There’s no place like Hallmark for the holidays.

 

With each passing week, we get one step closer to the most wonderful time of year: Countdown to Christmas. While the countdown to The Countdown never fails to seem as slow as, well, Christmas, we happily cross off every day that inches us closer. We’re checking the list—and you better believe, we’re checking it twice. (Currently: 18 weeks left to go.)

Like always, Hallmark Channel has outdone itself by delivering the biggest and best Countdown to Christmas yet. With 22 all-new original premieres along with countless classics, it’s going to be a nonstop flow of holiday cheer all the way from late October to the New Year. So get ready to curl up on the couch, swathed in cozy Christmas pajamas, clutching hot cocoa and basking in the warm, fuzzy feeling only Hallmark Christmas movies can give. Because you're going to be there for a while. 

This year's, brand-new original premiere, ‘Christmas Joy,’ is airing, and we sat down with its leading lady, Danielle Panabaker, to get the scoop on why we’re going to swoon over this heartwarming holiday story. A native of the South, Panabaker talked her favorite things about celebrating Christmas, starring in “Christmas Joy,” and growing up in the South.

On what makes Christmas on Hallmark so special, she told Southern Living, “I love how heartwarming it is, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. Getting the chance to do something that’s about these special kinds of relationships was nice.”

“Christmas Joy,” based on the bestselling novel by Nancy Naigle, follows a market researcher, Joy (Panabaker), who has her eye on snagging a huge account—and a promotion—just in time for the holidays, but gets whisked away to her hometown in North Carolina when her aunt is injured. Then, she’s recruited by her recovering Aunt Ruby to help execute the town’s legendary annual Cookie Crawl and holiday home tour, and Joy accepts much-needed assistance from her former crush, now hospital administrator, Ben. (We can only imagine there are going to be sparks flying, cookies baking, and plenty of merrymaking.)

“It captures that feeling of Southern hospitality. In the movie, this Christmas cookie crawl is coming up in her hometown, and Joy has to help make it happen. It’s all about really embracing the holidays and having fun with it.”

Baby goats! 🐐 ❤️

A post shared by Danielle Panabaker (@dpanabaker) on

So not only is the story set in the South, but its main character was also born below the Mason-Dixon? We wouldn’t have it any other way. As for Panabaker (who was born in Augusta, Georgia, and lived in both South Carolina and Texas as a child), she knows a thing or two about being Southern.

“My mom really taught us manners and how important they are. She raised us to say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am,’ ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’ and that’s something that has stuck with me. I think thank you notes are really important, and I still write handwritten thank you notes. I definitely would identify as a little bit Southern.”

And when it comes to Christmas, she knows there’s nothing better than getting your holiday cookie fix. For her, that’s a family tradition of sorts.

“Growing up, my mom was all about the Christmas cookies, and she has tons of incredible recipes. I swear my mom would make at least 12 different kinds of cookies and bars, and now I love baking cookies too.”

During this year’s “Christmas in July” weeklong special, Hallmark Channel will air an exclusive program, titled Hallmark Channel’s Christmas First Look. It’ll give viewers a behind-the-scenes sneak peak of some of this year’s brand-new original holiday movies, including an exclusive first look at “Christmas Joy.” So tune in!