For millions of Americans, Hallmark Christmas movies have been a staple of the festive season. The comfortingly familiar plotlines that elide real-life relationships coupled with nostalgic representations of gift-giving and tradition capture the hearts of millions of viewers.

And despite the tired narrative that the movies are too simplistic, super cheesy, and only enjoyed by people over 65, Christmas Hallmark movies stand the test of time. In fact, in 2021, Hallmark produced 41 new Christmas movies that attracted 85 million viewers.

So why are these films so captivating at Christmastime? According to a new study from researchers at BYU, Hallmark Christmas movies satisfy the needs of viewers and connect them with the Christmas season. For some, the holiday films signal the ushering in of the season; for others, they provide a respite from day-to-day obligations.

“Going into the study, I knew Hallmark Christmas movies gave viewers a chance to relax and enjoy the cozy comforts of snuggling by the fire,” said BYU communications professor Tom Robinson, who co-authored the study. “But I knew that it was more than that, so we decided to use the methodology we did for the study. Q methodology allows researchers to find out the attitudes, opinions, and beliefs of individuals and then groups them together in factors of like-minded thinkers.”

The study, recently published in the Journal of Popular Television, asked participants to rank statements about Hallmark Christmas films on a scale from “most like me” to “least like me,” indicating the elements of the film that most motivated them to watch. Robinson and his co-authors, BYU communications professors Scott Church and Loy Clark Callahan, and graduate students Lucia Pollock and Lauren Silva, also interviewed participants to get more in-depth insights into their responses.

The research identified three types of viewers from the data: Season’s Greeters, Rudolphs, and Carolers.

Season’s Greeters

Season’s greeters or Christmas enthusiasts love Hallmark movies because they’re passionate about Christmas and strongly associate the release of holiday Hallmark films with the commencement of the season and their favorite traditions.

“There’s nothing better than snuggling up on the couch with a cup of cocoa and watching a Hallmark Christmas movie,” said one interviewee.

The predictability of the various storylines is viewed as a benefit to this group since the purpose of watching is to reinforce traditions.

Rudolph’s

Rudolph’s love “flying away” and escaping everyday worries by watching cheery Hallmark Christmas movies, daydreaming of a stress-free world, and feeling hope and joy.

As one participant said, the movies “are my happy place when I feel the world is caving in and I need to calm down and take my mind off what is driving me crazy.”

“Rudolph’s don’t watch the movies because they love Christmas, they watch the movies as a way to help them cope with the stresses of family, work, and the world around them,” said Robinson.

Carolers

Carolers are focused on the movie content, appreciating the feel-good stories and happy endings, and enjoying that the films are family-friendly.

“I like how the stories are light-hearted and yet emotional at the same time,” noted one participant.

Carolers don’t seem to mind that the stories are often formulaic; they’re more interested in how the main characters will fall in love.

So, which type of Hallmark movie viewer are you?