5 of the Greatest American Christmas TV Specials

Forget mince pies, eggnog and heck, even almond roca; nothing says Christmas quite like your favorite TV show breaking off from regular proceedings and having a good ol’ fashioned Christmas special.

Usually, the Christmas special of a TV show is the perfect excuse for our favorite characters to take a moment to preach the importance of goodwill to all men, kindness and all that kinda stuff. And, ‘cos we’re in the spirit, we just smile along until the end, when the episode is consigned to the history books, never to be watched again (at least until next Christmas, when it’ll be repeated).

Occasionally though, the TV folks will make a Christmas episode so good that it’s actually better than most other episodes of the show. Sometimes, they’ll even make a special one-off show that ends up becoming a holiday staple.

Here are five of those shows; see if you can dig ‘em up this Christmas!

The X Files: How The Ghosts Stole Christmas

The X Files

Wait, what? An ‘X-Files’ Christmas special?!

You’re darn tooting, and it’s actually one of the best episodes of ‘The X-Files’ too. Instead of focusing on some crazy plot where Santa turns out to be an alien from the planet Xanadu like you might expect, ‘How The Ghosts Stole Christmas’ is actually a haunted house story in which Mulder and Scully investigate the appearance of two ghosts, who turn out to be the former occupants of the house.

‘How The Ghosts Stole Christmas’ is pretty light-hearted for ‘The X-Files’, although that still means a whole bunch of blood and stuff and a slightly different Christmas message to the traditional ‘peace and goodwill’. Oh, and it’s still real scary. The perfect ‘alternative’ Christmas TV special!

Friends: The One With The Holiday Armadillo

Friends - The One with the Armadillo

Everyone’s seen this, right? ‘The One With The Holiday Armadillo’ is probably my favorite episode of ‘Friends’, and involves Ross trying to teach his son Ben, who is very much a Christmas-loving kid, about Hannukah…by dressing up as an armadillo. Yeah.

Anyhow, this episode is funny (which is saying something as I don’t even really like Friends that much…) and pretty heart-warming too – which is all you can ask of a Christmas special.

The Simpsons: Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire

The Simpsons Christmas Special

‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’ technically isn’t a Christmas special, because it was actually the first episode of ‘The Simpsons’. Had it all gone wrong, we could have been left in a Simpsons-less world and that just don’t even bear thinking about.

Luckily, ‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’ set the standard for the series to come, with it’s trademark blend of dysfunctional family humor and schmaltzier moments. It ain’t the best Simpsons episode, but it’s a dang fine Christmas episode with a great message: working as a Mall Santa sucks.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

First shown way back in 1964, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is nearly 40 years old but is still shown multiple times over the Christmas period in the States. It’s a Christmas classic and, even though the stop-motion animation style is showing its age slightly and it’s a bit corny, watching ‘Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer’ at Christmas is like curling up in front of a roaring fire on a snowy evening before eating three whole advent calendars. Mmm, advent calendars…

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Mickey's Christmas Carol

According to my count, there have been 1,000,531 versions of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ produced. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was the only Christmas story ever written, and I gotta be honest, I’m kinda tired of hearing it.

But heck, I guess I’ve gotta have a favorite version and, weirdly, this is it. ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’ casts Scrooge McDuck as…erm, Scrooge, as well as Donald Duck as cousin Fred and Mickey himself as Bob Cratchit.

To be honest, I ain’t sure what makes me enjoy this version so much. It ain’t as funny as ‘A Muppets Christmas Carol’, or as grim as other versions. I guess that Disney magic just can’t be beaten at Christmas!

What are your favorite Christmas specials? Let me know on Twitter @AStoneHCO, on Facebook or by leaving a message below. Stay cool, Stoneites!