Maria Menounos Reveals How Her 'Bucket List' Item Led to More Christmas Movie Roles: 'I Got the Bug'

The journalist and actress appeared in Lifetime's The Holiday Fix Up in 2021, and will return this year in The Holiday Dating Guide, premiering on Saturday

Santa brought Maria Menounos exactly what she wanted last year.

"It was on my bucket list last year to do a Christmas movie. I put it on my vision board last year and it happened," Menounos, 44, tells PEOPLE. "And then I got the bug."

After appearing in Lifetime's The Holiday Fix Up alongside Jana Kramer and Ryan McPartlin in 2021, Menounos will star in The Holiday Dating Guide as a dating coach who needs to prove her advice really works in just 12 days in order to land a book deal.

Menounos says Dating Guide has "a How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days kind of vibe," and she was thrilled to be a part of the project, especially knowing how much happiness Lifetime's holiday movies bring to viewers.

"It's a beautiful spirit," she says. "I just love what it means to people at the holidays. I know I needed it last year going through my first holiday season without my mom, so I know what it means for people at this time to have something uplifting and joyous to get to watch."

The Holiday Dating Guide's Maria Menounos Calls Starring in a Christmas Movie a Dream Come True
A+E Networks

In addition to her mom, the Heal Squad host lost her uncle last year. She admits that spending the holidays without some of her loved ones has been challenging.

"This year, we felt the emptiness and the loss in a different way," Menounos says. "I was like, 'Next year, we're going to honor them and talk about them at the table. We're going to do a toast for them. And we're going to be intentional about it.' But it takes time to be able to get there."

Honoring her late loved ones is just one way Menounos plans to spend the holidays.

She and her husband Kevin Undergaro have also been celebrating by "watching every Christmas movie," hosting a holiday party and going to Disney. "We go all out at Christmas," she says.

The Holiday Dating Guide's Maria Menounos Calls Starring in a Christmas Movie a Dream Come True

This year, Menounos says she and AfterBuzz TV creator Undergaro, 55, plan on "doing the most Christmasy thing that is possible: we're going on a reindeer safari!"

Later in the month, the couple will celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary. But they don't have any major plans to mark the milestone.

"Kevin and I forget our anniversary every year, because we kind of have two," the actress admits. "We have New Year's Eve, and then we have Oct. 5 or 6, we got married in Greece. Then thankfully, the world saw us get married on New Year's Eve, so somebody will remind us."

Despite being together for over two decades, Menounos says her and Undergaro's marriage has "changed a lot, actually." She adds, "It really brought us closer together, even though I didn't think that was possible. It's a different kind of journey."

The Holiday Dating Guide's Maria Menounos Calls Starring in a Christmas Movie a Dream Come True
A+E Networks

She also credits their "solid friendship" as the key to their successful relationship.

"You need a foundation that you can always come back to," the journalist says. "That's what has helped Kevin and I all these years is, we're best friends, ride or dies. If you have a good foundation, you can withstand anything."

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The Holiday Dating Guide premieres on Lifetime Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

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