Christmas Rom-Com Tropes That Make Zero Sense
Ah, the holidays. If you're single, it's time to head to the most picturesque tree lot to fall in love. That's how it works according to Christmas rom-coms, at least.
"Let's make a realistic holiday movie," said no screenplay writer at Hallmark, ever.
Realism isn't the point of festive romantic comedies. The point is to watch something predictable and heartwarming to keep you from losing it during a last-minute gift-wrapping sesh. We love these cheesy Christmas movie tropes as much as the next guy, and comparing them to real life is half the fun.
These are the Christmas rom-com tropes that make zero sense.
Going Home to a Quaint Small Town
How it works in the movies: The weather in Los Angeles is so not Christmas-y enough. If you're the main character of a holiday rom-com, returning to the small town you grew up in is mandatory. Your doting dad and nosy but well-meaning mom are delighted to see you. Your childhood bedroom is just how you left it, and you breathe a sigh of relief to have a break from your hectic, fast-paced job in the big city. The only thing missing is romance.
What would really happen: Even if you love going home for the holidays, most people leave the town they grew up in for a reason. No one visits Gary, Indiana, and thinks, "Aw, how charming! I'd love to stay here forever." Small towns aren't always quaint. Plenty of them have bad roads, nothing to do, and not-so-subtly homophobic grandparents. Someone usually gets in a fight over the dinner table, too. Visiting for a three day weekend is enough.
The Big City Girl Falling for the Small Town Boy
How it works in the movies: Speaking of small town life, in Christmas movies, every small town has a minimum of one attractive, eligible bachelor per block. He was either a complete dork when you were kids, or you had a bitter rivalry with him. Now that you're grown up, you suddenly realize, "Hold up. He's hot."
You'll also probably have an epiphany that city life and an ambitious career wasn't for you after all. Home is where the heart is. And also the hot people. The second one, mostly.
What would really happen: You get home and immediately get saddled with taking out the trash. As you trudge out into the snow, which is more grey than white, you recognize the neighbor across the street and immediately hide behind the dumpster.
Is that creepy Carl? He's 35, never moved out, and looks even creepier than he did when he was frying ants with a magnifying glass in second grade. And he's still single? Shocking. Better wait until you head back to the city to open Bumble, because the pickings in rural Iowa are slim.
Why Does Everyone Own a Christmas Tree Farm?
How it works in the movies: We have never seen a holiday movie set in Florida. The beach is for summer flings, not winter romance. You're not allowed to fall in love in December unless you have to throw on layers and snow boots to visit the local Christmas tree farm. Conveniently, it's owned by one of the local hot people. It's been in his family for years, but he needs a Christmas miracle to stay in business.
OMG, you majored in social media marketing? Maybe you can help, and if your hand accidentally grazes his as you're brainstorming over coffee, so be it.
What would really happen: Firstly, there are only so many Christmas tree farms. Logistically, it's not possible for every attractive, eligible bachelor to own one.
Secondly, it's not nearly as cute as it seems. All of December, your new beau would be busy cutting down trees for demanding customers who thought 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve was the perfect time to shop for a tree. The rest of the year, attractive tree man would be battling droughts, pest infestations, erosion, and soil contamination. So romantic.
Thirdly, if a few Instagram posts could save a struggling small business, we'd all be entrepreneurs.
No One Works a 9-5
How it works in the movies: If you're the star of a Christmas movie, you're pick one of the following professions:
- Advertising exec
- Travel writer
- Struggling actor
- Family vet
- Bakery owner
- Bookshop clerk
- Ski lodge owner
- Ice rink manager
- Christmas tree farm owner
Those are your options. You must be able to either take an extended vacation, set your own hours, or work remotely to make time for lengthy, open-ended dates in the middle of a work week. It's Tuesday. Why are you checking your email? It's time to meet small town hot guy for lunch
What would really happen: Who has time for a lunch date on an average week day? Where are all the bankers, accountants, plumbers, nurses and cashiers? If there's an electrician in a Christmas movie, they're not the star, because you can't go on a walk through the snowy woods when you're busy installing recessed lighting.
If you decide to recreate a Christmas rom-com romance for yourself, quit your day job immediately. Working retail isn't nearly hot enough for a winter romance.
Even Parents Have Time for Lengthy Dates
How it works in the movies: Single parents have it made in holiday rom-coms. After a long day at work, you meet for a romantic dinner. You have two wonderful children and probably just came from a PTA meeting, but you only look disheveled in an endearing kind of way. After dinner, the night is still young. See where it takes you, because you definitely don't have to get home to relieve the sitter.
Also, sorry for your loss, because you're only single because your spouse died. Luckily, something about the crisp air and scent of pine has given you the closure you need to move on, put yourself out there, and find love again.
What would really happen: Um, do these people not know the going rate for a sitter? Unless they have grandparents living next door who are delighted to offer free childcare, an eight-hour date will set you back around $200, and that's without dinner and drinks. Also, while c-parenting is a thing, so are bitter divorces.
In Christmas movies, most single parents are grieving lost spouses, and they're finally ready to heal their family and give their lovely, well-behaved children a wholesome new father figure. (Or mother, depending on the movie.) In real life, you're more likely to bicker with an ex about who's year it is to have the kids for Christmas and when it's acceptable to get them an iPhone.
Traveling Is a Disaster
How it works in the movies: If you're trying to catch a plane, train, or taxi in a Christmas movie, good luck. Something will go wrong. Most likely, someone else will snag the last cab, and the tires will spray you with freezing, muddy water as it drives away. It's cool, though. Hot small town man happens to recognize you looking adorably flustered on the curb and offers you a lift.
What would really happen: Catching an Uber is usually mildly annoying at worst. Flight delays are a pain, and the holidays can make matters worse, but they're not as common as movies and TV shows (or social media) wants us to think.
If you do get stuck at the airport, unfortunately, there's not much that anyone can do about it. You're just going to have to wait on the floor of Terminal 6 until your flight is rescheduled. No matter how hot your small town neighbor is, he can't save you when Snowmaggedon grounds all the planes in the Tri-State area.
Every Christmas Is a White Christmas
How it works in the movies: As we mentioned, Christmas movies are never set in Florida. Christmas doesn't exist in Hollywood either. That's why you went back home to your small town that conveniently has a perfectly timed snow storm. If it's a bad one, you'll get snowed in a la "Baby It's Cold Outside," minus the creepy undertones.
What would really happen: White Christmases are way less common than holiday movies make them out to be. About 40% of the US has more than a 50% chance of seeing a white Christmas, but that's including the entire state of Alaska.
30% of the rest of the country has a 50% chance or better of getting some snow showers, but only about 19% of the population lives in those areas. In other words, you're probably more likely to get a wet or sandy Christmas than a white one. Sorry about that.
Felonies Are NBD
How it works in the movies: No Christmas comedy is complete without either a chaotic chase scene, breaking and entering, or an attempted kidnapping. If you're in a Christmas movie, though, relax. The odds of getting arrested are almost zero, as long as your heart's in the right place. Even felonies are fine, as long as they're funny.
What would really happen: Buddy the Elf getting arrested for assaulting a department store Santa is the most realistic result of Christmas movie chaos we've seen. His workaholic dad is exasperated, but can you blame him? A grown man in an elf suit shows up, claims to be his biological son, moves in, breaks the DVD player, and then needs money for bail. We'd be annoyed too. Plus, can you blame the guy for working so much? Raising a family in NYC isn't exactly cheap.
As for most other Christmas movies, arrests don't happen nearly as often as they should. Home Alone would have resulted in child endangerment charges and a visit from CPS, at the very least.
Kids Know Best!
How it works in the movies: If you're a kid in a romantic Christmas movie, you have all of the following:
- Childlike wonder
- Belief in magic
- An old soul
- Wisdom beyond your years
Go ahead and remind the grownups about the true magic of Christmas. They can thank you later.
What would really happen: Where are all the moms at? Yes, hi. When's the last time Christmas magic "just happened?" in your house? Or did you spend a bunch of sleepless nights wrapping stocking stuffers and coming up with ingenious ways to hide a creepy stuffed elf? Yeah, that's what we thought. Moms are usually the orchestrators of Christmas magic. They do all the heavy lifting to keep the childlike wonder and magical vibes alive.
They also do the meal prep, party planning, gift wrapping, budgeting, and just about everything else. All the kids do is show up and count down the days until they can open presents that parents don't even get credit for, because a fictional man with a beard gets all the glory. But sure, kids have it all figured out.
Christmas Magic Can Heal All Wounds
How it works in the movies: Remember the travel delays and burnout we discussed? Once Christmas Eve hits, those pesky problems are over. All your problems are canceled, actually. Global warming. World hunger. Audits.
Once those Christmas snowflakes start falling, all is right in the world. Call your parents. They probably put aside their differences and got back together while you were having a spontaneous snowball fight and sipping cocoa.
What would really happen: Brb. We have to cancel our next therapy appointment. Our childhood trauma has been canceled. We now get along splendidly with all our siblings, our student loans have been forgiven, and we can afford to buy a house. Amazing. Also, Great Aunt Margaret isn't even a little bit racist anymore, because Christmas. It's a miracle.
It Can Erase Budget Deficits Too, Apparently
How it works in the movies: There's no funding for the annual holiday ice rink? The children will be so disappointed. Don't worry, though. It's Christmas. The whole town will come together to save the rink and restore holiday magic once and for all.
Also, if you're the main character, there's no way you're poor poor. You can't singlehandedly fund a Christmas carnival, but you're at least upper middle class. In today's market, your cozy, family home is worth around $2.5 million and the value just keeps going up, up, up.
What would really happen: Rinks are pretty expensive to maintain, and seasonal ones rely on a constant stream of customers to strap on overpriced rentals. Otherwise, they just wouldn't profitable. A small town rink might get away with less traffic if it's already below freezing, but if the city doesn't want to fund it, that cute ice skating date probably isn't going to happen.
Also, where are all of the average people in average houses? Christmas movies never seem to feature millennial couples stuck living in mediocre apartments even though both of them have two degrees and work full-time. Where's our representation, hm?
If There's No Ice Rink, Is It Even a Christmas Movie?
How it works in the movies: Speaking of rinks, every Christmas movie has an ice skating scene. The second you get a role in a holiday rom com, sign up for learn-to-skate classes, because you will be skating.
You're either a former hockey player or figure skater, grew up skating on ponds in your grandpa's backyard, or have never been on ice in your life. If it's the latter, don't sweat it. Your date will catch you as you fall. How romantic.
What would really happen: Let's just say there is a cute seasonal rink around the corner. A date in rental skates probably won't be as cozy and cute as the movies make it seem. Firstly, those things are dull AF. Secondly, even if your date is an amazing skater, if you start to fall and grab onto them, you're both going down.
Lastly, if you actually like skating, good luck. We're not sure how the couples in Christmas movies end up skating in Central Park all alone, but most seasonal rinks are so crowded, there's no room to move.
Being Single Is a National Tragedy
How it works in the movies: Speaking of romance, it's a big deal in Christmas movies. If you're single, why are you not mingling? Those sweet, small town parents of yours need grandkids. Hurry up and find a cute veterinarian or zamboni driver to go out with. Even though the movie only covers one holiday season, you'll be engaged before the end credits.
What would really happen: Contrary to what Bridget Jones's Diary would lead viewers to believe, it's entirely possible to be over 25 and single at the holidays without being abysmally depressed. Sure, you don't get to kiss anyone under the mistletoe, but you also don't have to argue about who's family you're spending Christmas with.
If you're single, you can do whatever the heck you want. Feel like ordering Doordash and inviting friends over to make Christmas cocktails? Go for it. That's not pathetic in the slightest. If anything, it's pathetic to rely on a relationship to make you happy. Just saying.