#86 Flipping channels and stumbling on that one Christmas special you loved as a kid

It’s a wonderful life.

When you’re bunkering in the basement to get away from the holiday madness upstairs, it’s always nice when the channel flipping pops you onto your favorite old flashback.

Which classic gem burrows into your heart?

That Rudolph stop-motion special. Sam the Snowman (no relation to Frosty) narrates this epic tale of outcasts Rudolph and Hermey the Elf as they stumble through the North Pole meeting Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowman before taking refuge on the Island of Misfit Toys. Never forget the moral of the story: Follow your heart and become a dentist.

A Charlie Brown Christmas. Like most Charlie Brown cartoons, this one features monotone voices, confusing plots, and dry humor. Thankfully, jazzy piano music and dancing kids makes it all come together.

• Any non-Christmas movie that takes place during Christmas. Sure, Bruce Willis crawling around office ducts in Die Hard might not seem festive, but listen closely to the background music and you’ll hear some Christmas tunes. Let’s throw Lethal Weapon, Gremlins, and Batman Returns, too.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas. All the Whos living in Whoville have a serious problem in that there’s a freakish monster living in the cliffs above their romantic mountain town — dramatically reducing property values by the day. If you don’t love the big rhyming sing-a-long finish to this one, your heart is officially three sizes too small.

Frosty the Snowman. Poor Frosty just doesn’t have the personality of Sam from the Rudolph special. And since they always air this one with Rudolph, the inferiority of Frosty jumps out even more. Honestly, if Frosty is your favorite old Christmas special, then I feel sorry for you. You had a rough childhood.

• Whatever special is on the same time as Frosty on the other channel. A Garfield Christmas, John Denver and the Muppets, or Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas automatically win.

Finding your favorite holiday special from when you were a kid is like uncovering a hidden stash of buried treasure at the bottom of the sea. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it a hundred times, have it on your computer, or own the DVD, either. There’s just something sweet about feeling like it was waiting there as this very moment … and feeling like the stars all aligned to give you a brief little dose of


Photos from: here, here, here, here, and here

62 thoughts on “#86 Flipping channels and stumbling on that one Christmas special you loved as a kid

  1. Oh god, I LOVE this. I read it in the Book of (Holiday) Awesome and was bummed it was a book entry and I couldn’t comment on it.

    I am a Christmas special FANATIC. When my sister and I were little, my mom and dad would set the VCR to record our faves, and I actually still prefer those because it has all the old commercials. Ch-ch-ch-chia, anyone?

    You named some of the best, for sure. We also LOVED Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

    This year, a few friends and I went through the guide and set my DVR for all kinds of Christmas specials so we could catch them all. Of course, we’ve thrown in the old VHS copies occasionally for good measure. :)

    AND, as previously mentioned here on 1000 Awesome Things, it’s awesome to happen upon Christmas episodes of your favorite childhood sitcoms.

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth, Laura!! I absolutely love Christmas specials and they do bring back so many wonderful memories when I watch them now. We did use to watch the VCR of all of them when I was little with the old commercials!!!! We wouldn’t fast forward through them or anything. OMG I love old commercials!

      1. Oh yes, there is a no-fast-forwarding-through-commercials policy — they’ve actually become part of the main event! :) My friend Zac even went so far (keep in mind, he’s kind of a Scrooge) as to say that the commercials were the only reason he was watching with us. Ha!

  2. Ooooh, SO many fantastic references in this one! “Muppet Christmas Carol” is just great, and the picture of Gizmo is his Santa hat is adorable!

    And anyone who has ever been to my blog will know that I was ecstatically pleased by the Garfield comment. ;)

    1. I was just in a conversation yesterday about Garfield comic strips and I thought of you and giggled. Of course everyone was wondering why I was giggling out of nowhere. Garfield really is the best

  3. I didn’t know about this book until stumbling across it today. AWESOME!
    it’s such a cool project. I just noticed there s Chinese edition – I live in Beijing now, I will try to find it
    my Christmas special – sesame street :)

  4. YES! You mentioned the Will Vinton Claymation Christmas special!!! I own two copies of it on DVD, and a copy VHS taped off of the TV. My family CANNOT have Christmas without it!!

  5. Definitely. And, I love that you included Die Hard. I definitely have those non-Christmas-but-take-place-around-Christmas movies that I like catching like the aforementioned awesomeness, as well as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and (my guilty pleasure) Serendipity. This year, I recorded the early showings of Charlie Brown and the Muppet Christmas Carol just in case I miss them later on.

  6. Stepping up here…
    Rudolph is the greatest! I’m most certain the moral is to “follow the nose, save Christmas, no matter the weather, in guide sled position!”
    Smooth Sam the snowman, (respectfully, my childhood hero), was narrated by Burl Ives. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Ives sings “Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer”, “Silver and Gold” as well as “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas”! Triple Awesome:)
    That’s a whole lot of soul packed into half an hour! BEST EVER!

  7. I love all the old Christmas specials. Rudolph, Frosty.. the whole bunch of ’em. I’m really not a big fan of the new cartoons/movies. I tried watching some new Rudolph the other day where they were saving the misfit toys from a mysterious person……. I watched it, but I wasn’t impressed.

  8. My husband prefers “The Claymation Christmas,” which doesn’t seem to be on TV anymore (that’s ok, we bought the DVD!). My favorite is Rankin/Bass “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” :D

    1. I love Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town! Do you ever watch The Year without a Santa Claus? The Heat and Snow Miser song is just the best!

      1. I LOVE the Heat and Snow Miser song! I haven’t seen that one in years. I forgot what the show was called, but now thanks to you, I can try to track it down somewhere. Thanks!

  9. Poor Frosty! My family has a few choice quotes from that one. “Messy, messy, messy!” I have a special fondness for it, too, because my name is Karen, same as the little girl who saves Frosty.

    But my very favorite is A Year Without A Santa Claus, which admittedly has the strangest story line, but which has great music and features my hero Snow Miser (and his vastly inferior brother Heat Miser). I loooove my Snow Miser! Let it snow!!!

    1. I love Frosty, too ;) I watch it every year and I realize that some of the love I have for it is because it’s tied so tightly with awesome memories of my childhood and not because it’s any kind of cinematic wonder, but STILL … I do love it.

      My sis and I have lines (like that one, even) that we love, too! “Duhhh, uh, happy birfthday!”

    2. The Snow/Heat Miser song makes that whole thing worthwhile! I actually bought this on dvd a few years ago just to relive that childhood fun!

  10. John Denver and the Muppets! We had the album when I was a kid, and I still love the songs (I have it on CD now). I have many fond memories of sitting by the record player in front of the tree, singing along with my brother. :)

    1. Oh, and the only version of The Twelve Days of Christmas that I can pay attention for the whole song. Love this Christmas CD!

  11. And for some awesome laughs we watch this one every year, and sometimes twice! *****Bridget Jones diary!*****

    1. I introduced my daughter to the Home Alone movies this year and she loves them as much as me. Although we went out of order and I showed her the second one first, she still likes them.

      1. Ohhhhhhh Home Alone. Love love love. (It should go without saying that I mean only Home Alone and Home Alone Two: Lost in New York, but for clarification, it’s been said.)

        When we were watching the VHS of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the other day, we were trying to figure out about when it had been recorded. We’d finally come to the conclusion that it was probably either 1989 or 1990, when the theatrical trailer for Home Alone played as a commercial, stating: “Now playing in theaters” … HA! 1990 it was. :)

  12. Does anyone remember Twas the Night Before Christmas? With the little mouse family, and the clockmaker? “Even a miracle needs a hand!” God I loved that song, and that movie!

  13. AWW I REMEMBER THAT RUDOLPH ONE! I also loved watching this one about this boy who starts watching a real-life toy train-set and then it drifts into a cartoonish world…? I forget the name and I’ve never been able to find it again… *sigh*… I also love reading about Christmas in the Harry Potter books. I have always said I wanted to go to Hogwarts, especially at Christmas lol =P. Yes, I like Harry Potter alright? :P

  14. My favourite is National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. I remember watching it over and over- Clark’s struggles with the xmas lights is so funny to watch. That movie, and The Muppets Christmas special “Watch out for the icy patch!” is still a saying in my family.

  15. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, anyone? I don’t know if that one’s really on TV, but my younger brother and I’d watch it every time we went to grandma’s. I really loved it haha :)
    Good post.

  16. I was born the year Rudolph initially aired, so it is definitely my fave kid special. As for adult xmas movies, hands down it’s the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol. Watch it every xmas eve, followed by the 1948 animated Rudolph.

  17. Oh my, I loved this post so much! And, of course, I still love Christmas Specials, especially the ones I used to love when I was little. When I was a child the most popular Christmas movie among me & my peers was for sure “Annabelle’s wish” and I’m still moved to tears every time I witness Annabelle making Billy Baker a present of her voice…
    Nowadays I never ever miss out on the comedy stuff such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” but have already been pronounced crazy by the rest of my family for totally being into “Miracle on 34th street” as it is the most corny movie I’ve seen in my entire life.
    Another habit which I have grown accustomed to is watching “Dead Poets’ Society” somewhen in the course of Christmas. It has become some kind of an inofficial Christmas movie, even though I mainly think that way about it since there’s snow all around when they found out Neil Perry killed himself.

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