If you’ve ever wandered around downtown on a snow-dusted eve and thought it was the ultimate scene for your seasonal meet-cute, you’re not alone: The Hallmark Channel itself often sets up shop in Nova Scotia, finding our windswept shores, charming towns and historically-shaped capital city the perfect locale for, say, a high-powered business woman to meet a local tradesperson and find the true meaning of the holiday.
In fact, representatives from Screen Nova Scotia tell The Coast that the industry association has yearly meetings with both Hallmark and Lifetime, the veritable Coke and Pepsi of cheesy Christmas-flick-powered channels. But when it comes to the golden age of Halifax-shot holiday films, it’s really all about the early 2000s (which tracks, since that’s also the era when rom-coms at large—of which these films are a seasonal sub-category—were enjoying greater cultural cachet). From the type A bride scuttling cross-country for her Dec. 25 wedding to a single mother making the most of things, there was no better place for a heroine to flick her skinny scarf, snap shut her flip-phone and fall in love than on film sets in Chester, Mahone Bay or Halifax proper. Many of these made-for-TV movies would have been lost to time without dedicated Christmas lovers on YouTube—and all of them feel like the generic store brand of the curated coziness that has made Gen Z rediscover Nancy Myers’ genre classic The Holiday.
Take a shot of egg nog any time you recognize a landmark or streetscape in the following Y2K-era, locally shot holiday treasures, which are bound to send you into the film equivalent of a sugar coma—but isn’t that just what this time of year calls for?
Christmas With Holly
The Christmas Shoes
Several plot lines tangle about like spaghetti in this 2002 Halifax-filmed offering: Rob Lowe stars as a workaholic lawyer on the precipice of losing Everything That Matters (read: His wife and family) while a neighbour and her family cope with her terminal diagnosis. Her young son wants only to buy her a pair of shoes for Christmas, and these ankle-strapped symbols act as a major plot vehicle. Then there’s the local Christmas choir, which is down a director while the ill neighbour continues her decline.
A Town Without Christmas
Finding John Christmas
A Christmas WeddingA decade before she’d take home an Emmy for her starring turn in American Crime Story: Impeachment, Sarah Paulson starred in this 2006 Lifetime movie that saw her embarking on a wild cross-country odyssey to get home in time to marry the bland-blonde hunk Ben (Eric Mabius, sporting a truly tragic bleach job) on Christmas Day. Another number that could’ve faded into the obscurity of time, the only online remainder of this flick is available as a two-part video from a dedicated YouTube archivist.
Candles on Bay Street
OK, OK, so it’s not technically a holiday movie, but this 2006 Chester-shot film stars Alicia Silverstone in full Other Woman mode, so we gotta give it a spot on the list. A stale small town in Maine is shook up at the return of Silverstone’s Dee-Dee—and so is her childhood neighbour’s marriage, as his former obsession with her roars back to life. The whole concept of old flames and the titular candles do a lot of lifting to feel close to symbolic storytelling, if not actually an example of it. Rent it on Apple TV+.
Nova Scotia cosplays as Rhode Island in this 2010 offering, in which a town comes together to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one at the behest of a terminally ill eight-year-old. Man candy is provided by John Corbett (AKA Sex and The City’s Aidan Shaw) while—spoiler alert—peak seasonal vibes are captured as a surprise snowfall occurs in the film’s closing scene. Unavailable on any official streaming services in Canada, you can watch this one via one superfan’s YouTube upload.