Top 10 TV Christmas Specials

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is cuddling up on the couch with my kids and watching our favorite Christmas specials.  There’s just something special about watching holiday shows and movies by the light of the Christmas tree.  But there’s so many classic Christmas specials to choose from…which should you watch first?

Well everyone has their own favorites so your list might look a bit different than mine, but here is my family’s list of the top ten Christmas specials.

10. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Who doesn’t love this cartoon classic where lovable loser Charlie Brown seeks the true meaning of Christmas amid all the modern commercialism?  The scary thing is that this special is from the 1960s, and the holiday season is infinitely more commercial than it was then.  Although a bit slow-paced, Charlie Brown’s Christmas holds up well and is still a hit with kids.

9. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town – One of the popular Rankin/Bass claymation specials, this tells the origin story of Santa Claus.  Learn how a young man named Kris Kringle grows up to be our beloved Santa.

8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Poor Rudolph is laughed at and excluded from all the holiday fun at the North Pole just because he’s a little different.  After running away he meets a band of fellow misfits and proves everyone wrong as he single-handedly saves Christmas.

7. Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Based on the classic children’s book of the same name, this beloved special tells the tale of the grouchy, green Grinch who resolves himself to destroy Christmas for the peaceful town of Whoville.  While he steals their presents, trees, stockings, and pretty much everything else that wasn’t nailed down, he can’t take away their Christmas spirit.  At the last moment he learns the true meaning of Christmas and returns everything he stole.

6. Yogi’s First Christmas – You’ve probably never heard of this one.  It’s never on television and it was out of print for many years.  Only recently did I find a DVD for sale and I snatched it up!  And it’s a good thing because my kids love it too!  Yogi Bear wakes up early from his usual hibernation to find the gang preparing for a Christmas celebration at Jellystone Park.  Since he’s always slept through the holiday he has no idea what’s going on.  Herman the Hermit and Snively keep trying to ruin Christmas, but Yogi and Boo Boo manage to save the holiday and leave all the kids happy.

5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol – This classic retelling of Dickens’ Christmas Carol was one of my absolute favorites as a kid.  With Mickey as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge McDuck as Ebeneezer Scrooge (who else?), and Goofy as the ghost of Jacob Marley, all your favorite characters are represented.

4. A Muppet Christmas Carol – Although I still love Mickey’s take on Dickens, it has been surpassed in my mind by A Muppet Christmas Carol.  I’ve always loved The Muppets and this version starring Michael Caine as Scrooge and Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit is truly special.

3. The Year Without a Santa Claus – I don’t see why this Rankin Bass claymation classic doesn’t get more respect.  Santa isn’t feeling well and he’s worried that no one cares about or needs him anymore.  He decides to cancel Christmas so he can stay home and get some rest.  This leads Mrs. Claus and a pair of elves on a journey to prove that people still need Christmas.  With a ton of catchy songs and cameos by the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser, what’s not to love?  And I challenge you not to tear up a little when the little girl sings to Santa about her Blue Christmas.  Seriously if you haven’t seen this one, do so.

2. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street – I remember this one being on every year when I was kid, but these days it is nowhere to be found and that’s a shame.  When Oscar the Grouch tells Big Bird that Santa will never be able to deliver presents to Sesame Street because he can’t fit down the chimney, Big Bird makes it his mission to find out how Santa can pull it off.  In the end he ends up camped out on the roof waiting for Santa but falls asleep and misses him.  Meanwhile the whole neighborhood is worried sick and out looking for Big Bird.  Of course it’s a happy ending as they all meet up and there are presents for everyone.

1. A Muppet Family Christmas – This out of print and little-known gem is all but impossible to find these days.  I’ve seen copies going on eBay going for $100 or more!  Thankfully, I already have one. Fozzie Bear brings all his Muppet friends back to his grandmother’s house for an old-fashioned Christmas.  Before long the whole gang from Sesame Street shows up and so do the Fraggles.  The Swedish Chef mistakes Big Bird for the Christmas turkey and Fozzie tries to form a comedy duo with a snowman that keeps melting.  When Miss Piggy finally shows up after being lost in a blizzard the whole crew sits down for a holiday sing-a-long.

There are lots of other great Christmas specials, which one is your favorite?

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Mike is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in finance and parenting topics. He is a dedicated husband and father of three who is obsessed with creating multiple streams of income and building wealth so he can achieve true financial freedom for his family. Like what you're reading? Subscribe to our free RSS feed and follow us on Twitter.

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  1. Christian L. says

    It’s odd that I enjoy cartoons with adult humor but not animated movies about Christmas as much. “The Santa Claus” with Tim Allen was one that came out at the right age for me, that period when you start to wonder about Santa.

    I always enjoy watching that one. “Home Alone” is another one that makes me cry. I’m a tough dude, but that movie really makes me so grateful for the rad family and friends I’ve had my whole life.

    I guess I’m a sucker for those sappy family Christmas movies.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

    • says

      Hey Christian, thanks for stopping by. I tried to stick to TV specials only (I don’t think any of these were ever in theaters) otherwise it would have been a lot harder. In addition to classics like Miracle on 34th Street, you’d have to consider more recent additions like Home Alone, Elf, A Christmas Story, and National Lampoon’s Christmas. I could make a whole other list!

      • Christian L. says

        Oh gotcha. Yeah, I’ve been without a TV for almost two years and I’ve lost touch with all the holiday specials and shows.

        Sorry if I strayed too far off the path!

  2. James says

    Love the list. Some I hadn’t heard of but you can’t go wrong with Charlie Brown or How the Grinch Stole Christmas (in all it’s many versions). My all time favorite kiddie Christmas movie, Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas, I was sad it didn’t make the list. Also, for the adults out there: A Christmas Story (obviously) and While You Were Sleeping.

  3. says

    You nailed my favorite television specials (although the omission of Frosty might be criminal….) :-)

    For films I really love Christmas Vacation. I laugh at the same lines every stinkin’ year. There’s also a great short on the same disc as the old movie Christmas In Connecticut that I really like (and Christmas in Connecticut is a pretty good old black-and-white movie itself….).

  4. says

    I love all of the Muppet movies! It’s crazy because I just recently started getting into these movies, as I wasn’t crazy about them when I was younger.

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