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10 Old-Fashioned Christmas Specials to Watch With Your Grandkids

Whether virtually or together, share the joy of these classic holiday shows

A scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas

United Features Syndicate/Courtesy Everett Collection

En español | Christmas specials are as much a part of the holiday as tinsel and eggnog, with many of the first specials from the 1960s still being broadcast on major networks today. From Rudolph's iconic light-up nose in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to the jazzy soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas, these classics still captivate new audiences every year. Sharing them with grandkids is a great way to remind one another of the spirit of the season, and makes for a festive family tradition.

Can't be together this year? You can still watch together with a remote-watch-party platform such as Teleparty (available for Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and HBO Max), or simply FaceTime as you watch.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

The longest-running Christmas special in history, Rudolph has been broadcast every year since 1964. Its puppet-based stop-motion animation, narration by Burl Ives and uplifting message about celebrating our differences made it an instant classic.

Watch it here: Vudu

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

This meditation on the meaning of Christmas was considered a risky departure from much of popular TV at the time, with no laugh track and a jazz score by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, but it went on to win a Peabody, an Emmy and the hearts of generations of American kids.

Watch it here: Apple TV+, starting Dec. 4 (free for non-subscribers from Dec. 11-13)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

Before Jim Carrey went green for the live-action version, the animated original brought to life Dr. Seuss’ whimsical tale of a Christmas-hating creature (voiced by Boris Karloff), and set his misanthropic antics to song.

Watch it here: YouTube


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Frosty the Snowman (1969)

Narrated by comedian Jimmy Durante, this cartoon builds on the hit song's storyline and sends Frosty and his young savior to the North Pole as they try to escape the heat.

Watch it here: Vimeo, YouTube

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)

What better way to introduce Fred Astaire (who narrates) and Mickey Rooney (who voices Santa) to a new audience than through this puppet-animated rendition of Santa's origin story, as a young Kriss Kringle growing up in gloomy Sombertown.

Watch it here: YouTube, Vudu

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

What happens when Santa decides to take a vacation right before Christmas? Starring Mickey Rooney as Santa and Shirley Booth as Mrs. Claus, this special celebrates the power of children around the world.

Watch it here: YouTube

Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas (1977)

This Emmy-nominated musical romp from puppeteer Jim Henson follows the down-on-its-luck Otter family — who enters a Christmas Eve talent contest in order to be able to afford gifts for one another.

Watch it here: Amazon Prime

The Snowman (1982)

A favorite of David Bowie's, this short follows an English boy on a late-night adventure with a magical snowman. There's no dialogue, but the soaring score and ethereal animation captivate young and old.

Watch it here: Amazon Prime

A scene from Mickey's Christmas Carol

Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

This Academy Award-nominated adaptation of the Charles Dickens novella swaps its cast of characters for Disney favorites — with Scrooge McDuck for Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit and Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Watch it here: Disney+

Christmas at Pee-wee's Playhouse (1988)

You'll love counting the cameos from stars such as Little Richard, Frankie Avalon (now 80) and Grace Jones (now 72), while the grandkids will laugh along at Pee-wee's zany antics as he learns to embrace the selflessness of the holiday season.

Watch it here: Netflix

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