The Hallmark Channel continues to expand on its promise for greater representation. Not only are they tapping into different religions, holidays, and orientations, but they’re also delving into different cultures. And this year, the network added yet another milestone with not one but two Chinese American holiday movies. And from the little that we know, Christmas at the Golden Dragon and A Big Fat Family Christmas, are sure to resonate with many Asian American viewers this coming season.
Christmas at the Golden Dragon
The first Chinese American movie features Kara Wang and Osric Chau as a pair of siblings dealing with a sudden change. They are joined by Sharon Crandall and Vincent Cheng as their parents along with Sara Canning, Antonio Cupo, and Barbara Niven.
When Romy and Rick’s (Wang and Chau) parents surprise them with the news that they will be closing the Chinese restaurant they have owned and operated for decades, the siblings each find themselves reevaluating their futures. Also impacted by the news are the landmark restaurant’s loyal patrons and staff, who have all come to depend on the restaurant over the holidays.
Wang is best known as Sumi Liu on Freeform’s Good Trouble and was recently seen as Lt. Bassett in Top Gun: Maverick. This is her first ever TV film with the Hallmark Channel. Wang’s on-screen brother, Chau, had a recurring role as Kevin Tran on the long-running series Supernatural, and as Ryan Choi throughout the CW’s Arrowverse. This marks his third Hallmark appearances, with the first two being 2020’s Matching Hearts and a guest spot on Morning Show Mysteries.
Most of Wang and Chau’s co-stars are TV movie regulars, including their on-screen mom, Crandall. This is her fifth TV Christmas movie and her third film with Hallmark, following this summer’s Romance in Style. Canning — best known as Jenna Sommers on The Vampire Diaries — last starred in GAC Family’s A Christmas Star. Cupo — who fans might remember from A Glenbrook Christmas and Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade — has also starred in a number of Italian-language series and specials. As for Niven, this marks her twenty-ninth film with the network she’s been a part of for almost two decades. Fans especially loved seeing her in the Murder, She Baked series and all four Christmas in Evergreen films.
A Big Fat Family Christmas
The second film celebrating Chinese American culture in Hallmark’s lineup stars voice actress Shannon Chan-Kent in a rare live-action leading role and Shannon Kook, Tia Carrere, and Jack Wagner as her co-stars.
Liv (Chan-Kent) is a photojournalist eager to make it on her own. To get a dream assignment – shooting the Chang family’s annual holiday party for a cover story — she doesn’t reveal that they are in fact, her family. When she finds herself growing close to Henry, the coworker covering the story with her, she wants to confide in him but doesn’t want to jeopardize her big break.
Shannon Chan-Kent is best known for her work in numerous children’s cartoons, especially as the singing voice of Pinky Pie on My Little Pony. Although Western anime fans know her best as Misa Amane in the English dub of Death Note. More recently, she’s made a number of appearances in live action TV shows including Supergirl, Woke, and You, and have had a cameo role in 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. This marks her fifth Hallmark movie, having previously featured in 2019’s Holiday Date.
Kook is known mostly for his roles in horrors and thrillers, most notably in The Conjuring franchise and as Drew Thomas on the CW’s The 100. Tia Carrere has had numerous live-action and voice roles since the late 1980’s, such as Cassandra Wong in Wayne’s World, and won two Grammy Awards for Best Hawaiian Music Album. And Jack Wagner, a Hallmark Channel regular, is best known for his decades-long roles on The Bold and The Beautiful and General Hospital. He also starred as Dr. Peter Burns on the hit 90’s series Melrose Place. When it comes to Hallmark, he most recently starred in the 2016 TV movie The Wedding March and all five of its sequels.
How Does China Celebrate Christmas?
In recent years, Christmas has become a lot more popular in mainland China. But instead of a religious or public holiday, they treat it more like Halloween and fully indulge in the commercial aspects. Every year, major cities put up lots of extravagant decorations and people celebrate by going out to restaurants, movie theaters, and karaoke bars. Many young couples even consider it an extra Valentine's Day and spend the day exchanging gifts, going out on dates, and just generally enjoying each other’s company. Another popular, and more modern, custom is to give apples to friends on Christmas Eve. This came from the Mandarin Chinese term for ‘Christmas Eve’ or ‘Silent Night’ — ‘ping’an ye’ — which sounds similar to the Mandarin word for apple, ‘ping guo.’
As for Chinese Americans, their celebrations depend on how integrated they are into the country’s culture. Older immigrant generations typically didn’t participate and continued working instead, hence why most old-school Chinese restaurants were still open on Christmas. The younger generations, on the other hand, are far more Americanized and usually partake in many different aspects of the holiday. Though many still incorporate some traditions, such as the apples, exchanging red envelopes, and hanging paper lanterns on the Christmas tree. And now, with two new films coming to Hallmark this year, families across the country are looking forward to seeing themselves represented during this wonderful time of year.
Christmas at the Golden Dragon premieres on November 13th, 2022. A Big Fat Family Christmas debuts almost three weeks later, on December 2nd, 2022.