Christmas cheer on Friday the 13th? In 2020, anything goes. Despite the ghoulish undertones of the number on the calendar, the morning is merry and bright – the perfect conditions to spend 24 straight hours watching Lifetime’s generous spread of romantic holiday movies. Mostly beloved, often affectionately skewered, these two-hour chunks of snow-filled, fast-moving commitment fantasies hit the oxytocin sweet spot...in small doses. Will a self-imposed, no-breaks-allowed marathon suck me dry of yuletide spirit or merely heighten my desire to haul out the holly? Let’s find out:
8:30am — Christmas on Ice
I’m outfitted in fuzzy slippers and cozy pajama bottoms, with a presentable collared shirt to complete the ensemble. Think of it as a TV marathon mullet: business on top and so on and so forth (you never know when the boss will ping with a Zoom call invitation, it’s technically a workday, after all). Untold calories await me as the first movie on the list goes super meta: the main characters are curled up in an apartment that looks like Santa Claus threw up in it, watching sappy Christmas movies while being IN a sappy Christmas movie. Also, how many fuzzy hats does this girl own? As a former figure skater trying to save the city ice rink she runs from closure, one expects a certain caliber of winter attire, but by my unscientific count of six knitted caps, it seems excessive.
What I learned: Decorating a tree with a potential love interest is a very successful form of foreplay.
What I ate: Getting this party started the right way with a cup of peppermint hot chocolate.
11:30am — The Christmas Yule Blog
Three hours in and Zak Santiago takes an early lead in Lifetime’s 2020 crop of gallant hotties, even if he fits every saccharine cliché. Dead wife? Check. Gregarious kid too smart for their age? Check. Goofy, yet charming sense of humor? Check. This one doubles up on the "textile activities meant to arouse the opposites-attract couple" with Christmas-tree decorating and a tamale-making lesson that gets hotter than a kitchen fire. I’m now accepting applications for a cooking instructor.
What I learned: Always go for the guy in the cowboy hat and make your dream job work for you, not the other way around.
What I ate: Lime tortilla Chips. Can’t eat just 50.
1:30pm — Candy Cane Christmas
It’s a multiple-screen world and I’m a multiple-screen girl, so imagine the whiplash from doomscrolling through tweets about the nationwide surge of positive COVID cases while watching 7th Heaven star Beverly Mitchell pout about her best friend and business partner changing up the front window display of their flower shop. First thought: Girl, get a grip! Second thought: Stop letting real world devastation overshadow this spectacle of romance and garland – learn to enjoy the moment!
What I learned: Running into a gentleman where he shops, where he works, and where his old aunt lives is the key to blossoming romance. Kismet? Or stalking?
What I ate: Scrambled eggs and turkey sausage. It’s never too late for a healthy breakfast.
3:40pm — Let’s Meet Again on Christmas Eve
We've reached he point in the day when yelling at the TV screen seems perfectly reasonable. Sorry, neighbors! When the main girl suggests she and her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend Rob part ways for two years while he takes a photography fellowship in Italy, with a promise to reunite on Christmas Eve, my pointed comments bounce off the walls: What are you doing? Have you never heard of a phone? Or FaceTime? Do you have a passport? Airlines fly to Italy, you know!! THERE’S NO REASON TO SABOTAGE TRUE LOVE WITH A RANDOM ULTIMATUM!" This moment calls for a quick musical interlude of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In the End.” Excuse me while I fire up YouTube.
What I learned: Don’t let demanding, albeit sweet, and outrageously privileged clients circumvent your holiday plans.
What I ate: Flavored water. Stay hydrated, my friends.
6pm — Christmas on the Vine
Too much alone time can dampen the spirit no matter how joyful the show. Ho-ho-ho turns into bah-humbug real fast. Sling’s Watch Party feature to the rescue! Sharing a glass of red with my cousin in California over video chat while watching Meredith Baxter try to usurp a small town winery, it’s hard to tell which one of us enjoyed the requisite happy ending more. Her black kitten Frankie seemed particularly invested, judging by his intense stare and refusal to budge from the laptop.
What I learned: Get yourself a flannel-clad man who owns a winery.
What I ate: A glass of sweet red Roscato. If you can’t beat them, join them.
8:15 — Dear Christmas
Despite the indentation in my couch proving that I haven't left a reclining position in the amount of time it takes to binge the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, my imagination travels back to the ‘90s every time Melissa Joan Hart and Jason Priestley make eyes at each other: Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Brandon Walsh — deliver me from the mess of 2020! Thank you, Santa for the shot of Priestly exiting a tow truck in slow motion against the backdrop of a slinky, saxophone-drenched “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Bonus stocking stuffer: Priestley cranking a car jack like he’s the star of a Bon Jovi music video. Is it suddenly getting hot in my apartment?
What I learned: There is enough room in the heart of a Luke Perry devotee for another.
What I ate: M&M and butterscotch morsel-filled trail mix
10:15 pm — The Christmas Aunt
Oh boy, with the chances of seeing my nieces, nephew and godson this Christmas now nonexistent, spending two hours watching Keshia Knight Pulliam pull out all the stops as the world’s most creative aunt lodged a lump in my throat the size of a snow globe.
What I learned: Family sticks together no matter what.
What I ate: Chicken nuggets and fries. Comfort food all the way.
12:30am — Feliz Navi-DAD
The underwire is unclasped, the full pajama set is donned and only Mario Lopez’s dimpled exuberance can rejuvenate this witching hour. Too bad another batch of dead mothers threatens to bring the mood way down. Dead mom’s ornaments. Dead mom’s cookie recipe. Dead mom’s toys. Dead mom haunting every corner of the desert like the ghost of Christmas past. Without any sage on hand to smudge the room, belting out the cheery “Feliz Navidad” can’t hurt to shoosh away this ghost, right?
What I learned: If you can, call your mom. On the phone. Let her hear your voice.
What I ate: Pepto Bismol? If only …
2am — Christmas Ever After
Trust LeAnn Rimes when she says you can’t fight the moonlight. Blame it on the stars or the 18 hours of tree trimming, mistletoe, carols, winter festivals, goofy misunderstandings, outlandish coincidences, and brave declarations of love. But the urge to text the cause of all your torment and bliss will not be denied. What conveys I’m watching an adorably delusional, set-in-her-ways writer convinced a rugged, single-dad inn owner and the illustrated model on her romance novels are one and the same and, I’m thinking of you? Hi? You up? Wanna get married?
What I learned: Traveling solo for Christmas might just snag you a life partner.
What I ate: Another round of peppermint hot cocoa
4am — The Christmas Edition
Maybe it’s all the sugar. Maybe I’m sleep deprived. Maybe I’m a nerdy journalist geeking out over the Fourth Estate before the sun rises, but these quotes give me chills:
“It’s one thing to report about something, and it’s quite another to live it.”
“Local news is the heart of our country no matter how it’s reported.”
What could be more romantic than a savvy reporter moving to Alaska to save a newspaper? In the world of a Lifetime movie, that would be falling in love with the newspaper’s owner. But I only have eyes for that print product.
What I learned: If you write it, they will come.
What I ate: Gummy bears
5:45am — Forever Christmas
Remember kissing? The lack of spit swapping over the last eight months is enough to keep a single person up at night – perhaps all night. What this movie lacks in plot and charisma from the cute, yet uninspired male lead, it makes up for in snogging. Accepting chaste relationships is part of the unspoken contract of partaking in these Lifetime movies, but this couple visibly locks lips at least three times.
What I learned: Keep the spirit of Christmas alive year-round in your heart, not on your front lawn.
What I ate: Lime-flavored popcorn
7:15am — Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding
This wedding is a disaster, much like my ability to stay awake. I feel like a glass of flat champagne, like the afterparty of these nuptials. I feel like I’m cursed to only speak in similes from this moment forward. I’m afraid I’ve been up too long and may never fall asleep again. SEND HELP!
What I learned: To spread out heartwarming Christmas celebrations over days not hours.
What I ate: Finished off the gummy bears. Time to brush my teeth.
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