Cozy, Hometown, and 15 More Words In Every Hallmark Holiday Movie

small town decorated for winter holidays

It’s that time of year again. No, we aren’t just talking about the holidays. We mean that it’s officially Hallmark holiday movie season. Each year, there’s a new lineup of cozy, festive holiday romance movies to watch while you’re sipping hot cocoa or wrapping gifts.

If you’re a fan of these movies, chances are you’ve noticed that they stick to several common romance tropes, like people leaving the big city to find love in a small town or work rivals realizing they were in love all along. In one of Hallmark’s most popular movies ever, Christmas Under Wraps, a doctor leaves the big city and finds love in a small Alaskan town with a man whose father may or may not be Santa Claus. That movie broke records for the network with over 5.8 million viewers.

Is it cheesy? Sure. Far-fetched? Of course. But that’s why these holiday classics are so beloved. To get you ready for your next movie night, here are 17 words you can expect to find in every Hallmark holiday movie line-up as well as some suggestions of what to watch this season, including brand-new choices for 2023.

1. cozy

A good holiday movie can leave you feeling “snugly warm and comfortable,” which happens to be the exact definition of the word cozy. The cozy might come from A Magical Christmas Village, a movie about a cozy, miniature Christmas village set that grants real Christmas wishes. Cozy first appeared in English in the early 1700s and may be linked to the Norwegian koselig, or “to enjoy oneself.” Don’t mind if we do.

2. hometown

You can’t have a holiday romance without a plucky heroine who goes back to her snow-covered hometown to find the partner of her dreams. In 2022, the trope featured in A Kismet Christmas, about a children’s book author who goes home to find love. In 2023, the heroine of Christmas With a Kiss returns to help with her family’s Christmas Carnival—and what else?—finds romance. A hometown is “the town or city in which a person lives or was born, or from which a person comes,” but after watching one of these movies you might just think of it as the place where true love was waiting all along.

3. executive

An executive is “a person or group of persons having administrative or supervisory authority in an organization.” It’s also an essential role in holiday movies. Just ask the cast of Cozy Christmas Inn. This one features a real estate executive and a cozy Alaskan bed and breakfast. Two words in one movie!

4. Christmas spirit

The word spirit comes from the Latin spīritus, meaning “a breathing.”  In a holiday romance, the Christmas spirit might refer to “an attitude or principle that inspires, animates, or pervades thought, feeling, or action,” or it might refer to a supernatural being who helps the main characters. Some movies even do both, like Ghost of Christmas Always, which features a ghost helping someone rediscover their Christmas spirit.

5. old flame

Holiday movies may feature two lovebirds getting cozy by a fire, but in this case the word flame means “an object of one’s passionate love; sweetheart.” In films like Mystic Christmas and Holiday Heritage, people return to their old flames, or past loves, to finally get a holiday-themed happily ever after. In 2023’s Mystic Christmas, the old flames are a pizza shop owner and an animal expert now working at an aquarium. The fires of love may burn low when one leaves their hometown for the big city, but in Hallmark land, they never go out completely.

6. jaded

Jaded means “dulled or satiated by overindulgence.” It’s a state of being for many a romance hero. But what, according to the holiday movie powers, is the cure? Love, of course. In just one short movie, people can go from being jaded and dejected to understanding the real meaning of Christmas, as in Inventing The Christmas Prince, in which a jaded engineer realizes the boss at the job she’s about to quit is actually a dreamy royal from a Christmas story. In this year’s Magic in Mistletoe, a jaded author and recluse returns to his hometown—will he rediscover the spirit of Christmas? (If this list is any indication, you know the answer is yes!)

7. royal

Think the royals are immune to the charms of holiday romance? Hallmark’s A Royal Corgi Christmas may prove you wrong. Royals, like kings, queens, and other sovereigns, are a fan favorite in the romance genre, especially during the holidays. Public fascination with all things royal is probably as old as the word itself. It was first recorded in English all the way back in the 1300s. If only the royals from back then could see their movie counterparts now!

Ready for more cozy cheer? We can also offer you the history and meanings behind some of your favorite winter holiday beverages.

8. competition

From fictional reality shows to Christmas bake-offs, holiday movies often lock the love interests in a heated competition. It makes sense, given that the word comes from the Latin competītus, meaning “to bring together.” A healthy rivalry keeps the character’s in each other’s sights and helps create opportunities for sparks to fly, as seen in In Merry Measure, featuring a budding romance between rival choir directors.

9. ranch

Big cities and small town bakeries aren’t the only places to find love this holiday season. Some characters might have to go all the way to a ranch. Ranch is a Spanish word borrowed by English speakers that means “an establishment maintained for raising livestock under range conditions.” For this trope, check out A Maple Valley Christmas, about a rancher who unexpectedly meets the love of her life

10. second chance

In When I Think Of Christmas, a woman returns to her hometown to help her mother move and is surprised to be reunited with her ex. This is called a second chance romance, and it’s a Hallmark staple. Here, chance means “an opportune or favorable time; opportunity.” Whether the characters were childhood sweethearts who’ve grown up or exes giving it another go, there’s always another chance underneath the mistletoe.

11. small business

Nothing promotes small businesses quite like a holiday movie. These characters are bakers, designers, inn keepers, and even the owners of the local restaurant, as in Christmas At The Golden Dragon, a movie about a quest to save a beloved Chinese restaurant that ends in romance. It might surprise you to know that the term small business is an American English invention circa 1910, but it won’t shock you even a little bit when saving the family business helps the movie heroes learn the true meaning of Christmas.

12. reunion

How about a Christmas Class Reunion? Or, maybe you’d prefer A Fabled Holiday about reunited best friends? Either way, a reunion, or “the act of reuniting,” is kind of a big deal in Hallmark holiday movies. The reunion, usually at a Christmas party or on a snow-covered street downtown, is the catalyst for the holiday romance audiences crave.

13. Christmas wish

A Christmas wish is kind of like a regular wish, except it might be granted by Santa Claus, a magic star, or even one of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, or Future. If you wish for something, that means you “want, desire, or long for” it. (Sometimes, in holiday romance tradition, the wish might come from other people as well, like in the pun-inspired title, We Wish You A Married Christmas.) In 2023’s Where Are You Christmas?, the protagonist wishes for a year without Christmas and then must work to undo the wish—which has turned the world black and white.

14. matchmaker

It isn’t just mistletoe that brings people together during the holidays. Sometimes there are actual matchmakers involved, like in A Holiday On Rye, in which a matchmaker unknowingly connects two competing small business owners. Tropes abound! A matchmaker is “a person who arranges or tries to arrange marriages by introducing potential mates.” The term has existed in English since the 1630s.

’Tis the season for some puckering up under the mistletoe. But what does the word mistletoe have to do with poison and parasites? Let’s find out.

15. secret identity

Just because holiday movies are wholesome doesn’t mean the characters can’t have a secret or two. One trope is the secret identity, in which knowledge about one love interest is kept from the other. Think: a royal or heir who heads off to the snowy mountain town and doesn’t reveal their true identity until the end or an undercover pop star, like in the 2022 movie Undercover Holiday.

16. family recipe

From Christmas cookies to latkes, no holiday movie is complete without a family recipe. These “instructions for making or preparing something” might also provide the recipe for true love. Or, they could offer a little drama that brings the characters together, like in the recent Hallmark addition, Christmas Cookie Catastrophe, in which a famous family recipe gets stolen. Oh, the drama!

17. overworked

No Hallmark holiday movie word list would be complete if we didn’t give a shout out to the overworked career person. This trope includes a character who works relentlessly at the expense of their quality of life, as seen in The Holiday Sitter. This movie, Hallmark’s first featuring a same-sex couple, is about a career-driven businessman who falls for the guy next door. This trope is as classic to Hallmark movies as twinkling lights and snow, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We all know Santa and Rudolph. 🎶 But do you recall 🎶 ... these lesser-known holiday characters?

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