Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas begins this weekend!

By Rebecca Angel Baer
October 23, 2020
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Grab the popcorn, the footy-pajamas, pour a cup of tea, or maybe that Hallmark wine and settle in for all the fa-la-la-fun! Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas is finally here! Tune in all day Friday, October 23 for a marathon of your favorite films of holidays past and then starting Saturday, October 24, both Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have schedules chock-full of brand-new holiday magic. New this year, the networks are staggering the times of the premieres so the new movies don’t air at the same time. No need to overwork that DVR, you can watch the premiere on Hallmark Channel at 8 PM EST, and flip over to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries for that premiere at 10 PM EST.

A familiar face to “Hallmarkies” and fans of the series, Nashville alike (as well as many other credits including Two Weeks’ Notice, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Alicia Witt returns to our TV screens this weekend to kick off Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas in a big way. Her film, Christmas Tree Lane not only begins this year’s Miracles of Christmas on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Saturday night, she brings the extra treat of brand-new, original, Christmas music. Witt stars in this heart-warming flick alongside Andrew Walker, but that’s not all. The movie is based on a story she wrote, she serves as executive producer, and if that’s not enough, the Southern-by-choice actor is also a talented singer-songwriter and two songs in the film were written by Witt herself. Southern Living recently caught up with Witt over the phone from her Nashville home and she told us all about her music, this movie, and more.

“We started developing this story about four years ago,” Witt began, explaining that the film was just shy of completion and missed out on last year’s production cycle. She continued, “and as it turned out because everything shut down the first time this spring with the pandemic, when it was determined that we could put a plan in place and start to film again in mid-June, this was the first script that Hallmark had ready to go.”

Now, with the movie set to premiere, Witt was reflective about the long process from taking her idea to through this long process to completion.

“It’s been completely dreamlike in a way to go from a story in my head to seeing all of these characters cast and come to life and right down to filming that final scene where I step out onto that stage and I’m looking out into this world that really exists on film now. It’s there. It’s not just an idea anymore.”

The story was inspired by Witt’s time working on location in Missouri. “I had worked outside of St. Louis a few years back and I stumbled across Cherokee St. there which is very similar to Christmas Tree Lane in this movie, which is Mom & Pop restaurants and vintage clothing stores, and old diners, music stores. And I was struck by how compelling it was. There’s just that history, and that sense of community on that street. It feels like it’s stepping back in time,” she said.

“And yet I noticed that some of the businesses were shut and vacated and it was obvious that it wasn’t a bustling epicenter of commerce anymore. And after getting to know Cherokee Street. I also started noticing similar patterns in other cities that I visited.” Witt realized that many of America’s small business owners do not own the buildings that house their businesses and often times face hardship and even risk of closure should the owners of their buildings decide to sell. She witnessed the struggle that business owners faced and saw an opportunity to tell those stories with a hopeful tone. And well, because it’s Hallmark, Christmas Tree Lane also bears a sweet love story as well. Perfectly woven in the story is how Meg and Nate, on opposite ends of the spectrum in the business of Christmas Tree Lane, manage to find a connection and well, a spark, of course.

Also perfectly paired with this story is original Christmas music penned and performed by Witt. You will hear Witt sing “Christmas Will Never End,” and “Why Christmas” in the movie but you can also listen whenever you like as both singles have been released.

Witt explained that though she wrote “Christmas Will Never End” specifically for the film, she hopes it “would be hopefully just a song that people listening on their Spotify or whatever can feel it’s just a Christmas love song for someone you’ve just met around the holidays.”

The second song for the film, “Why Christmas,” Witt actually wrote a year ago, before the world had heard of Covid-19, and yet her intentions seem almost clairvoyant now. She said she wrote it “just kinda thinking about what Christmas means to us and regardless of whether we get to be home with those that we love, what matters most about Christmas is the way it always makes you feel.”

Witt recently took to her Instagram to share a short performance of the songs as well. You can watch that below!

The Nashville transplant has stayed close to home during the coronavirus pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped her from connecting with her fans, or “Fanily” as she told us they prefer to be called. Witt has taken to the online platform StageIt to perform over a dozen shows and plans to continue to do so while we continue in this strange, socially distanced world. She’s performing a show there Friday night, October 23, and you can find more info here. “I missed playing the live shows so much. I miss seeing live shows and I miss hugging people and getting to meet people face to face at my shows. And so, this has really felt like the next best thing and I’ve been amazed at how cool it has become,” she said.

Whether you make the show tonight or not, be sure to tune into Christmas Tree Lane, premiering on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, October 24, at 10PM EST/PM CST.