Much like the unrespec­ted holiday fruitcake, the watching of Hall­mark Channel's Countdown to Christmas has become an almost laughable holiday tradition.

The sticky, sweet love in­terests mixed with a nut­ty, predictable storyline, much like the Christ­mas fruitcake, can be enough to turn your stomach. Yet we keep going back for an­other heaping serving of this hard to swallow holiday tradition.

Somehow, watching these predictable Christmas mov­ies over and over has not only become a holiday tradition, but spills over into the rest of the calendar year (let us not forget Hall­mark Channel’s Christmas in July celebration!).

This obsession with a hometown Hallmark Christ­mas has prompted the sales of books, games, t-shirts and other fan merchandise, much like a famed rock star.

Keep in mind Hallmark’s empire started on the sales of greeting cards and gift items, so it is no surprise that they are wisely capitalizing on Hallmark movie fans in their retail sector.

Like most of the Christ­mas celebrations in 2020, Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas started early this year, in fact pre-Hal­loween.

Since the official start of Countdown to Christmas that aired on Oct. 23, 2020, Hallmark has regularly ranked as cable tv’s most watched entertainment network in both primetime and total day ratings.

Last year, 50 million viewers tuned in to watch Hallmark’s holiday line up, and this year due to the pandemic, they are expecting to surpass that number. As of mid-November, ratings showed that Hall­mark Christmas movie viewership had already reached the 36 million mark.

While ratings are off from Hallmark’s peak ratings of a few years ago in 2017, they are still far exceeding viewer numbers of other rival cable networks, and are enjoying a viewer growth of seven percent over last year's numbers.

Regardless of their popularity, Hallmark movies have been criticized by some as having corny, predictable storylines, re-cast­ed B-list actors, and reoccurring, low budget sets and locations.

With all of this lack of Hollywood magic, one has to wonder why viewers keep coming back for more.

It could be that some of Hallmark's movie flaws are also the reasons for their big draws.

The simple plot lines and wholesome settings always provide for family-friendly viewing. This is even more important these days as the family unit is spending more time together during the ongoing pandemic.

Hallmark also never shies away from faith fo­cused scripts of plot lines, as many other mainstream networks tend to do. This offers a venue for a mainly untapped viewing audience.

The settings for most Hallmark movies take place in picture-perfect, small towns, making the viewer instantly feel welcome and at home. Due to the confines of the pandemic, droves of homeowners are leaving the crowded cities in search of open space in the suburbs and more rural communities. These movies have the lure of “location, location, location” that many Americans are longing for.

There is a risk in casting the same actors over and over again, that viewers will grow tired of the same faces. It turns out that the opposite may actually be true, as viewers are comforted by seeing a familiar face in this time of isolation and loneliness for many.

Although plot lines and love interests seem to remain very similar from movie to movie for Hall­mark viewers, every mov­ie has a happy ending. In this difficult time we all are living in, I think we all long for, and even crave, a happy ending.

Experts claim the reason for Hallmark’s success is the lack of reality in their story lines. Many people welcome a two hour escape from reality during the stressful holiday season, and Hallmark offers plenty of escape with royal Christmas weddings, Christmas Eve miracles, and under the mistle­toe magic.

It doesn’t really matter if you love to watch them, or love to hate them, the Hall­mark Channel’s Christ­mas movies have become a staple in our holiday traditions.

It’s probably best to just turn on the Christmas Tree lights, sit back and relax, and let the Hall­mark Channel transport you to the wonders of a small town Christmas mir­acle. It is only a two hour trip, and if you missed one, don't worry! Your favorite, or not so favorite, movies will be airing 24 hours a day from now until New Year’s Day!

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