(JTA) — They say the first step is admitting it, so here goes: My name is Jeremy Fuchs, and I’m obsessed with Hallmark Christmas movies.
As COVID-19 ramps up, I find myself looking for ways to wind down. And Hallmark does just that.
How deep is it? I have favorite actresses and actors who are Hallmark regulars. As we watch, my wife and I try to predict the next lines. (It’s not that hard.) We notice that the movies often use the same house (at least three times, by our count). We try to figure out how the couple will resolve their differences and come together, usually in the last nine minutes, although sometimes in as few as four. We’ve tried calculating how many of the movies end with a kiss — it’s not as many as you might imagine, but they do almost always end with a dramatic zoom out.
But the more I watch, the more I think and feel a bit weird about this newfangled obsession of mine. I’m clearly overindulging in Christmas schmaltz instead of getting in touch with my Jewish roots. I feel like I’m actively choosing Christmas over Hanukkah. And while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some Christmas cheer, the balance seems skewed. Especially in a year where everything’s been upended, including far-too-many holiday gatherings, I should be looking for comfort in my traditions, in my belief system, not in some made-for-TV moment.
Sure, Hallmark has Hanukkah movies, but they aren’t that interesting or authentic, sticking to the same formula but substituting latkes and menorahs for fruitcakes and trees. And if I’m being honest, I’m actively choosing a Christmas movie set in a New England B&B over a Hanukkah movie any day. (We Jews don’t seem to own too many charming B&Bs in the countryside, do we?)
Yet the more I think about it, the more awkward I feel. Here I am finding joy, relaxation and comfort in Christmas movies and I’m beginning to essentially ignore the holiday that I actually celebrate. It’s come to this — I will easily spend far more time in 2020 watching dumb Christmas movies than actually celebrating and thinking about Hanukkah.
All of this is very out of character for me. I’m not a Christmas person. I have no use for string lights; I’m not a tremendous fan of gingerbread; I’ve never once dressed as Santa; I’ve never once been jealous of my Christmas-celebrating friends. I’m not obsessed with trees — seen one, seen them all. I have no desire to go caroling, I don’t like chestnuts and asking me to put together an open fire is a cause for mass destruction.
And I love Hanukkah. I love latkes. I love presents. I love that we get eight crazy nights. I know the Adam Sandler songs by heart. I love that there is a verifiable, science-defying reason that we can celebrate this. I love that Hanukkah is a source of light in a time of darkness.
Yet this year, this crazy year, feels different. The news is a fire hydrant and every day brings a fresh blast. I’ve overdosed on the election and am still recovering. I’m a beyond cautious COVID-er. Every day brings the potential for exhaustion.
So I recognize that I’m looking for ways to decompress, ways for my mind to stop swirling. And before Christmas season began in earnest, I found that in my fair share of TV. I’ve watched scores of wonderfully produced, incredibly smart shows, stimulating productions that made me think and feel.
But more and more, I find myself gravitating to the Hallmark channel. And I think I know why.
In this most ridiculous of years, I’m looking for something outside myself. I’m looking for something so radically different, so completely out of character so that I can, for a few hours, transport to something that’s not this. Something that always ends well. Something where small towns light up in celebration, where everyone is nice and respects others, where miracles, no matter how corny, happen. If everyone behaved like they did in a Hallmark movie, we’d probably be out of this mess by now.
That’s what it is. I still don’t really care about Christmas. I’m still going to eat my latkes and I’m going to light the candles. I’m still crazy about the eight crazy nights.
But I find myself desperate for a world where everyone agrees, everyone is nice, everyone is neighborly and everything gets resolved in nine minutes.
This is what 2020 has come to, that the only idealized form of life I can find is on a fairly low-production movie set. When my days are filled with avoiding maskless people, and despairing over spineless leaders, I need something idyllic. I need something different.
Next year, if all goes well, I hope that my need for this will subside, that the world will be a little nicer, a little less stressful.
And while I may not watch as many Hallmark movies, I do know this: When the token Hanukkah Hallmark comes out next year, I’ll fry up some latkes and tune in. Not every COVID-era tradition has to change.