiar, the film was remade as You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

The Shop Around the Corner set up many templates that would later be seen in romantic comedies, particularly holiday ones. Two people who cannot stand one another but eventually find one another during the holiday season. But how did we get from A Shop Around the Corner to Hallmark movies and A Christmas Prince?

A change in taste is perhaps the most straightforward answer, particularly among target demographics. Classic Christmas tales were not always romantic, with one of the most popular being Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. There’s nothing romantic about a man who hates Christmas, even when he does change his ways at the end. Many of the most classic Christmas stories are ones aimed at younger audiences, particularly children. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone, and The Polar Express are some examples of popular Christmas tales, and all are aimed at highlighting the season of the holiday, so since they are aimed at kids, there is no room for romance.

Related: Best Christmas Rom-Coms of All Time, Ranked

Christmas rom-coms, on the other hand, are aimed at older audiences, ones who have a new meaning for a holiday. While the spirit of goodwill towards fellow humans and sharing in family bonds is still prevalent, stories focused on adults tend to highlight romance. Christmas, with cold winters set against warm, cozy aesthetics and typically bright holiday lights setting the mood, lends itself very well to romance stories.

The positive influence and excitement of touching Christmas-related stories, paired with easier consumption via cable television, allowed for a wide range of Christmas films to be made. With people cuddled up by the fire each year, the TV Christmas Rom-Com became widely popular as a festive way to indulge in heartfelt stories together with loved ones, inspiring a wave of kindness and acceptance.

Christmas Rom-Coms: Theater vs. Television

When one thinks of a Christmas Rom-Com, a few different styles may come to mind. The Hallmark style of mass-produced, sometimes cheesy, but very bingeable movies. The big blockbuster hits which debuted in theaters and are now classics of the genre. And, of course, the more recent streaming network releases appeal to an audience adjacent to Hallmark but distinct in their own right. When looking for a Christmas Rom-Com to enjoy, are we seeking Love Actually, Christmas Inheritance, or Best. Christmas. Ever!? With so many types to choose from, it can be hard to pick.

We find that classic theater-released films appeal to the broadest range of viewers. Love Actually and The Holiday are still amazing years later. And true classics like It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas still get screened on TV for a reason. These films are sweet, heartbreaking, inspiring, and explore a wide range of topics beyond just Christmas.

Related: Why Happiest Season is the Perfect Christmas Movie

However, what these films don’t have is quantity. There are only so many Christmas rom-coms to enjoy each year, with little room to release new ones during the packed holiday season. Hallmark, Netflix, Lifetime, HBO, and other streaming networks don’t need to rely on a theater to screen their original films. The sheer number of films being released speaks to an element that many fans adore. At times, their plots are cheesy, similar to previous films, and feature many of the same actors – and for Hallmark movie fans, this is part of the fun!

Each year, Hallmark plays new Christmas films on their network – sometimes as early as October – leading up to the December countdown to Christmas. Their movies play all day, every day, and when you’re baking cookies or wrapping presents, it’s nice to have a constant stream of holiday goodness playing. Their movies are all feel-good festivities, and much like romance novels, these Christmas movies are easy and fun to watch. Meanwhile, theatrical rom-coms, like Last Christmas, disappointed at the box office, while another one intended for theatrical, Happiest Season, was sent straight to streaming to give it a wider audience. Streaming has provided a new format for the holiday rom-com to expand.

Christmas Rom-Coms: The Everlasting Popularity

Best Christmas Rom-Coms of All Time, Ranked
Netflix/Universal Pictures

It should be clear by now that there are different forms of Christmas movies, but what makes Christmas rom-coms so appealing is their sentimentality. While not a romantic comedy, the 2015 film The Night Before might have the best quote about how love and Christmas go hand in hand.

“It’s Christmas, and there’s magic in the air at Christmas. People’s hearts are open. People want to forgive. People want love.”

Christmas rom-coms can show people that, in some cases, all that is needed is a new perspective on their situation. These movies hold hope for those who might have lost it. Many Christmas rom-coms usually shine with some good deeds and positive consequences, touching people’s hearts on- as well as off-screen. Seeing how it affects those who receive yet also do a good deed can lead to an avalanche of kindness in real life. A little inspiration can go a long way, especially when the storyline of some movies has been touching viewers’ hearts for many years and accompanying them from a young age.

It is the time to take a break, share feelings with other people, and allow for a lot of sentimentality. It almost seems as though watching Christmas rom-coms is as much of an essential part of Christmas as Santa Claus himself. Whether it is about unrequited love with an unexpected happy ending, financial struggles, or mid-life crises amid the loveliest season of the year, Christmas rom-coms offer something to find comfort in and to connect with. Various networks continue to see the potential of such films since the relatively cheap production and the yearly excitement for new stories to dive into are a recipe for success.

Ultimately, it’s not just charm or the sheer volume of content but the nostalgia these sweet films bring us. They are a holiday tradition we love, and if you can’t choose from all the options, then check out this video about the 10 best Christmas movies with incredible casts!


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