As the weather starts to cool, the mornings become frosty, and the days get shorter, it can only mean one thing: Christmas is finally upon us. For many, Christmas is the perfect time to tuck ourselves under mountains of blankets with a hot chocolate and binge watch those feel-good festive films that get us into the spirit of the season. Some of the best guilty pleasure Christmas films are packed with cheesy and often predictable romance plots that we cannot help but rewatch time and time again, no matter how many times we know that the girl gets the guy, or that the two enemies end up falling in love just in time for Christmas. The custom of the festive love story provides an extra blanket to curl up underneath as the darker nights stretch out in the run up to Christmas. However, do these romance films do more harm than good in portraying unrealistic relationship ideals? Or are romantic daydreams exactly what we need as we approach the Christmas period?
Rom coms have long been dominating the list of the highest grossing Christmas films of all time, underpinned by a romantic Christmas meet-cute and a blossoming love story under the twinkling Christmas lights. Love Actually in 2003 and The Holiday in 2006 both raked in a combined $451 million at the box office and remain firm favourites without fail as we begin our Christmas festivities every year. It is hard to resist the rewatches of Jude Law’s British charm as he woos a stunning Cameron Diaz, and Christmas films certainly would not be complete without the unconventional romantic sub-plot like Buddy and Jovie in Elf. Even family favourites like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Nightmare Before Christmas (yes, I am classing this as a Christmas film) have a love story at the heart of its Christmas tale, so it seems that love at Christmas is something that we both desire and also cannot avoid. Perhaps it is the escapism of a perfect Christmas love story, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan style, that we associate with feel-good festivities. Or perhaps, since the year is coming to a close, maybe rom coms are the inspiration we need to finally tell those around us that we love them in all senses of the word.
In recent years, Hollywood has become increasingly more aware of showcasing different types of love, and what better time to represent the multi-faceted marvels of love than at Christmas. Netflix’s 2019 adaptation of Let it Snow and their 2021 Netflix Original Single All the Way both feature LGBT+ romances amidst the Christmas festivities. There is still arguably a long way to go in terms of representation with these seasonal romance films, but progress has without a doubt been made to include love in all of its forms at Christmas.
The pull of the Christmas romance story goes deeper than the comfort of daydreaming about your own personal Hugh Grant love life as research has suggested that watching festive rom coms comes with many physical and mental health benefits. According to a study conducted in 2019, despite these love stories being highly idealised and unrealistic (as much as we all want someone to chase us through an airport gate and declare their undying love for us), the simple plots create a calming effect on the brain and enable happy hormones to be released. These hormones combat stress and reduce the fight or flight response associated with physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. Festive romances often come hand in hand with tongue-in-cheek comic moments, and laughter has long been proven to have beneficial effects on mental health with studies suggesting that laughing can boost the immune system. As for rewatching these romances year after year, the nostalgia of a Christmas film provides a comforting sense of familiarity, triggering happy memories of Christmases past and bonding with friends and family over films that make it hard not to fall in love with these classic Christmas romances.
Although we might be waiting a little while longer for Andrew Lincoln to tell us that we are perfect on a cold Christmas Eve night, it is fair to say that the cheese-fest of these feel-good festive love stories is a Christmas tradition that is here to stay.
Photo by cottonbro studio, received from Pexels