A Charlie Brown Christmas
Some people love the signature score. Others remember Charlie Brown's scrawny tree or Linus' Christmas speech. Whatever the reason, this Emmy-winning cartoon has earned its place on our must-watch roster. For 30 minutes every holiday season, the Peanuts gang reminds us Christmas isn't about gifts, money and aluminum trees. This is the only cartoon that features a character who quotes scripture and children who sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." If nothing else, it makes us a think twice before passing over small trees in the Christmas tree lot.
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
For more than 30 years, families have gathered 'round the television to watch Rudolph's journey from the North Pole to the Land of Misfit Toys. Sure, stop-motion animation is a thing of the past, but characters like Hermey the elf, Yukon Cornelius and the not-so-Abominable Snowman are timeless. Now, this made-for-TV special—narrated by the great Burl Ives—is as synonymous with the holiday season as Santa Claus and cookie swaps.
In one hour, Rudolph and his friends teach us important lessons about embracing our differences and being ourselves…and they do it with song! When you hear the familiar tune to songs like "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold," you know Christmas is around the corner.
The Star Wars Holiday Special
In 1978, this two-hour Star Wars spin-off aired for the first—and last—time on CBS. In the film, Hans Solo, played by Harrison Ford, travels to his furry friend Chewbacca's home planet to celebrate Life Day, the Wookiees' take on Christmas.
Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia make brief appearances, but really, this is Chewie's show. We even get to meet Chewbacca's father, wife and son. Who knew he was a dad?
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Like Scrooge before him, the Grinch is a holiday villain we love to hate. Thanks to the brilliance of Dr. Seuss and the voice of actor Boris Karloff, this mean, green hermit steals our attention for 26 minutes every season.
Even if you've watched him steal Christmas from the residents of Whoville 100 times, it's hard not to stand up and cheer when he slides back down the hill with a sleigh full of toys. Sure, he's guilty of grand theft, but 'tis the season for redemption, right?
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Based on Barbara Robinson's best-selling children's book, this '80s TV movie makes us all believe in holiday miracles…even if it's just for an hour. This story centers on the Herdman children, a troupe of misguided youngsters who spit, swear, light things on fire and threaten other children with bodily harm. When they take over the local church's production of the Christmas story, everyone expects the manger to go up in flames. But, when the curtain goes up, viewers are reminded of the season's true meaning. Warm fuzzies all around.
A Muppet Family Christmas
Jim Henson fans rejoice. This one-hour Christmas special features Kermit and his Muppet friends alongside the Sesame Street gang. Even the Fraggles from Fraggle Rock make guest appearances!
What starts as a visit to Fozzie Bear's mother's farm becomes a musical revue as Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Kermit and many others perform rollicking versions of holiday favorites.
Frosty the Snowman
Armed with a broomstick, corncob pipe and a magical top hat, this portly snowman marched his way into our hearts back in 1969. Ever since, millions have tuned in every year to see Frosty escape an evil magician…with a little help from his friend Karen and Santa, of course.
Just as he promises during the final scenes of this 30-minute animated short, Frosty comes back every Christmas to spread joy to a new generation of children.
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
When Muppet creator Jim Henson teamed up with celebrated composer Paul Williams in the '70s, they brought a children's storybook to life with hand puppets, marionettes and original songs. Emmet Otter may not be as popular as other holiday specials, but its artistry is unsurpassed.
In this one-hour special, Emmet, a poor otter from Frogtown Hollow, sets out to earn enough money to buy his mother something nice for Christmas. He teams up with his friends to form a jug band—complete with a washboard player—to compete in a talent competition.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All
Comedian Stephen Colbert may have produced his 2008 holiday special for less money than most people spend on gifts for grandma, but he didn't skimp on the cast. After Stephen becomes "trapped" in bear country, he's visited by traveling musicians and comedians who stop in to sing a few ditties.
Willie Nelson joins Stephen in a duet of "Little Dealer Boy," and John Legend lends his voice to "Nutmeg." Elvis Costello, Toby Keith, Jon Stewart, Feist and George Wendt also make cameos in this hour-long parody of holiday specials.