This time of year is marked by the release of many holiday-themed romantic comedies. It sometimes seems like there are too many holiday rom coms to count.

With channels like Lifetime and Hallmark churning out hundreds of holiday romantic comedies, it can feel like watching the same movie over and over again. This is because many holiday rom coms lean on the overly-used tropes of the genre, resulting in very similar characters facing very similar problems in very similar settings.

The Main Character Has A Big City Corporate Job

Learning that Christmas and family are more important than contracts and administrative meetings is a lesson that is hammered home in many holiday romantic comedies. Even big blockbuster hits like The Holiday feature characters like Amanda, who learn to let loose and fall in love with the magic of the season.


This trope can go even further, though. For some reason, it seems like many lead characters in holiday movies have jobs in advertising or marketing. Just to name a few, there is: A Royal Christmas Engagement, With Love, Christmas, Merry Matrimony, A Nanny For Christmas, SurvivingChristmas, and Boyfriends Of Christmas Past– and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A Christmas-Themed Business Is About To Go Under

Whether it’s a family-run candy store, like in one of the most ridiculous Lifetime movies, Christmas In The City, or a Christmas tree farm on the verge of closing, like in The Tree That Saved Christmas, there is always a holiday-themed business that is in jeopardy.

These business troubles serve to teach an outsider about the true meaning of Christmas, as they help devise some sort of project or entrance into a contest to save the store, and get caught up in the festivities.

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There’s A Contest Or Festival For A Small Town

Holiday rom coms would be nothing without the looming threat of a Christmas cookie decorating contest or Christmas tree festival. When a character is forced to actively participate in holiday cheer activities, they will most likely accidentally enjoy themselves and get lost in a romantic holiday moment.

These tropes don’t always necessarily lead to bad movies. In fact, this trope is present in Jingle Belle, one of the best Lifetime Christmas movies, when Belle gets caught up writing songs for her hometown’s Christmas Pageant.

A Character Has Resentment Around Christmas

Before the main character eventually enjoys a new marketing plan for the toy store or gets way too invested in a tree decorating contest, they have to overcome their undoubted resentment around the holiday season or family activities, or even Christmas decorations in the office.

This goes along with the big city job trope, as the character usually chooses their career and “doesn’t have time for Christmas.” Or, maybe their loved one that had a passion for the holidays passed away, and now Christmas makes them too sad. Either way, they exude Scrooge energy until they meet their love interest.

Two Characters Have To Pretend They’re Dating

This trope isn’t entirely exclusive to holiday rom coms, but it definitely makes a frequent appearance. Even upcoming 2021 holiday movies like Love Hard feature this common plot device.

Either there’s some sort of misunderstanding, or one character offers something in return for the favor of pretending to be their significant other. When a couple has to pretend to be in love during the romance of the holidays, and do holiday-themed activities with each other, they’re bound to fall in love for real.

The Setting Is A Small Midwestern Mountain Town

What would a cliché holiday rom-com be without the return to a Christmas-loving small hometown? Viewers very rarely see these films taking place in large cities or states outside of the midwest and mountain regions.

Montana, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, or Minnesota are frequent settings for holiday romantic comedies. As long as it’s a place where it snows around Christmastime, has a small and tight-knit community, and communication with larger cities is almost nonexistent, it can most likely be the set of a holiday rom-com.

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A Character Wakes Up In An Alternate Life

Many Christmas movies center around questions like “What if I had stayed with my high school sweetheart?” or “What if I hadn’t chosen my career over Christmas?” Magically experiencing a different life is a trope that’s been going on as far back as the perfect Virgo holiday rom-com, It’s A Wonderful Life.

More modern romantic comedies like A Kiss Before ChristmasA Snow Globe Christmas, and Lifetime’s Comfort And Joy are just some of the numerous holiday movies that feature a magical switch into a different life.

A Couple Is Not Compatible And Sets Up The Love Interests

Yet another one of the most-used romance movie tropes is that of the engaged (or soon-to-be) couple that features the main character’s love interest and someone who couldn’t be less compatible with them, like Chris and Samantha in Just Friends. They realize as time goes on, that they were in the wrong relationship all along, and get together with the main character.

This trend is even stronger in holiday rom-coms, with the pressure of engagement around the holidays and the several romantic moments possible for the real love interests of the story.

There Is A Familial Connection To Santa Claus

Santa has been a featured character in many holiday films, and there’s even a bit of a romance story for him with Mrs. Claus. For many of the stories about the merry toymaker, he’s a magical and immortal man who lives with his wife and elves in the North Pole.

But, for some reason, many holiday romantic comedies like to make Santa a family man and a potential father-in-law. Numerous rom-com characters either find out that they’ve secretly been a Claus their entire life, or they have to introduce their partner or fiancé to Father Christmas, like in Merry In-Laws.

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There’s A Musical Number Or Carol

Sometimes it seems like the writers just want to highlight the fact that their main actor also sings, so an added Christmas karaoke night or open solo for a caroling group is thrown into the plot.

Love Hard, for example, awkwardly adds in more than one Nina Dobrev singing scene, Love Actually lets its actors show off their pipes throughout the film, and Emilia Clarke showcased her vocal talents in Last Christmas. 


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