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By Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family
Are you a fan of the predictably poignant but proudly and admittedly syrupy and sappy Hallmark Christmas movies?
The Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise, which dates back to 1951, is the longest running prime time series in television history. Although the specials have evolved over the years, the concept of using feel-good entertainment to market a company’s products has to go down as one of the most brilliant moves in the history of retail sales promotion.
Hallmark Cards was founded in 1910 by a gentleman named Joyce Clyde (J.C.) Hall. Along with his brothers, William and Rollie, the siblings first ran a postcard business in Norfolk, Nebraska, beginning in 1907. Three years later they moved to Kansas City and expanded their offerings to include paper and greeting cards.
“Good taste is good business,” J.C. Hall used to say, and the hardworking Midwesterner poured his heart and soul into the endeavor, eventually growing the Hallmark company into an international force.
“All I was trying to do was make a living,” he once said, remembering the early years, which were often lean and volatile. ”In those days, if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. And I liked to eat.”
The son of a bi-vocational preacher, J.C. was a strong Christian who believed work was an extension of his worship, always stressing excellence in everything he did. It’s no wonder he personally chose the famous company slogan, ”When you care enough to send the very best.” He was also instrumental in the launch of the television franchise, though his motives were practical. ”The simple truth is that good television is good business,” he once said.
J.C. Hall, who passed away at the age of 91, has been gone for 36 years, but fans still eagerly tune in to his movies.
Cutting right to the chase, I think it’s because we like happy endings.
The predictability of the Hallmark movie script has been ridiculed by many in culturally elite circles.
Critics have mocked and lampooned the movies for being overly simplistic, shallow and downright hokey. To be sure, the films lack many of the usual elements found in the typical Hollywood fare. Themes of violence, immorality, darkness and cynicism rarely, if ever, show up in the typical Hallmark story.
Could this be why during the annual Christmas movie season that the Hallmark Channel ranks number one with women?
I think so.
My colleague’s wife, who homeschools three young boys, makes an almost nightly habit of unwinding and decompressing each evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas by watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. To her, it’s almost therapeutic. She’s not alone.
Dr. Greg Smalley, who heads up our marriage efforts here at the ministry, recently admitted (somewhat sheepishly) that he and his wife, Erin, do the same thing.
“Greg has even figured out that the grand finale kiss will happen exactly at the one-hour and fifty-eighth minute of the two-hour movie,” says Erin. “Unfailingly! We like getting lost for two hours in these movies because life isn’t predictable. Our love story is not perfect or predictable. Our scenes are messy and our issues don’t resolve themselves in a tight two-hour window. And that’s okay. We wouldn’t trade our love story for any Hallmark movie.”
At the same time, we’re drawn to the drama and easy resolution of a Hallmark script because we like a good story and also perhaps because we see ourselves – the good and the bad – somewhere in the middle of a two-hour film.
When the lights come up at the end of a movie with a happy ending, how can you not help but be encouraged and maybe even see life as it will someday be, when sin and sorrow are gone forever?
After all, the real Christmas story is the ultimate feel-good event that puts even the most highly rated Hallmark movie to shame.
It’s the greatest story ever told about the greatest man who ever-lived.
Think about it.
It has romantic and marital drama (an unwed Mary & Joseph), political bureaucracy (Caesar and the census), medical furor (a very pregnant woman riding on a donkey and giving birth in a stable), terror in the skies (angels appearing in the night), a murderous plot (Herod) and royalty with wealth (the magi).
Let the elites of the world mock those of us who are drawn to good news and happy endings. Someday – perhaps very soon – this world will pass away and with it all the sin and sorrow that wear us down. For now, look up and keep moving. Don’t be afraid to be different. After all, it was the apostle Paul who urged early believers in Rome to “not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Do you share an affinity for Hallmark Christmas movies? If so, why? Do you have a favorite of all time?