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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Powers Stengel

My 12 Plays of Christmas: A Romantic TV Sleigh Ride with My Parents


Spoilers For: The long-gone innocence of my youth and for The Bachelorette December 2020.

‘Twas the 12 family-bonding days of Christmas,

and all through the house, the arcane magic of the TiVo was glowing,

with its dreams to espouse.

The holiday towels were placed on the towel rack with care,

just for looks, “we don’t use them,"

so oh, don’t you dare.

The visiting adult-woman-child was nestled all snug on the couch,

visions of Lifetime piercing through her grouch.

Wrapped up in the Princess Jasmine blanket of my youth as a glorious tirade of nostalgic familial love-bickering surrounded me, I watched TV exclusively with my mom and dad between December 15th and December 27th. These are their stories:

12ish Perfect SNL Holiday Sketches:

There's nothing quite like sitting a mere five inches from your father while the dulcet tones of "Dick in a Box" envelope you in holiday cheer.




From Adam Sandler trilling to a twin bed heaving in measured delight, the compendium of schweaty-balled Christmas classics accrued by errybody's favorite sketch show truly delights the Stengel clan. I mean, just look at these incredible female icons tree-side, just casually singing together. It's all good vibes, people.

11ish Rachel Maddow rants about the failures of democracy:

MSNBC is the default TV on setting at la casa de Stengel. If watching the pure evil literally ooze out of Rudy Giuliani was bad, we coupled it with to the worst grandstanding bullshit failure of a presidential relief. So, when the TV came on, Rachel was there for us.

10ish episodes of Home for Christmas:

This Norwegian Netfixian treat was literally fun for the whole family this holiday, as lovelorn Johanne schemes to find a boyfriend in time for her 30th holiday with her needy family. Did this romcom hit too close to home? Absolutely. Did I love every second of it regardless? Abso-fucking-lutely. Tender romance and self-discovery with a twinkly snowy set. Gimme!

9 minutes of Klaus before we all fell asleep on Christmas Eve:

With the glorious Jason Schwartzman and the riveting Rashida Jones, I thought this film would grip me. Instead, visions of sugar plums danced in all our heads. Not a winner for the Stengels. Fight us.

8 Perfect Episodes of Dash & Lily:

It's not too late. Watch it NOW!! "Christmas in New York, a brilliant score, and unexpected situational hijinks. Love!" -Straight from Dr. Ellen Stengel's mouth. Git on it, guys, it won't disappoint if you need a bit more cheer.

7 Fights About the Quality of The Christmas Chronicles 2:

Dr. Wayne Stengel was deeply disappointed by the efficacy and general appeal of the series' second installment after thoroughly enjoying the first chronicle. Dr. Ellen Stengel remains a steadfast supporter of the franchise.

6 Moments of Fighting about Watching Bridgerton together, only to waste too much time to start it.

Verbal gymnastics > Content

5 People Talking at Once in our 10 Screen+ Family Zoom Call

It was all too much. So I just let it kind of rest on top of me--a twinkly tinsel of holiday chaos.

4 Hours of The Bachelorette Finale Content

A Christmas week replete with Tayshia Adams tumultuous, delicious, and ultimately love-filled finale. Sign me the fuck up for every eye roll from my father and subsequent admonishment from momma.

Ivayshia FTW.

3 Background Noise Viewings of Lifetime Christmas movies starring Melissa Joan Hart

I think my dad has a soft spot for this peak 90's televisual enchantress, because I kept seeing her face briefly in the background as I passed through our tv room. Will someone tell me if she ever screws that nutcracker in A Very Nutty Christmas? Is splintering an issue? This is important. I need some support on this.

2 Cents from My Best Friend on How on My Father Experiences Media (She Took His Lit and Film Classes Multiple Times)

"If there's anything I took away from your father's postmodern literature course, Susannah, it's that you don't process anything, you just internalize everything until it becomes deeply ingrained character flaws."

-Eartha, on My Dad

Words To Live By?? Words to Revolt Against?? I'll spend my life figuring that one out.

1 Live Reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, memorized by Dr. Ellen Stengel and performed live at the Christmas Eve Dinner table.

It was performed letter perfect and the effect was cheery and astonishing. No notes. My mom is a wild, wise, wonderful woman.

Be merry bitches! We'll be together soon! Comment with your favorite watching-tv-with-my-parents memory!

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