The air is getting colder, the Weather Network has been calling for flurries, you can smell the pine trees, and hear the unmistakable sound of 24-hour Christmas radio stations. It’s so close, and then you turn on the TV, scroll through the guide and see hours upon hours of Christmas movies and specials. Now’s the time to sit back and relax in your ugly Christmas sweater, put up your holiday-themed slipper-adorned feet, nestle in with a mug of hot chocolate and prepare to relish in the glory of your childhood favourite. The holiday season is finally upon us, and what better way to celebrate than by gathering around the TV with family and friends to watch some classic specials. Here are the top five Christmas themed TV specials:
5. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Produced in stop-motion animation by production mogul Rankin/Bass, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is currently the longest running Christmas television special in history. The special is based on the 1939 poem and the 1949 song of the same name. Originally released by NBC once per holiday season, the special now airs multiple times throughout December on CBS, and celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is one of the most popular Christmas songs, and the visualization of its concepts and characters has been celebrated since its release. A sure family-favourite, Rudolph will have you singing and laughing along for its entirety.
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Who could forget poor Charlie Brown, trying to direct the school play, only to be ignored and teased by his classmates, especially when he arrives with a small, dead Christmas tree. Previously owned by CBS and now broadcasted by ABC, A Charlie Brown Christmas focuses on the true meaning of Christmas, reminding viewers that the holiday season has become over-commercialized, and we forget what it’s all about. A Charlie Brown Christmas is not only a fun family-oriented special, but a kind reminder and a lesson to all those who watch.
3. Frosty the Snowman (1969)
This iconic Christmas special, similar to Rudolph, is based on the song “Frosty the Snowman” from 1950. It has been produced and distributed by CBS to this day, and plays multiple times during the holiday season. The popularity of the special generated four sequels for Frosty; however none could match the success of the original. This production also marked the first time producers Rankin/Bass – who were known for their wide array of Christmas specials (e.g. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) – used an animation style other than stop-motion, instead using cell animation. Frosty the Snowman is a beloved Christmas classic to this day; everyone remembers the iconic scene where Frosty and his pals march through the town square only to be stopped by the crossing guard’s whistle.
2. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is a Rankin/Bass Christmas special based on the 1934 song. The special chronicles the story of how Santa Claus came to exist, along with the advent of a number of Santa-related traditions. ABC has owned and distributed the special since its initial release, however they tend to cut out a number of scenes in more recent broadcast years that they deem might be traumatizing for younger viewers (if you have ever seen the original cut, this would be quite shocking to you as the film is almost too family-friendly). Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town also features Rankin/Bass’ most popular voice cast, with Mickey Rooney providing the voice for Kris Kringle/Santa Claus, and Fred Astaire providing the voice of the narrator.
1. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
The 1966 Christmas special based on the beloved Dr. Seuss book tells the classic tale of the Grinch, an anti-Christmas grump, who makes it his mission to destroy Christmas for the town of Whoville, until he realizes the true heart of Christmas. The special has been tossed around multiple television networks, starting on CBS and most recently on NBC. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is one of the more rare Christmas specials, typically only aired twice during the season (get those DVRs ready!). For fellow ‘Scrooges’ like the Grinch, this story may seem tacky, but for those who are looking for the real meaning of the holiday, the special sheds light on the goodwill that the Christmas season is meant to exude.
So there you have it: the top five Christmas TV specials to get you in the holiday spirit. Grab your family and friends this season and cuddle up on the couch and reminisce, all while you favourite special entertains you in the background.
Honourable mentions: The Year Without a Santa Claus, Bill Murray’s upcoming Christmas special on Netflix, and Michael Bublé’s Annual Christmas Special.