The 20 Holiday Specials You Can't Miss This Season

TV Lists Holiday Specials
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The 20 Holiday Specials You Can't Miss This Season

After my kids went to bed on Halloween, I turned on the TV. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but Christmas ads. The pumpkins were still aglow, the Halloween candy still waiting to be devoured. And everything had already switched over to Christmas mode.

But we here at Paste are civilized. We wait until December to go into full holiday mode. We’ve sifted through all the programming and come up with the 20 specials—old, new, beloved, for kids and adults —that you can’t miss this season.

1. The Doc McStuffins Christmas Special

Premieres: December 2 at 7 p.m. on Disney Junior

The North Pole loses power in this Christmas special that finds Doc and her trusty group of talking toys heading to Santa’s hometown to save the big day. In this exclusive clip, Tony Hale returns as Tobias the Elf, a role he voiced the last time the Peabody Award winning series had a Christmas special back in 2013. For the first time, Doc is airing across multiple platforms as part of the annual “25 Days of Christmas” programming event and can be seen on Freeform, the Disney Channel and ABC throughout the month.

2. Life-Size 2: A Christmas Eve

Premieres: December 2 at 9 p.m. on Freeform

Tyra Banks reprises her role as Eve, a doll who comes to life, in this sequel to the 2000 movie that starred Banks and Lindsay Lohan. Grace (Francia Raisa) is the young CEO of the toy company that makes Eve. When Eve once again comes to life, Grace finds that this life-size doll may help her run the company her family started. Keep an eye out for Lohan, who is rumored to make a cameo.

3. A Majestic Christmas

Premieres: December 2 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel

Hallmark Channel has 22 Christmas specials premiering this month. Jerrika Hinton’s Stephanie has been missed on Grey’s Anatomy, but you can find her in this Hallmark Channel movie, where she plays an architect charged with returning to her hometown to turn a beloved theater into big, modern movie multiplex. Then she meets the cute new owner of the theater. Can you guess what happens next?

4. SNL: Best of Christmas

Premieres: December 4 at 9 p.m. on NBC

There are some Saturday Night Live skits I never tire of seeing. One is the 1998 Delicious Dish skit about Schweddy Balls and the other is the 2001 skit that found Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan singing about their love of the holiday. There’s no way you can watch Kattan snap his head to the beat and not laugh (check out the clip above). These skits and more are bound to be included in this annual special, which mines 44 seasons of SNL to come up with the best of the bunch.

5. The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition

Premieres: December 6 at 9 p.m. on ABC

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I’m proud of myself when I make brownies from a box instead of buying them at the store. So, suffice it to say I wouldn’t cut it on the The Great American Baking Show. Ten bakers from across the country compete to win the title of “America’s Best Amateur Baker.” In the two-hour premiere, the contestants will take on cake and pastries. Spice Girl Emma Bunton joins the series in its fourth season as one of the hosts. The season finale airs on December 20.

6. Britmas Family Movie Day

Premieres: December 7 on BritBox

BritBox, the streaming service from BBC Studios and ITV, is hosting a family movie night featuring the U.S. premieres of British classics you can watch on your telly. The Dylan Thomas poem comes to life in A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Patrick Stewart stars in an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Snow Queen, and Hugh Boneville stars in Mr. Stink, based on the beloved children’s book.

7. Rupaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular

Premieres: December 7 at 8 p.m. on VH1

Eight former Drag Race contestants return to compete for the coveted title of Drag Race Christmas Queen. Look for fabulous lip-syncing to holiday classics, even more fabulous choreography, and lots of sashaying and shante-ing.

8. Santa’s Boots

Premieres: December 8 at 8 p.m. on LIfetime

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In one of 13 new Christmas movies Lifetime is debuting this season, Megan Hilty stars as a woman returning to her hometown (as they always do) and learning that her family’s department story is near bankruptcy (as it always is). When she signs up to play one of the department store elves, she falls for the department store Santa (of course). When he disappears, she only has the black boot he left behind as the clue to find him.

9. CMA Country Christmas

Premieres: December 10 at 8 p.m. on ABC

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Reba McIntire hosts this ninth annual celebration of Christmas music. Tony Bennett, Dan + Shay, Brett Eldredge, Amy Grant, Diana Krall, Dustin Lynch, Martina McBride, Old Dominion, Brad Paisley, Michael W. Smith, Lindsey Stirling, The Isaacs and Brett Young are among the performers.

10. Ken Jeong Cracks Christmas

Premieres: December 12 on Buzzfeed Video on YouTube

Comedian Ken Jeong loves Christmas, so he travels the country to explore how others celebrate. He’ll sing with the Gay Men’s Chorus in Los Angeles and visit the American Contemporary Ballet to see how the Nutcracker comes to life. He’ll be joined by Angela Kinsey, Joel McHale and Harry Shum, Jr.

11. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale

Premieres: December 14 on Netflix

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Really, what says Christmas more than a story about a teenage witch fighting the devil for control of her soul? Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and her aunts celebrate the Winter Solstice by singing pagan carols and telling ghost stories.

12. I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Premieres: December 14 at 8 p.m. on CBS

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In a now-colorized episode from December 24, 1956, Ricky and Lucy reminisce about what their lives were like before little Ricky was born. The special also features the newly colorized episode “Pioneer Women” from March 31, 1952, which finds Lucy and Ethel joining the elite Society Matrons (or trying to, at least) and arguing with Ricky and Fred about which gender had it harder in the past. It’s an archaic plot, for sure, but we could all use a little Lucy in our lives right about now.

13. In Memoriam: ABC News

Premieres : December 17 at 10 p.m. on ABC

The holidays are a time for celebrating, but they’re also a time of remembering those we lost this year. Robin Roberts and Jimmy Kimmel enlist those who loved them the most, including Gladys Knight, Cindy McCain, Marilu Henner, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Condoleezza Rice to talk about the legacies of Aretha Franklin, John McCain, Stephen Hawking, Burt Reynolds and Barbara Bush. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

14. Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Premieres : December 17 at 8 p.m. on PBS; December 20 at 8 pm on BYUtv

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Sutton Foster (Younger) joins the choir to sing classics including “Joy to the World,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Christmas Time is Here,” “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells.” Hugh Bonneville, Robert Crawley on Downton Abbey, narrates the Christmas story in this 15th annual special. (Photo: Courtesy Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

15. Full Frontal Presents Christmas on I.C.E.

Premieres: December 19 at 10:30 p.m. on TBS

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee raises money for children separated from their parents at the border while bringing Bee’s unique, no-holds-barred humor to the topic. The entire special is “on ice,” with guest star Adam Rippon. The special, which tapes on December 17, will air commercial free.

16. It’s a Wonderful Life

Premieres : December 24 on NBC

If you don’t adore this 1946 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, then perhaps, like the Grinch, your heart is two sizes too small. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) has a crisis on Christmas Eve and believes the world would be better without him. He’s wrong, of course, and this life-affirming movie always makes me happy. For the first time, the movie is also available on Amazon Prime. Remember: “No man is a failure who has friends.”

17. Doctor Who Christmas Specials

Premieres: December 24 at noon on BBC America

BBC America is going all in on Doctor Who for the holidays. A marathon of the good Doctor’s Christmas specials begins at noon on Christmas Eve, followed by a marathon of the modern seasons, concluding with a brand new New Year’s episode on January 1, 2019 at 8 p.m.: On “Who Year’s Day,” a new evil threatens Earth.

18. Call the Midwife Holiday Special

Premieres: December 25 at 9 p.m. on PBS

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I love the idea of a new episode of TV airing on Christmas Day. After the presents are opened and you can eat no more, is there a better way to spend the evening that with a new entry of your favorite show? Everyone is preparing for Christmas Day at Nonnatus House when Sister Mildred (Miriam Margoyles) arrives with four Chinese orphans.

19. The 41st Annual Kennedy Center Honors

Premieres: December 26 at 8 p.m. on CBS

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Cher, Reba McEntire, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are among those being honored at this annual event from Kennedy Center Opera House. The event is taped on December 2. Gloria Estefan, who herself was honored last year, will host the event.

20. Angela’s Christmas

Premieres: Streaming on Netflix

Based on the children’s book by Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes), this animated tale tells the story on a young girl (Lucy O’Connell) who takes the baby Jesus from the Nativity scene because she doesn’t want him to be cold.

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .