Television's Seven Best Holiday Specials Ever

The old CBS Special Presentation bumper from back in the day, the sign that a good holiday special was about to air.
The old CBS Special Presentation bumper from back in the day, the sign that a good holiday special was about to air.

The holidays are all about engaging in traditions, whether its your mom's penchant for goofy sweaters or the always-awkward yearly Christmas party at the office. One of the more enjoyable customs associated with X-Mas is the annual onslaught of holiday specials that dominate the tube over the next few weeks.

Most of these 30-minute-long throwbacks, which typically preempted regular programming, can be a bit heavy on the schmaltz and saccharine (and often have a lesson to be learned at the end), but such things are a staple of the "most wonderful time of the year."

We've been watching these Christmas-themed cartoons and television programming since we were wee tykes and have compiled a list of some of the best and most memorable holiday specials. Read on for a rundown of our favorites, which includes a few surprises.

7. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
The Plot:
Han Solo and Chewbacca must evade the Galactic Empire and return home for the annual Wookie celebration of "Life Day" and reunite with Luke, Princess Leia, and their droid companions.

The Lowdown: While it's admittedly an unusual choice to include this 60-minute-long fiasco (which aired during Thanksgiving weekend in 1978), it's arguably one of most famous specials of all time. It's also a pop cultural curiosity that's features a variety of late-'70s celebrities (Art Carney, Bea Arthur, Jefferson Starship) and is worth watching at least once in your lifetime. Plus, it features the first ever appearance of Boba Fett.

6. Mr. Hanky's Christmas Classics (1999)
The Plot:
South Park's Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo hosts a half-hour special featuring satirical and comedic versions of holiday carols as sung by the cast of the Comedy Central show.

The Lowdown: Although it isn't as well-known as the previous South Park Christmas episode, which featured the birth of Mr. Hankey, "Christmas Classics" is a longtime favorite of ours that pokes major fun at other holiday specials. Unlike other Christmas-time cartoons, it also doesn't hide the fact it was basically a 30-minute-long commercial for a Christmas product (in this case, the album of the same name).

5. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1992)
The Plot:
Mickey Mouse, Scrooge McDuck, and a host of other Disney characters star in this animated update of this Charles Dickens classic.

The Lowdown: There have been literally hundreds of adaptations of the Dickensian redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge since the story was first published in 1843. While not every interpretation has been good, however (ever see 1995's Ebbie starring Susan Lucci?) this version starring Mickey and Company is one of the better one's ever made. The animation is lavish, the dialogue is witty, and the casting choices for the characters are quite clever.

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