I grew up celebrating Hanukkah with my family but I always loved the allure of Christmas. When I was younger it was mostly the colorful lights and stockings stuffed with gifts that I yearned for. Now, I appreciate the trappings of Christmas more for the holiday cards and for the music stations that are dedicated to songs that only get old when I play them on repeat for six weeks straight. Plus, the movies—the movies!
I thank my holiday loving stars for Lifetime’s It’s a Wonderful Lifetime—eight weeks of original Christmas movies that make me want to break out the egg nog, roll out the gingerbread and decorate a tree of my very own. (This post is in paid partnership with Lifetime but the review and opinions are 100% my own.)
A Sugar & Spice Holiday premieres Sunday, December 13 at 8/7c on Lifetime
This season’s lineup includes a special addition, A Sugar & Spice Holiday, the network’s first Christmas-themed movie featuring a Chinese-American family. It’s the story of Suzie Yung, played by Jacky Lai, an up-and-coming architect in Los Angeles whose career choice was inspired by her love for her grandmother, Nema, and the cherished memories she has of their making gingerbread houses together.
Right off the bat, I liked Suzie. She is warm, has a beautiful smile and describes everyone in her life by what type of pastry they are most like. Her boss, well, she’s peanut brittle. “Hard and sharp. Sweet and salty. Can melt in your mouth but also break your teeth.”
The protagonist, Suzie, returns to her small hometown for the holidays
Suzie returns to her small hometown in Maine for the holidays, where her family runs the local lobster bar. Her parents are charming and immediately I adore her father, Pete, who learned English by listening to country music which is why he speaks with a southern accent. He is lovingly played by actor Tzi Ma, who is well known for blazing new trails for Asian Americans in Hollywood and for his roles in big budget films like Mulan and the Rush Hour series.
When Suzie arrives, she quite literally finds herself center stage, thanks to Billy Martin, played by Tony Giroux, who is a jelly doughnut, “messy, sweet and full of surprises.” He also happens to be the high school crush she has never gotten over. Billy guilts Suzie into entering the town’s local gingerbread house competition as a way to help save the local community center and honor the memory of her beloved Nema.
Suzie rekindles things with an old flame
With a cast of quirky teammates, that includes Caitlin (“vanilla cupcake with sprinkles on top…so pretty, but you’re afraid to eat it”) and Stavros (“bear claw, puffy and nuts on the outside, sweet and soft on the inside”), Suzie leans hard into her family’s cultural traditions and Nema’s baking secrets to give their team an edge. She and Billy together face the stiff competition to win the title of Gingerlicious Baking Champion.
As the championship rounds and their chemistry heat up, we get treated to heaping doses of snowball fights, gorgeous Christmas decor and mouthwatering scenes of a traditional Chinese dinner. There is even a throwback prom moment that made me nostalgic for my own high school dance, also, with my very own Billy. Plus, I came away with a newfound respect for gingerbread houses that stand up for more than a minute and don’t wreck your actual house in the making.
To top it all off, there is Nema’s wisdom that bubbles throughout. Along with delicious cookies, she dishes out parenting gold such as: “You work hard enough, you can be anything.” Or “You teach someone to fish and they will stink. You teach someone to bake and they will have a sweet life.”
There is always sage wisdom and a happy ending
She offers up my personal favorite when Suzie admits to being confused about living her life as if she were following a recipe that she ultimately doesn’t want to eat: “Our tastes can change. Sometimes the best meals are ones with no recipe at all. Only you know what can make you full.”
I won’t spoil the ending here or spoil anything by saying that there is in fact a happy ending. Happy endings are a given with the movies in the “It’s A Wonderful Lifetime” lineup which is a huge part of their charm for me. In a year that has made it impossible to plan anything, I crave the predictability and certainty of a story that rolls out as smoothly as dough and wraps up as neatly as a gift that is meant to be slipped under the tree on Christmas Eve.
Here’s where you can learn more about all the It’s a Wonderful Lifetime holiday movies.
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