What’s Better Than Christmas in a Small Town?


Charming small towns blanketed in snow. Vintage trucks traversing two-lane roads. Rustic barns serving as the perfect venue for a holiday party. Feel-good story lines focused around family traditions.

Christmas Lights

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who has recently watched a Hallmark Christmas movie and thought, “People are obsessed with our lifestyle in rural America.”

Last weekend when a winter storm kept many North Iowans homebound, I lost track of the number of Facebook status updates I read from my friends who were watching Hallmark movies and baking Christmas cookies. Baking up a storm as the north wind blows and the snow flies is obviously a tradition in many of our families.

It’s that sense of family and time-honored traditions that has Americans flocking to the Hallmark channel for the Countdown to Christmas. “We love the Christmas spirit, family and the love [a Hallmark movie] portrays,” according to The Wall Street Journal article. “The beautiful, festive scenery is amazing.” And characters actually say “Merry Christmas” rather than the politically correct “Happy Holidays.”

Nearly 5 million viewers tuned into “The Christmas Train” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving 2017. Last November Hallmark became the most-watched cable network among 18- to 49-year-old men and 25- to 54-year-old women. Those viewers translate into advertising revenue. It was reported that Christmas programming accounts for one-third of Hallmark’s annual ad revenue.

No wonder the Hallmark Channel and its sister network, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, will premiere a record-breaking 37 new seasonal films between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Here’s how the “Countdown to Christmas” has grown:

2017        33 original movies
2016        28 original movies
2015        21 original movies
2014        12 original movies

With so many wholesome movies to watch, a DIY Movie Night Popcorn Bar seems like a fitting and fun way to spend family time. If this weekend’s Hallmark movie premier doesn’t catch your eye, kick back with one of Christmas classics like “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Home Alone,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Sweet treats go hand-in-hand with salty treats. Why not mix up a batch of Caramel Chex Mix?

Caramel Snack Mix


1/2 c. margarine
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white corn syrup
Dash of salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
10 c. Chex cereal
2 c. pretzels
1 c. nuts


  1. Melt 1/2 cup margarine in a 2-quart microwave safe bowl.
  2. Add: brown sugar, corn syrup, salt.
  3. Stir together and microwave on high for 4 minutes.
  4. Add baking soda and stir until foamy.
  5. Mix together cereal, pretzels and nuts.
  6. Pour caramel over the dry mixture and stir well.
  7. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  8. Pour on cookie sheets to cool.