Passions: Christmas TV movies are the gift that keeps on giving - Martin Gray

And if Channel 5 afternoon fare is set in Scotland, all the better

Lairds beware, young American women are just waiting around the corner to spill a cup of coffee on you. Well, they are if you believe the latest batch of Hallmark et al “holiday movies”. For years these pleasant time passers confined themselves to picture postcard US towns – looking suspiciously like Vancouver – where cynical big city executives would discover the spirit of Christmas, along with a hunky widower and a love of cookie baking contests.

No longer. In the last couple of years the ever-growing market for Christmas content has led to Hallmark, Reel One and even Netflix venturing further afield.

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In 2021’s A Castle For Christmas a bit of social embarrassment in New York sends author Brooke Shields to Scotland, where she slowly falls for grumpy duke Cary Elwes. Last year’s Saving Christmas Spirit sees Ashley Newbrough land struggling distiller James Robinson while researching a winter goddess. In this year’s Christmas in Scotland window decorator Jill Winternitz helps a burgh where sad Laird Lewis Howden – Shetland’s Sgt Billy – has banned full-on festive decor open its illuminated heart once more… winning the heart of Laird Jr, Dominic Watters, along the way.

Every one of these is as charming as they’re corny, and I love them to bits. The drone shots of snowcapped hills where every stag retains its antlers; the Highland coos raring to chase a chippy Yank across a field; and of course, the locals, ever ready to scowl or grin at an incomer as the script demands.

They’re predictable; the coffee – or better yet, hot chocolate – spillage “meet-cute”, the lovestruck kilted Heathcliff, a misunderstanding, a reunion, a wedding in tartan – but ritual is part of Christmas and these films are warm hugs to wrap pressies and write cards to. And then there’s the joy of pointing at the screen – usually it’s Channel 5 or Great Christmas – and yelling: ‘That’s Ardnamurchan!’

If they’re really not your cup of tea, seek out Lost at Christmas, a homegrown version which looks like it may follow the classic pattern but turns out to be as much fun as four-day-old turkey.

Me, I’m on the lookout for another new US entry, A Merry Scottish Christmas, in which Hallmark queen Lacey Chabert comes looking for her long lost mother. James Robinson’s in that one too. Bliss!



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