Top 10 Christmas specials you just can’t miss

By Christina Colavecchiaa,

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Co-produced/written by Henry Selick and Tim Burton, the stop motion musical tells the story of Jack Skellington, a being from “Halloween Town” that stumbles on a portal to “Christmas Town.” Jack presents his findings about Christmas to the vampires, goblins, and ghouls of Halloween Town who undoubtedly misunderstand the idea of Christmas. Jack becomes obsessed with the idea of Christmas and plans to take it over, asking three children to abduct Santa so he can play the role of Kris Kringle. Jack begins to deliver gifts to the children (shrunken heads, rattle snakes, etc.) but they are terrified by the presents. The military is assigned to take down Jack, the Santa imposter, and, although Jack’s plan has failed, he regains his old spirit and starts thinking about plans for next Halloween.

9. Home Alone (1990)

For any kid growing up in the '90s, Home Alone was a staple that wasn’t watched only during the holiday season. The film stars child actor Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, an eight-year-old boy that is accidentally left behind by his family as they embark on a Christmas vacation to Florida. Kevin is forced to not only take care of himself, but to guard the family’s mansion from two incompetent thieves. The film has become a classic for a younger generation.

8. Christmas Vacation (1989)

Ah, the infamous Griswold family. The Christmas holidays wouldn’t be the same without the wacky family, headed by the hilarious Chevy Chase as Clark and Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen. The Griswolds plan a big family Christmas that, if you know anything about the family, predictably turns into a huge disaster. Whether it is squirrels in the Christmas tree, thousands of lights that cause the nuclear generator to be turned off, or a surprise visit from cousins from Kansas, Christmas Vacation has become an emblem of how not to throw a holiday bash.

7. Frosty the Snowman (1969)

This TV special has classic written all over it. Created after the famous Christmas carol was recorded, Frosty magically comes alive when a top hat is placed on his head by a girl named Karen and her friends from school. When the group begins to realize that Frosty may melt in the looming spring weather, the gang stow Karen and Frosty in a freight train headed to the North Pole. Little do they know that the owner of Frosty’s top hat, a magician, is following them and wants his hat back.

6. A Christmas Story (1983)

The film embodies Christmas time in mid-America during the 1980s. Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun. He is told, however, that he will “shoot his eye out” with it. Amidst trouble both at school and at home, Ralphie quickly opens every gift on Christmas morning, despairingly searching for his BB gun. When all the gifts are thought to be open, his father points to a present hidden under the tree from Santa. Ralphie finally opens his Red Ryder BB Gun. Of course, as Ralphie fires the first bullet, it ricochets off a metal sign and hits him in the cheek and knocks out a lens in his glasses!

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Like every Charlie Brown special, a very poignant and meaningful message is conveyed. Charlie Brown is depressed, despite the fact that Christmas, the happiest time of the year, is approaching. Although the town is bustling with Christmas spirit, Charlie Brown is dismayed by the fact that Christmas is becoming so commercialized. His sister, Sally, is writing to Santa for money; Snoopy is decorating his dog house in hopes to win a contest. When Lucy suggests Charlie Brown direct the school nativity play, Charlie Brown is even more upset when the children try to modernize the traditional scene. Lucy takes Charlie Brown to get a Christmas tree for the play (to set the proper mood) and Charlie Brown chooses the only real tree in the lot – a tiny, droopy one. Eventually the town realizes that Christmas shouldn’t be so commercial and the true meaning of Christmas is inevitably portrayed.

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

There isn’t a special more classic to the Christmas season than the story of Rudolph. One of Santa’s reindeer, Donner, and his wife give birth to a baby fawn named Rudolph. The parents are shocked to discover that Rudolph’s nose is unusual – it’s bright red and capable of glowing! When Santa visits the new fawn, he tells Donner that Rudolph will be not be able to pull the sled if his nose continues to glow, so Donner tries to cover it up with dirt. Rudolph is ridiculed at the Reindeer Games a year later, which prompts him to run away from home. He meets an elf named Hermey who wants to become a dentist but is ridiculed at his ambition and the two run away together. Rudolph and his new friends come across “The Island of Misfit Toys” and, years later when Rudolph eventually decides to return home, a storm threatens to stop Santa from delivering toys! Rudolph comes to the rescue and guides Santa and the other reindeer around the world.

3. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life is about a man who gives up his dreams in order to help others. When Stewart’s character, George Bailey, attempts to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), intervenes. Odbody shows Bailey all the lives he has touched and how important he is in the lives of the people in the community. Bailey realizes that he truly has a wonderful life.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Originally a children’s story by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas was turned into a TV special in 1966. The Grinch, a bitter, cave-dwelling creature with a heart “two sizes too small” lives on Mount Crumpet (with his dog Max) overlooking Whoville, home of the merry, Christmas-loving Whos. The Grinch hates Christmas and, when Christmas season rolls around, the Whos caroling and excitement reaches the Grinch atop his mountain. He plans to take Christmas away from the Whos and descends from his cave to steal all the presents in Whoville. The Grinch learns, however, that despite taking away their gifts, Christmas still comes to the Whos. He realizes that Christmas is more than just presents and gifts and his heart grows three sizes larger.

1. A Christmas Carol

A novella by Charles Dickens originally published in 1843, the story of a Christmas Carol tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s ideological, emotional and ethical transformation. Scrooge is a sour, mean old man who hates Christmas, calling it “humbug,” and declines all invitations (even from his own nephew) for any kind of holiday gathering and party. That Christmas Eve night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, as well as by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Scrooge is transformed and by Christmas day, he has become a different man. Scrooge inevitably gains the reputation of a man who embodies the Christmas spirit.

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