15 Holiday Tropes + More

I, personally, am trash for tropes and believe they make the world of fiction go ’round. But love ’em or hate ’em, there’s something about holiday tropes that hit a little extra.

This article is dubbed “holiday” as it centers on the tropes we often see in rom-coms around the winter holidays. But I will admit a lot of these largely relate to the Christmas holiday, but ’tis not a requirement. All are welcome to enjoy these recurring tropes!

And happy holidays to what ever you celebrate!

1. The holiday cease-fire

Like Snoopy, as a WWI flying ace, and the Red Barron. This trope truly brings the spirit of the holidays in an embodiment of goodwill and cheer. Nothing says wholesome like bitter rivals or sworn enemies putting aside their differences to enjoy some holiday fun.

2. Rushing home for the holiday

Does one delayed flight begin a chaotic domino effect? This is the entire premise of the movie, I’ll Be Home For Christmas. But whether it’s rushing to get home or even rushing to check off a massive to-do list (or shopping list) for the holiday, this ticking time clock is a great trope to add tension to a plot.

3. Holiday volunteering

Holidays are a great time to help those less fortunate, both in fiction and in real life. Volunteering or holiday charity work can be a great way to pin unlikely characters together or showcase a more gentle/caring side to a character that might seem a little rough around the edges.

It’s also a very common trope because we tend to focus on royals, high-performing business people, or other successes during our holiday stories. When it comes to the escapism of a good old fashion holiday trope, it’s fun to see how the richer half live.

On a similar note here’s a whole mini list of Holiday activities. It feels like a trope in itself to shoe-horn in as many as possible into a Christmas Holiday story:

  • Ice Skating
  • Decorating (inside/Outside… hello, Clark Griswold)
  • Picking out a Christmas tree
  • Baking (cookies obviously)
  • Cooking (and feel free to throw in too many cooks in the kitchen)
  • Wintery sports/games (hockey, skiing, snowball fights… you get the picture)
  • Caroling
  • Ugly Sweaters
  • Gingerbread house making
  • Snowman building
  • Church or religious celebrations
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Visiting a Christmas village or festival
  • Exchanging gifts
  • Building a fire
  • Drinking something festive (hot cider, hot chocolate, eggnog… to name a few)
  • Reindeer run
  • The holiday party (not so much a trope, but a requirement in some form)
  • Carriage or sleigh ride
  • Mistletoe
  • Secret Santa exchanges

4. The small town that is “all-in” for Christmas

This is the town where the mayor makes at least three obligatory appearances. Everyone knows everyone’s business, and the Christmas spirit oozes from every lintel and chimney. Holiday traditions are held dear and there is no shortage of decorations and good cheer.

This trope is usually paired with the return to home town for the holidays’ trope. Although, as someone who does often travel cross-country in December, this trope does hit close to (for lack of better words) home.

5. The hustling and bustling city

The antithesis of the holiday small town is, of course, the big city. Any real or fictional metropolis will do! Here, holidays are commercialized and many people lose their way when trying to find the spirit. However, when the festive feelings strike, they often come in a bang with a whopping big gesture or spectacle only a city can supply.

6. The character who hates the holiday

Call them the Grinch or the Scrooge, but this one is easy to pick out. This skeptic is the holiday version of one-half of the “sunshine and the grump” trope. They are pretty much required to say “I just don’t get the big deal” at least once.

7. Sickness does not stop for the holidays

Whether this is a life-threatening disease or a bad case of the sniffles (often attributed to some kind of pet allergy) people still get sick during the holidays. This is often in place as some sort of tension addition or emotional weight to the story.

8. Let it snow!

Even if it doesn’t always make sense (i.e. where I live in Florida), you better believe those winter holidays will have snow. In many cases, this snow is going to be a record-breaking blizzard that causes some serious inconveniences and changes in plans.

9. Pets

Golden retrievers are like the icon of a holiday rom-com. But dogs, cats, or any furry friend is welcome for this trope. Because holidays are often for family, and pets are one big piece of any family. Bonus trope points for any pets given as a present.

10. Losing or quitting a job

Whether it is the financial setback of the breadwinner losing their job weeks before the holiday or the sad workaholic realizing it is time for a career adjustment, it seems that the holidays are wrought with occupational changes.

11. Nowhere to go

Nothing says a holiday setback quite like being stranded with nowhere to go (whether this feeling is a physical displacement or an emotional one). Characters are often either fighting to get “home” or trying to make the most of their situation.

12. Family traditions

Everyone has their own time-honored traditions! These can be as unique or stereotypical as you’d like, but adding in a dash of family traditions helps add a dose of authenticity to your story.

13. The adorable child

Whether they are the Cindy Lou and act as a foil to the grumpy character, the Kevin McCallister defending the spotlight, or even a charming side niece/nephew, holidays revolve around families and families tend to have beloved youngsters that melt even the iciest of hearts.

14. Saving the holiday

Somehow, the holiday for the whole family, town or even the world is at stake and it is up to the protagonist to save it. But obviously, they won’t do this alone or without a big life-changing lesson to be learned.

15. The true meaning of the holiday

Whether the ending arc for the character is finding love, happiness, or the life they’ve always dreamed of, the characters will all discover the true meaning of the holidays in the most joyous and wholesome way possible.

I hope you enjoyed this article! Please like, comment and follow along for more content and let me know if there is a topic that you would like me to cover!

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