1. A Muppet Family Christmas
If you were a child in the 80s, you might remember this NBC special that was made of awesome, which featured Fozzie bringing the cast of The Muppet Show to visit his mom for the holidays, not realizing that she has rented her house to Fraggle Rock's Doc and Sprocket so she can go to California. Later on, the gang from Sesame Street comes a-wassailing, even though Fozzie's mom's house in the country is probably not within walking distance of Manhattan. The 7-minute carol medley at the end of the show is superb. If you were a 5-year-old in the 80s, like I was when this aired in 1987, this is the most fantastic hour of television in the history of time.
And speaking of the Muppets...
2. A Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppets come together to tell Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, with the Great Gonzo as Dickens and Rizzo as someone just there for the (sometimes fake) food. Before Michael Caine was Alfred, he was Ebenezer Scrooge, haunted by Marley and Marley (aka Statler and Waldorf) and harassing poor
Kermit Bob Cratchit. At least three of the songs in this musical are on my Christmas playlist, with "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas" endlessly repeating on Christmas Eve. I saw this bad boy in theaters.
And while we're still talking about Muppets...
3. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
Even though Oscar hates Christmas (he's got a song about it and everything!) the entire Sesame Street gang comes together to look for Big Bird when he attempts to uncover the mystery of how big fat Santa fits into all those skinny chimneys, especially in chimney-less Manhattan. Bert and Ernie's side-plot, with each of them trading their most treasured possessions in order to get the other a Christmas present begs the question how can they afford that super nice apartment if they can't even afford a soap dish and a cigar box? But my all-time favorite storyline is poor, addicted Cookie Monster trying to write a letter to Santa and being overcome by hunger pains before he can finish.
4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Even though virtually everyone in this show is a huge jerk, and I never quite figured out what the big fricking deal about Rudolph's nose was, I will always have a soft spot for this 1964 claymation classic -- mostly because Billie Mae Richards, the voice of Rudolph, was also the voice for Tenderheart the Care Bear. I also really identified with the misfit toys and may or may not have spent a significant portion of my childhood waiting for King Moonracer to show up on my doorstep. And for the record, I would absolutely love a spotted elephant.
5. The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite
I've always been a little Care Bear-obsessed. One of my many Christmas decorations is a Care Bear Christmas Train. I get one car every year and currently have seven. Anyway, even though most of my favorites aren't even in this special, I will never not be ecstatic that a Care Bear Christmas special even exists, let alone one that contains the supreme awesomeness that is the Nutcracker Suite.
6. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Um, is there someone who doesn't watch this holiday staple every year? Seriously.
7. Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Likewise, is there anyone who doesn't watch the Grinch steal Christmas from those noisy Whos down in Whoville every year? And I mean the 1965 cartoon version, not the Jim Carrey fright-fest that literally gave me nightmares about green people wearing lederhosen breaking into my house.
8. A Garfield Christmas
Who doesn't want a gift that keeps on giving? My sisters and I watch this every year (although now that our parents no longer have a functioning VCR I don't know how we'll manage). I always tear up when Grandma tells Garfield about how Christmas Eve is the night she misses her late husband the most, a sentiment that has gotten even more poignant since my own grandfather, whose birthday was December 23, passed away seven years ago.
9. Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration
I don't know how many people remember this 1987 TV special featuring the California Raisins and the coolest camels that ever existed, but this is a holiday tradition in my house. With dinosaur hosts that could definitely have used the internet to prove to everyone that the correct lyrics are, in fact, wassailing before the elves showed up, this claymation special features six (seven if you count "Here We Come A-Wassailing", and I suppose if you count "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", eight) spectacularly animated famous Christmas songs. My personal favorite has always been the coolest camels in existence busting out in "We Three Kings", but the "Joy to the World" segment is staggering when you realize that's clay.
10. Mickey's Christmas Carol
Yes, yes, it's another version of Dickens' classic, this time with Scrooge McDuck (apt) as...um...Scrooge and Mickey Mouse as the beleaguered Bob Cratchit. This 1983 special doesn't just have the title story, though. It also features shorts such as Donald in the gift-wrapping department, Chip and Dale in the playground of Mickey's Christmas tree, and Goofy teaching everyone how to ski -- a favorite in my family, because my dad yells like Goofy. A lot.
So there you have it, my top 10 Christmas specials.
Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. Happy Holidays, if you don't.