Along with classic films like The Wizard of Oz, Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life, the airwaves around the holidays were filled with Christmas specials made just for TV.
As you can see below in our huge collection of vintage Christmas specials (and holiday episodes of TV series), there was a little something for everyone!
Vintage Snoopy Christmas TV special (1970s)
Specials for the 1970 holiday season
The NBC Television Network will present 10 special programs during the month of December to observe the holiday season. The list of specials will include both religious and entertainment programming.
DEC. 4: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (6:30 to 7:30 p.m.). Fully-animated musical relates how Rudolph becomes a hero when a blizzard threatens to cancel Christmas. Burl Ives is the voice of Sam the Snowman, who sings and tells the adventures of the shy little buck in the colorcast, which has become a TV Yuletide tradition.
DEC. 6: “The Littlest Angel” (6:30-8 p.m.). “Hallmark Hall of Fame” encore colorcast of the original musical based on Charles Tazewell’s tale depicting the amusing and poignant efforts to transform a somewhat headstrong shepherd boy into an angel. Johnnie Whitaker stars as the shepherd boy, and Fred Gwynne has the starring role of Patience, the Guardian Angel.
DEC. 12: “Hans Brinker” (6-8 p.m.). Original musical version of Mary Mapes Dodge’s classic story about the poor Dutch boy, who perseveres until he finds adequate medical help for his ailing father. The encore colorcast, featuring authentic outdoor locales in Holland, stars Robin Askwith in title role, Eleanor Parker as Dame Brinker, Richard Basehart as Dr. Boekman, John Gregson as the father, and Cyril Ritchard in a special guest appearance as Mr. Kleef, the innkeeper.
DEC. 16: “The Little Drummer Boy” (6:30-7 p.m.). Animated musical special concerns the little drummer boy’s arrival at the manger of the Christ Child in Bethlehem just as the three kings are about to offer their gifts. The boy has no gift—except a song.
DEC. 16: “Bing Crosby’s Christmas Show” (7 to 8 p.m.). Bing and his family — wife Kathryn, daughter Mary Francis. and sons Nathaniel and Harry — will participate in the musical program presenting original songs and popular standards reflecting the traditions of Christmas. The Crosby family will be joined by Tony Award-winner Melba Moore, Jack Wild and the Doodletown Pipers.
DEC. 20: “Oil But for One Day” (11 to 11:30 a.m.). “Eternal Light” drama is themed to the Jewish eight-day holiday of Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, which commemorates the Macca-bean victory over the Syrians.
DEC. 22: “White Christmas” on “NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies” (8-10:30 p.m.). Bing Crosby. Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen star in Yuletide season musical comedy, highlighted by Irving Berlin’s 15 songs. The Berlin tunes include such popular standards as “Count Your Blessings,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies” and the traditional “White Christmas.”
DEC. 24: Midnight Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral (12 midnight NYT to conclusion). The Christmas Eve Pontifical Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, will be presented live and in color.
DEC. 25: Christmas Day Service from Washington Cathedral (9-10 a.m.). The ecumenical service from the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., will be presented in association with the National Council of Churches.
DEC. 31: Orange Bowl Parade (6:30- 7:30 p.m.). Joe Garagiola (of NBC-TV’s “Today”) and Anita Bryant will co-host New Year’s Eve festivities themed to “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” The annual event along Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard will be distinguished by many distinctively-decorated floats carrying celebrities, singing and dancing groups and many marching bands.
The Honeymooners Jackie Gleason & Art Carney Holiday specials from 1970
UNICEF holiday TV special – A World of Love (1970)
International Paper brings you a UNICEF holiday TV special starring:
Bewitched Christmas: Sisters at Heart (1970)
Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) December 19, 1970
Each year, most television series try to do a Christmas episode which is their gift to the nation, a sort of goodwill offering in a world where holidays with true meaning seem to be coming fewer and farther between.
This year, ABC-TV’s “Bewitched” (8:30 p.m. Thursday), is presenting a Christmas show which is a holiday story in itself, one in which the Christmas theme of “goodwill to men” is center stage, where it belongs.
The story began over a year ago, when a 23-year-old teacher named Marcella Saunders faced her first teaching assignment in Los Angeles’ tough, all-black Jefferson high. Faced with a despairing lack of motivation from her students, most of whom felt the system had “shut them out,” Marcella began searching for common ground, a bridge between her world and that of her pupils.
She found it in television. Most of her kids watched Bewitched, and Marcella began using it to teach the short story. Results were dramatic and immediate, and soon Marcella was on the phone, calling Bewitched’s producer, Bill Asher, to tell him of her success.
Asher was delighted. He and his wife, series star Elizabeth Montgomery, extended an invitation to Miss Saunders’ class to visit the Bewitched set, and a relationship was begun. The youngsters came back again and again, and they were treated royally. In the end, the entire class wrote a Bewitched script and gave it to Miss Montgomery and Mr. Asher as a Christmas present.
That was last year. This year, that same script will be shown to the world as Bewitched’s Christmas episode. All 24 students will receive on-screen writing credit.
Bob Hope Christmas Show: Around the world in 15 days (1971)
Special: Hope’s 21st Christmas tour for the overseas troops.
Bob Hope took his troupe to bases in Hawaii, Wake Island, Okinawa, Thailand, South Vietnam, Spain and Guantanamo, Cuba — and made headlines with a surprise stop in Laos, where he unveiled his personal plan to arrange the release of POWs held by North Vietnam.
Bob entertained US embassy personnel in Laos; scenes from the event could turn up in tonight’s show, which was being edited at press time.
On the bill: Jim Nabors; Jill St John; Don Ho; Charley Pride; Sunday’s Child; astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr.; Oakland Athletics pitching ace Vida Blue; the roller-skating Blue Streaks, Brucene Smith, US entrant in the Miss World contest; the singing-dancing Deb Stars; and the Les Brown band. (90 min.)
Special TV Yule shows scheduled (1972)
The Monroe News-Star (Louisiana) December 4, 1972
Twas right before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring — they were all in front of the tube watching holiday specials.
Television Christmas specials have become as much a part of the holiday ritual as exchanging gifts and putting up the tree, and this year, the networks have no less than 13, plus an assortment of series Christmas shows and other specials.
A holiday special means money in the bank for the networks. The kids love to see them again, they are timeless, and can be pulled off the shelf year after year for an encore airing.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is back for the ninth year, switching this season from NBC to CBS. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is back for the eighth time, and “The Little Drummer Boy” is making its fifth appearance.
Like the shopping season, the specials get underway early. The first, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” was on ABC last Friday, and CBS presented “The House Without a Christmas Tree’ Sunday.
Three specials are on tonight. Perry Como hosts “The Perry Como Winter Show”? on CBS. Preceding it on CBS are “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
CBS has two more specials Friday night, “Rudolph,” and “Homecoming: A Christmas Story.” “Homecoming” was the pilot last year for “The Waltons.”
Bing Crosby returns with his 37th Christmas show Sunday, Dec. 10, on NBC — it started on radio. Crosby will sing “White Christmas” and “Silent Night.” Earlier that night NBC will air the animated “The Little Drummer Boy.”
What would the holiday be without Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol?” There will be two animated versions of it, the first on Sunday, Dec. 10, on CBS in the afternoon. The second will be on ABC the following Friday.
The second “Christmas Carol” will be seen on ABC Friday, Dec. 15, and English animator Richard Williams created the show in the manner of the original steel engravings of 1840 that illustrated the Dickens’ book. Preceding it will be “The Night the Animals Talked.”
The Peanuts gang is back looking for the true meaning of the yuletide in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on CBS Tuesday, Der. 12. It will be followed by a new version of the fairy tale of the princess and the pea, “Once Upon A Mattress,” starring Carol Burnett and Ken Berry.
Tennessee Ernie Ford will present his ‘White Christmas Special’ on NBC Saturday, Dec. 23, including such songs as “Let It Snow”, “Oh Christmas Tree” and “Deck the Halls.”
Rounding out the season, Bob Hope leaves on his 22nd trip to entertain American troops overseas on Dec. 15. A 90-minute special of his Christmas visit will be shown on NBC Wednesday, Jan. 17.
A Whole Night of Specials (1973)
8:00 Premiere – A Very Merry Cricket: Here’s a brand new animated adventure your whole family will love, as Chester the Cricket brings the true Yuletide spirit to New York’s Times Square.
8:30 A Christmas Carol: The delightful, Academy Award-winning retelling of the Charles Dickens Christmas classic. Sir Michael Redgrave narrates this animated special.
9:00 The Julie Andrews Christmas Special: Join Julie for an enchanting and spirited musical salute to the holiday season! With special guest stars: Santa Claus (Peter Ustinov) and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Peggy Lee).
10:00 ERNEST BORGNINE IS VINCE LOMBARDI – Portrait: Legend in Granite: The dramatic story of the obscure assistant coach who almost quit the game, but went on to face the biggest decision of his life. Ernest Borgnine stars as Vince Lombardi. Colleen Dewhurst stars as Marie Lombardi. Brought to you by the DuPont Company.
Classic Christmas specials: Frosty the Snowman & ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)
Frosty the Snowman: A beloved holiday favorite about the coolest, jolliest snowman ever to warm the heart of a lonely little girl.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: Santa isn’t coming to town unless a clever little mouse’s secret plan squeaks through in the nick of time.
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
Happy Days Christmas (1975)
Oral Roberts and H R Puf N Stuf Christmas is Love TV special (1975)
(This one wins our award for the strangest combo of costars.)
The Homecoming: Spend Christmas Eve with the Waltons (1976)
Johnny Cash TV Christmas special (1976)
Holiday classics on TV: A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1976)
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)
Scrooge Christmas Carol animated special (1976)
TV Guide Christmas special ABC’s Captain & Tennille Show (1976)
Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas TV special (1977)
Share One Last Christmas With Bing! Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas – Starring The Bing Crosby Family, Twiggy, Ron Moody, Stanley Baxter and The Trinity Boys Choir.
Special guest star David Bowie. Christmas spirits really come alive when Charles Dickens, Tiny Tim, Scrooge, Artful Dodger. Zany servants and charming neighbors make a trip to England a dazzling adventure for Bing and family.
Holiday & Christmas specials from 1977
TV screens decked with Christmas specials
“Star Wars” hero Mark Hamill steps into a vaudeville routine with Bob Hope in the photo on the left on the “Bob Hope All Star Christmas Special” at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC as part of a week of holiday TV specials.
In the other photos, above, left to right, Nancy Drew takes time out from tracking down a Santa Claus burglar to put finishing touches on her tree in “Will The Real Santa Claus” at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC and John Denver celebrates Christmas in Colorado in a holiday musical show at 9 p.m. Friday on ABC.
At right, Robert Young and Jane Wyatt are ready for the “Father Knows Best: Home For Christmas” special at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on NBC. (ABC and NBC photos)
Christmas TV specials from 1977
The Nutcracker with Mrs Betty Ford, Father Knows Best… Home for Christmas, Dean Martin’s Christmas in California, Bob Hope Christmas Special, Special: The Night the Animals Talked, Special: The Night Before Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy, The Fourth King “A Story of Love”
The Bob Hope Christmas Special (1977)
Starring Olivia Newton-John, Perry Como, Mark Hamill, Jim Henson’s Muppets
Buddy Ebsen in Christmastime special “The Tiny Tree” (1977)
A Christmas to Remember TV special on CBS (1978)
A brilliant cast lights up the Christmas season with a story of courage… at a time when courage was all we had. Starring Eva Marie Saint & Jason Robards, with special guest star Joanne Woodward.
T’was the Night Before Christmas vintage TV special (1978)
Santa isn’t coming to the good town of Junctionville… unless a kindly clockmaker and clever family of mice come to the recuse! A delightful animated holiday special inspired by the beloved Christmas fable. Narrated by Joel Grey.
A Mac Davis Special Christmas Odyssey – 2010 (1978)
A musical comedy about a future time when people celebrate Commerce Day — until a strange encounter brings Christmas back to the world! Special guests Bernadette Peters & Ted Knight.
All in the Family Christmas special episode (1978)
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” and Raggedy Ann & Andy in the Great Santa Claus Caper (1978)
Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the gang are bubbling with excitement as they prepare a super Christmas party. But something very special is missing… and only little Linus knows what!
Star Wars holiday special on TV (1978)
Chewbacca, played by Peter Mayhew (rear, left) and members of his family, Grandpa Itchy, son Lumpy (bottom left and right), and wife Malla (rear, right) gather to celebrate Life Day, the most important holiday on the planet of the Wookiees, on “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” a two-hour musical variety program, to be broadcast FRIDAY, NOV. 17 (7 PM) on the CBS Television Network.
Bob Hope TV Special – Ho, Ho, Hope… and a Merry Christmas (1979)
Come make merry with the merriest of all! Bob Hope heads a sparkling hour of entertainment with the AP All-American Football Team, the Rose Queen and her COurt, and special guest stars: Angie Dickinson, Bonnie Franklin, Adam Rich.
Guess who’s coming to Pat Boone’s Christmas Party? (1979)
Pat Boone & family Christmas special – Pat Boone, Debby Boone, and the whole family welcome guest stars the Hudson Brothers and special guest stars (in alphabetical order) Norman Fell and Audra Lindley and your favorite Hanna-Barbera characters.
Boomer & Bing Crosby – Vintage NBC TV Christmas specials (1979)
A Christmas for Boomer: He’s shaggy, adorable, and abandoned. Watch this courageous pup escape dangerous captors and rescue a dog-nap victirm as he wins over a few hearts — including yours!
A Bing Crosby Christmas… Like The Ones We Used To Know! Kathryn Crosby remembers 15 years of Bing’s magic! Featuring clips of past specials and such stars as Fred Astaire, David Bowie, Carol Burnett, Roy Clark, Jackie Gleason, Michael Landon, Mary Martin, Melba Moore, Twiggy.
Donny and Marie Christmas show (1979)
Cindy Williams! Erik Estrada! Adam Rich! Dorothy Hamill! The Osmonds!
Season’s greetings from Donny and Marie with singing, dancing, laughing — and even skating.
Perry Como’s Christmas in New Mexico & Merry Christmas from the Grande Ole Opry House (1979)
Perry Como’s Christmas in New Mexico: With guest stars Joyce DeWitt, Anne Murray, Greer Garson and Buffy Sainte-Marie
Merry Christmas from the Grande Ole Opry House: Country music’s biggest stars bring you a swingin’, singin’, foot-stompin’ holiday special! Hosted by Robert Urich and Loni Anderson. Direct from Nashville with Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Barbara Mandrell, Louise Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, The Statler Brothers
Christmas specials from 1979
Casper’s Christmas Wish: Hairy Scarey spoils the fun at a wild party… until he reads Casper’s letter to Santa.
A Family Circus Christmas! A dream-come-true makes Christmas extra special for America’s lovable comic strip family!
Skinflint – A Country Christmas Carol: An all-new, all-star musical version of Dickens’ classic — Nashville style! Lynn Anderson, Hoyt Axton, Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, Larry Gatlin, Julie Gregg, Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, Martha Raye, The Statler Brothers, Mel Tillis, Dottie West Two-Hour Special!
“A Country Christmas” – vintage Crystal Gayle special (1979)
How The Flintstones Saved Christmas (’80s edition)
This holiday special debuted in 1964, but had a long life in reruns and then videocassettes
A Christmas Without Snow TV special (1980)
Have a very Perry Christmas TV special (1981)
Mac Davis TV Christmas special (1981)
Christmas Tv special: Casper and Chipmunks (1981)
CHRISTMAS CHUCKLES with your favorite friends!
CASPER’S FIRST CHRISTMAS 8:00PM
Casper has fun with Yogi, Huck Hound and the gang until Hairy Scarey becomes a party-spooker!
A CHIPMUNK CHRISTMAS 8:30PM
The singing superstars of “Chipmunk Punk” and “Urban Chipmunk” wreak holiday havoc in a wonderful, wacky escapade! Sponsored by Kelloggs
Grinch and Night Before Christmas kids’ TV specials (1982)
Holiday mischief and magic! How the Grinch Stole Christmas & Twas the Night Before Christmas on CBS
Christmas comes to Pac Land (Pac-Man) with Santa TV special (1982)
Ho ho chomp! Santa lands in Pac-land!
Ziggy’s Gift Christmas TV special (1982)
The little guy makes it big: Ziggy’s on TV tonight in his own animated Christmas special. It’s his first one, and it’s his gift ot you. Have a Ziggy Christmas, everyone. (Lyrics & music by Harry Nilsson)
John Denver and the Muppets – Rocky Mountain Holiday TV special (1982)
Perry (Como) Christmas TV special from 1982
Cartoon TV specials – Chipmunk and Smurfs (1982)
Christmas TV specials – Charlie Brown and Bugs Bunny (1982)
A Charlie Brown Chrsitmas & Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales
Pinocchio’s Christmas holiday TV special (1982)
TV special – A Disney Christmas Gift (1982)
A holiday spectacular! Fly with Peter Pan, escape with Mr Toad, get steamed up with Donald Duck, and join Santa himself for more Disney family fun!
TV special – Frosty and Yogi Bear – Christmas classic (1982)
The original! Frosty the Snowman: The man of ice who will melt your heart. — Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper
Bob Hope’s Christmas Show (1982)
A Christmas Special with Luciano Pavarotti (1982)
General Motors proudly presents the holiday tradition: “A Christmas Special with Luciano Pavarotti.”
Hear the world-famed tenor celebrate the Christmas season in song. Recorded live in Montreal’s Notre Dame Cathedral. Check local listings for time and PBS channel This program is presented by Detroit’s WTVS and made possible by a grant from General Motors.
Johnny Cash & Andy Williams vintage Christmas TV specials (1982)
Smurf and Chipmunk Christmas specials (1983)
Vintage holiday specials – Highway to Heaven and The Fall Guy (1984)
Kenny and Dolly CBS Christmas special (1984)
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton make holiday magic together. Playing Mr and Mrs Santa Claus, dueting old favorites, plus 5 new songs by Dolly herself.
The Snowman (1985)
A heartwarming holiday special about a magical friendship
A Jetson Christmas Carol (1985)
Dolly Parton – A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)
Jim Henson’s The Christmas Toy vintage TV special (1986)
A Claymation Christmas Celebration TV special (1987)
Elf-powered gadgets make easy work of manufacturing and wrapping Christmas presents in “A Claymation Christmas Celebration” at 8:30 pm Monday on CBS. The animated Christmas special is the work of Portland’s own Will Vinton and his crew.
TV Guide holiday Candid Camera special (1987)
Garfield Christmas Special (1987)
Motown Merry Christmas TV special (1987)
Rock around the Christmas tree — Motown Merry Christmas
Host: Philip Michael Thomas / Starring: Natalie Cole, Desiree Coleman, Lola Falana
Starring Redd Foxx, Darlene Love, Carrie McDowell, Stephanie Mills, Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Run DMC, Ronnie Spector, The Temptations, B. Marsha Warfield
Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)
thirtysomething TV special (1988)
Oh, Rob! thirtysomething will offer a special Christmas episode featuring (from left) Mel Harris, Ken Olin, Timothy Busfield, Patricia Wettig, Jordana Shapiro and Luke Rossi, at 10 p.m. this Tuesday on WRTV (Channel 6). It’s a trying time for Michael (Olin), who must face the anniversary of his father’s death and a car accident suffered by his wife Hope (Harris). Amidst the confusion, Michael fantasizes that they are part of a TV sitcom — “The Mike Van Dyke Show.”
A Very Brady Christmas TV special (1988)
I Love Lucy Christmas special – 33 years later (1989)
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball (as Ricky and Lucy Ricardo) dress up as Santas to surprise little Ricky on Christmas morning in “The I Love Lucy Christmas Special,” which has not been seen in its entirety since Christmas Eve 1956. It airs as a holiday treat at 8:30 pm.
Christmas TV specials (1989)
NOW SEE THIS: How many of these vintage Saturday morning cartoons & TV shows can you remember?