16 Classic Holiday TV Specials We Can't Wait to Watch With Our Kids

Jacqueline Burt Cote | Nov 24, 2016 TV

Paul Mall/YouTubeIt's one of the greatest joys of being a parent during the holiday season: Introducing your kids to the TV specials we waited for all year long during our own childhoods. Not only are the shows themselves still as entertaining as they ever were, but it's almost equally entertaining to watch their faces as we explain how "back before Netflix," we didn't get to watch whatever we wanted whenever we wanted!

Even though some of these festive specials are now just a click away, that doesn't make watching them this time of year any less, well, special -- and we're not just being nostalgic. Get ready for some major holiday memories with these snippets!

  • Frosty the Snowman

    1

    "Happy birthday!" One of the many, many Rankin/Bass holiday specials to hit the airwaves in the '60s and '70s, Frosty the Snowman featured comedian Jackie Vernon as the lovable title character and Jimmy Durante as the narrator (he also sang the theme song). We're still not over the stress of seeing Frosty in this 1969 cartoon start to melt!

  • Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas

    2

    Based on Russell Hoban's children's book (which was itself inspired by O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi"), Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas (from 1977) starred some of the most adorable Muppets in any Jim Henson production ever.

  • A Christmas Carol

    3

    If you're an '80s kid, chances are you were introduced to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol courtesy of this excellent TV movie from 1984 starring George C. Scott, which earned Scott an Emmy nomination -- and taught us some very important lessons. Who can forget that dramatic moment when the Ghost of Christmas Present opened his robe to reveal "ignorance" and "want"? 

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  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

    4

    You can't go wrong with this 1970 TV special of Fred Astaire as a dancing mailman! Another revered offering from the Rankin/Bass canon, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town fantastically imagined the origins of the man in the red suit. We're still afraid of Burgermeister Meisterburger, TBH.

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas

    5

    Believe it or not, network heads were unhappy (!) with the now-classic A Charlie Brown Christmas when they first saw it, telling producer Lee Mendelson, "Well, you gave it a good shot. Believe me, we're big Peanuts fans, but maybe it's better suited to the comic page." More than 40 years later (yep, this classic is from 1965), countless fans have proved them wrong!

  • Star Wars Holiday Special

    6

    The Star Wars Holiday Special is a must-see for die-hard Star Wars fans, even if George Lucas once said that if he "had the time and a sledgehammer," he would "track down every copy of that show and smash it." Sure, it's a little ... bizarre, but with appearances from Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford -- not to mention Art Carney and Bea Arthur (?) -- this odd affair from 1978 is even more deliriously delightful today!

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  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, 1974

    7

    This special gives a (fictional) behind-the-scenes peek at how the beloved Clement Clarke Moore poem "The Night Before Christmas" came to be -- involving singing mice and a song we still can't get out of our heads ("Even a Miracle Needs a Hand").

  • The Year Without a Santa Claus

    8

    Not only did The Year Without a Santa Claus bring us bad guy brothers Heat Miser and Snow Miser (and their accompanying catchy tunes) in 1974, it starred Mickey Rooney as the voice of an adorably under-the-weather Saint Nick!

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

    9

    It simply wouldn't be the holidays without a mandatory viewing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! -- and no, we are most definitely not talking about the live action version. (Sorry, Jim Carrey, we'll take the voice of Boris Karloff in this 1966 animation any day.)

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  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

    10

    Brought to you by -- surprise! -- Rankin/Bass, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will go down in holiday pop culture history as "the one with the Island of Misfit Toys." Fun fact: This 1964 special was made in Japan!

  • The Little Drummer Boy

    11

    Stop-motion animation with a heartwarming message, The Little Drummer Boy was narrated by Greer Garson and featured Jose Ferrer's voice as that of the circus ringmaster. (Did we mention it's also a 1968 favorite from Rankin/Bass?)

  • Jack Frost

    12

    Slightly less popular than some of the other Rankin/Bass specials but still a well-regarded standard, the 1979 special Jack Frost stars Robert Morse as the voice of an icy sprite who wants to trade his immortality to be with a human girl.

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  • I Love Lucy Christmas Special

    13

    With its flashback format (featuring a series of "best of" clips), the I Love Lucy Christmas Special from 1965 undeniably set the stage for decades of holiday-themed sitcom episodes to come!

  • John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together

    14

    John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together started out as an album -- when it went platinum, Jim Henson and his team created a corresponding one-hour special to air in 1979 on ABC. The Muppets make everything merry!

  • Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas

    15

    A series of sweet holiday-themed vignettes starring everyoone's favorite Disney crew (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy & Co.), Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas emphasizes the spirit of giving. (Don't forget to check out Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, which came out five years after this one did in 1999!)

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  • Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!

    16

    Every holiday should be celebrated with the help of the Peanuts gang, and New Year's Eve is no exception -- particularly because Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! (which aired in 1986) also stars the object of good old Chuck's affection, the Little Red-Haired Girl. 

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