There’s a lot to love about the festive season. The gifts, the food, seeing family and friends, drinking being acceptable from midday onwards, too much to count really! But, we mustn’t forget the glue that holds it all together, the distraction, the pacifier, the one thing everyone can agree on once the bickering around the roast potatoes is over.
Holiday TV! Yes, once the hustle and bustle of the day is done, sitting down in front of the telly is often the best gift of all. Most long-running TV shows will have at least a few Christmas specials in their locker that are a joy to re-acquaint yourself with every year. Your favourite characters indulging in festive capers. Perfect! Sometimes it’s a one-off holiday program that stays nestled in your heart all year round, even now you’re an adult.
Christmas is a Trip
One thing that you can’t help but notice though, is that festive specials can get decidedly kooky. Of course, when you stop and think, flying reindeers with glowing noses, a magical man with endless gifts and omniscience (he sees you when you’re sleepy after all!), and the general joyful insanity that too many twinkling lights, candy canes and eggnog provide, it’s no surprise that all the good Christmas TV specials are the ones that are rather off the rails. Some are decidedly trippy. And, quelle surprise, those are our very favourite.
So, in celebration of the season, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite festive TV specials. Whether covid has got you stuck home alone, you’re having a Friends-mas, or you are hunkered down with the whole clan, there’s something to please all this holiday season.
And, if you want to add a side dish of magic mushrooms or truffles while you tuck into these shows, it certainly will enrich the experience. No one can tell you reindeers don’t really fly.
The Futurama Holiday Spectacular
We start off with this 3 chapter extravaganza from our fave dystopian future cartoon — Futurama. The show, if you haven’t seen it, stars Fry, a hapless guy who one day in 1999 fell into a cryogenic freezer. Waking up in the future with all his friends and family gone, he works as a delivery boy (riding a spaceship, natch!) with his kooky future buddies Bender the robot, Leela the mutant and Dr Zoidberg the lobster/man hybrid. It’s already pretty damn surreal.
For the holiday episode it ramps things up a gear. Part one ‘Xmas’ sees fry accidentally plant mutated pine tree seeds (as in this future pine trees are now extinct, and Fry is nostalgic for Christmases past) which then proceeded to take over the world.
Part two celebrates ‘Robanukah’ the robot version of Hanukkah. Bender is aghast his human friends do not know the story of Robanukah. Cue a crazy explanatory song, and lots of robots wrestling in oil…
Part three explores Kwanzaa in the depths of the future. Beeswax candles are an important tradition in Kwanzaa, however in the year 2999 bees have stopped producing beeswax! Joined by Kwanzaabot they must journey to find fresh beeswax in space. Check it out!
The One With The Holiday Armadillo
Friends lumbered on for many, many seasons. But, even if you thought that Joey and Rachel romance was stretching the realms of believability a bit, we can all agree that the holiday episodes were always a treat. The one that always springs to mind first though is The One With The Holiday Armadillo. Ross hopes to introduce his son to his Jewish heritage and teach him about Hanukkah. However, his signature bad luck means that all of the festive fancy dress was sold out. Instead he is stuck dressing up in a ridiculous armadillo costume, or as he puts it ‘Santa’s Tex-mex friend’.
Ben is miffed Santa is not present but soon starts to engage with the holiday armadillo’s story of Hanukkah. However, all is almost lost when Chandler arrives in a Santa costume, under the impression he is saving the day. Santa and the armadillo have a small dispute (who thought they’d ever write that sentence?!) but everything works out in the end, with everyone sitting down to hear the story of the Festival of Lights… until Joey turns up a Superman and shakes it all up again. A festive classic.
He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special
Those who grew up in the 80s of course swear blind that their cartoons were the best cartoons. Of course, it’s all a matter of taste and what you grew up with, but when you see the bizarro world that is He-Man and She-Ra you can’t help but nod in amazement. In this now iconic holiday special two children bring the spirit of Christmas to the planet Eternia, where much merriment is had. Unfortunately, this attracts the attention of baddies Horde Prime and Skeletor. Big camp ‘80s battles ensue — will the festive spirit win out? What do you think?
Christmas at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse
Continuing the theme of festive excess the 1980’s were famed for, we have the much-loved Christmas at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. The whole of the Pee-wee universe is a trip in itself. Talking arm chairs, psychedelic decor, even just his laugh. You can’t help but wonder if those were just little button mushrooms on your pizza and not something a bit more psilocybe. The holiday episode however? Well that kicks things up to an even higher gear if you can imagine.
Guests include Oprah, Grace Jones, Magic Johnson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, KD Lang and even Cher who screams every time someone says the word ‘year’. It’s the secret word apparently. Seriously you gotta see it to believe it. It’s sure to bring you happily into the new year (scream!)
Now here’s one for the whole family. Watch out though, if you’ve indulged in too many festive beverages you might find yourself bawling your eyes out by the end. A truly lovely Christmas favourite, The Snowman tells the story of a boy who builds a snowman (duh — but stick with me!). And, Frosty-style, that night he comes to life! They fly through the night together (I mean obviously snow people can fly right? Snow comes from the sky after all!) all the way to the North Pole where Santa is throwing a big party, with a guest list consisting mainly of other snowmen-and-women. They dance, get drunk, eat all the buffet — let me tell you, there ain’t no party like a snowman party.
The next morning having been safely deposited back in his bed, the little boy sees his snowman buddy has melted leaving just his scarf, hat and his tangerine nose behind. I’m not crying, you’re crying!
What’s your festive favourite? Let us know in the comments below!