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4 Festive Massachusetts Christmas Scenes, 3 Best Hallmark Christmas Movies Ever 

Christmas at the historic Taunton Green in Taunton, MassachusettsChristmas at the Taunton Green Historic District in Taunton, Mass.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 11/29/17.

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This might be a first: a New England travel web site with an article featuring festive Massachusetts Christmas scenes while writing about the best Christmas movies ever on the Hallmark Channel. Has that combination ever been done before in the history of the world?

Of course, we at VisitingNewEngland, often take the road less taken when traveling and writing about New England. You might ask, though, "Why include information on your web site that veers away from New England travel?" Well, 99 percent of the time we focus on New England, but sometimes it is good to take a "vacation break" for us and our readers. Plus, Hallmark movies often depict small town virtues reflective of the New England spirit even though many of the movies have been created outside the region. I am personally a sucker for these movies -- small town life, strong values and sense of community wrapped in a Christmas theme always resonate strongly with me!

Let's start first with a few Christmas scenes in Massachusetts to get you in the holiday spirit (sorry for the lack of snow; not much in December the past few years) and then count down the top three Christmas movies ever made for the Hallmark Channel...

Downtown Norwood
Downtown Christmas scene in Norwood, Massachusetts by the Town Green and Norwood Theater.
What a pleasant scene: an illuminated bandstand, surrounding Christmas lights and the grand Norwood Theater in the background. The downtown Norwood Town Common is beautiful any time of the year, but seems to be at its brightest around the Christmas holiday season. You also get a wonderful dose of old-fashioned Americana in the town center with the Town Square Diner, old school bowling at the no frills Norwood Sport Center, Brenner's Children Shop (kids clothing), Day Street Sports Shop (sporting goods) the Norwood Theater, and the last remaining Mug 'N Muffin restaurant in the state. All this, plus many different American and ethnic restaurants!

Taunton Historic Green
Taunton, Massachusetts: The Christmas City
More than 2,000,000 people have visited the historic Taunton Green in Taunton since 1914 to views the spectacular Christmas lights, decorations and the huge Santa Claus (pictured above). The Lighting of the Green -- usually held the first Saturday in December -- kicks off the festivities, but don't worry if you can't make it then: this wonderland stays throughout December.  Quite a lot to see here on the one acre town green in the middle of the downtown district!

Downtown Walpole
Christmas at the Town Common in Walpole, Massachusetts.
The Walpole town green dates back to 1739, and the Old Town Hall Building (pictured center right in the background) to 1887, thus providing the ideal classic New England setting for a large, lit Christmas tree and lights and displays. Santa also has a house on the premises! One of the great things about the Walpole Christmas scene is that it's safe to visit at night (Walpole is one of the safest towns of its size in the United States), and many dining options exist surrounding or near the town green. I'd recommend The Raven's Nest or Napper Tandy's -- two classic, family-friendly Irish pubs appropriately located in the 4th most Irish town in the United States!

Sturbridge Town Common
Christmas at the Sturbridge Town Common in Sturbridge, Mass.
Many people are unaware of the Sturbridge Town Common as it is a mile away from the main drag on Route 20 where Old Sturbridge Village -- a living outdoor museum depicting rural New England life from 1790s to the 1830s -- draws in the most tourists. The Sturbridge Town Common, however, has just about as much charm as any quintessential New England scene and looks especially appealing during the Christmas season. As with many town greens during the holidays, the bandstand gets top attention all dressed up in holiday garb!

And now for our next main feature attraction, the best Hallmark Christmas movies ever (totally subjective, of course!)...

3. Love Always, Santa (2016)
Love Always, Santa Movie on Hallmark
Photo source: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries web site

This touching story centers on a widow's daughter writing to Santa Claus in hopes that her mom can find true love again. A book author who also writes return letters for Santa answers the daughters' messages, visits their small town, and falls in love with the mom. Marguerite Moreau (Celia) and Mike Faiola (Jake), as the two lost souls finding inspiration from each other, turn in wonderful performances. At some point, their budding relationship doesn't even seem like they are acting. You can feel the pain of the widow and the genuine sympathy that the author has for her. Unlike many Hallmark movies where the man and woman initially fight like cat and dogs, act sassy toward each other and are lost in the allure of corporate America, Celia and Jake are both humble, intelligent, quiet and genuine. What's more, Isadora Swan is a gifted child actress who, as Lilly, comes across as sensitive yet assertive and with a true interest in a writing career -- how refreshing to see and hopefully an inspiration to her generation watching the movie in TV! Brady Smith, as Randy, adds more depth to the movie as the goofy but sincere redneck who would like to be Celia's boyfriend. He seems more occupied, however, with winning a potato gun contest. Rounding out this Hallmark classic are the wonderful small town scenes with true-to-life local, down-to-earth characters. The small town with its mom and pop shops reminds me of leafy Chester, Conn., and working class Ayer, Mass.

2. A Christmas Wish (2011)
A Christmas Wish Hallmark movie
Photo source: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries web site

One of Hallmark's darker movies, A Christmas Wish has an ominous tone right from the beginning. A homeless mother -- dumped a few weeks before Christmas from a worthless boyfriend who emptied her bank account -- moves to a small town and lives in a motel room with her two young daughters and stepson. She struggles mightily, finds work at a diner that doesn't pay much, and can barely pay the room rent. Her car breaks down, the bills don't go away, they can't afford a Christmas tree, and she emotionally breaks down, at one point, sobbing, pleading and praying to God for better times to come. What she eventually finds is a Christmas miracle: kind, caring townsfolk that treat her as family and help her through the trauma. Kristy Swanson, as the earnest, sweet Martha Evans, shows further depth as an outstanding actress (she was Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), while Tess Harper, as Trudy, and Page Petrucka, as Lola Metcalf, stand out as the supportive, tell-it-like-it-is diner owner and waitress, respectively. The late Edward Hermann -- a fine actor best known for his role as Richard Gilmore on The Gilmore Girls -- turns in a tremendous performance as Les, the grumpy, gruff cowboy who is a diner regular. K.C. Clyde plays Joe, the stud sheriff in town who is a gentle soul shyly showing an interest in Martha. K.C. does a fantastic job with this role as he portrays the epitome of a good person in a noble profession trying to make a difference in a small town. The isolated small town with just a few businesses and lots of farm land reminds me of Rochester, Vt., a beautiful rural community.

1. The Christmas Card (2006)
The Christmas Card Hallmark Movie
Photo source: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries web site

I rank The Christmas Card right up there with the best Christmas movies of any generation. It's about a U.S. Army soldier (Sgt. Cody Cullen, played by John Newton) who, while deployed overseas, receives an inspirational Christmas card from a nice, young woman (Faith Spelman played by Alice Evans) living in Nevada City, Calif. When on leave, Cody visits the beautiful small town and falls in love with Faith. Problem is, she already has a boyfriend -- a narcissist and manipulator named Paul (great spot-on performance by Ben Weber). Faith's mom and dad, Luke and Rosie (Edward Asner and Lois Nettleton) think highly of Cody and accept him virtually as a family member. This is a movie of faith, hope, prayer (church presence throughout the movie), strong values, a respect for our brave men and women soldiers protecting our freedoms, and the virtues of family, sense of community and strong work ethic. Asner is especially brilliant as the gruff military vet who loves his wife, family, friends, small town, church and his own lumber business while Newton and Evans wonderfully portray genuine, mature younger adults humbly searching for true love. They are people we know in real life, but that we just don't see enough of anymore in a fast-paced, often impersonal, superficial world. The Christmas Card slows down the pace, delves into what matters most in life and does that through small town connections and a cast of characters -- from the feeble, old lady needing assistance (and receiving it from Cody) to the loud, no-filter ways of a genuinely nice, working class man (Richard, played authentically by Peter Jason). This is the type of movie you could watch over and over again (I have!). Plus, the downtown Nevada City and high and lonesome river and mountain scenes on the outskirts of town look like some place we loved vacationing in as kids. Locally, it reminds me of Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Keene Valley in the Adirondack Mountains of New York -- some of the most beautiful, appealing towns you will ever see

If you enjoyed this article, please share through any of the social media buttons below -- thanks!

Also be sure to read:
Small New England towns that would look great in a Hallmark movie
What it feels like to visit downtown Walpole, Mass.
Underrated New England small town: Warren, R.I.
Discovering retro Massachusetts travel
Classic Vermont: Weston and the Vermont Country Store

Explore Massachusetts travel! Read the Massachusetts Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel attractions: town commons. Includes chapters on Walpole, Norwood, Sturbridge and Taunton.

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