5:00 pm EDT, December 24, 2013

Nine beloved Christmas specials that share the reason for the season

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

When the neon lights go up and the department stores start blaring singing chipmunks, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the shopping stress of the holidays and lose the spirit of the Christmas season. Is there anything that can outshine that glare from the mini-mall parking lot? Faith, family, friendship, miracles… There are real reasons why we gather up round the fireplace to swap eggnog and tamales this time of year.

Here are nine Christmas specials, both old and new, that will remind you why Christmas is actually awesome, whether you’re one or ninety-two.


‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’


He’s a grumpy one, that Mr. Grinch, but with a little help from some grateful Whos, he gets into the holiday spirit and his heart grows three sizes Christmas day. Everyone can get a little jaded with the commercialism of Christmas, and the Grinch is fed up with the insincerity of it all, but when he steals away the frost and the fringe, the presents and the feasting, it turns out there’s still a little holiday magic left over for those Whos down in Whoville. Maybe Christmas does mean just a little bit more…


‘Frosty the Snowman’

frosty the snowman

It’s the season of miracles, and in this Christmas classic, the childlike wonder of Christmas is on full display. When a Snowman magically comes to life, it’s up to a little girl to save her new friend from the perils of incoming spring by trekking up to the North Pole, but when Karen starts freezing through her efforts to save Frosty, the snowman realizes he must risk his life to save the little girl. Fortunately, not all is lost for these two selfless friends: Frosty might be gone for now, but there is always the hope of next year. Because in this season, we remember that life itself is a miracle, and we are too.


‘The Little Drummer Boy’

Little Drummer Boy

Kings in a stable, a dying little lamb, and a shepherd kid who feels like he’s just not enough. The stop-motion humans in this Christmas special can be downright creepy, but we’ll be darned if we don’t find ourselves weeping like a newborn babe in a manger every time that little drummer boy starts with his parumpumpumpum.

The holidays have a tendency to give people a sense of entitlement, so it’s refreshing to get a sweet little reminder to dial things back and sit for a moment in humility, experiencing the world around us in reverence. Less is more, right? Sometimes, we have to come as we are. And sometimes what we are is perfectly enough.


‘The Mindy Project’: ‘Christmas Party Sex Trap’

The Mindy Project

The best gifts in life are free, Danny tells us, and like Mindy, we’re pretty skeptical until he starts busting out the Aaliyah dance moves. Sometimes, we just need a reality check to remind us that Christmas is actually supposed to be very merry, and joy is not a chore, but a gift we give ourselves.


‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’

rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Being different can be scary, as Rudolph finds out when he can’t seem to hide his glowing red nose. The reindeer all laugh at him, they call him names, and they never let him play in any reindeer games (like monopoly). Fortunately, Rudolph finds a kindred spirit in a funny little elf who dreams of dentistry, and while the two of them go off in search of belonging, back home, Rudolph’s family has already learned to love him as he is. The moral of the story?Kindness is cool and acceptance is beautiful, so don’t hide your light, little reindeer. Weather through the blizzard, and let it shine bright.


‘Downton Abbey’: Series 2 Christmas Special


Once upon a time, everyone was happy at Downton, and Julian Fellowes allowed us to hope. We’ve gone through darker times since then and come out wiser, more jaded viewers. It’s Christmas though, so allow yourself to take a stroll through Downtons of Christmas past and be reminded of sweeter, simpler times.

The beauty of this Christmas special is that we realize love for this family truly is unconditional. Mary messed up, but the upper-crust Crawleys still support her, and Matthew just wants to try and understand because we all make mistakes, and together they can pull though this together, the past is past and… ugh, we’re already crying. Let’s just loop the proposal scene again on repeat.


‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’

mickey's christmas carol

It’s the magic of Dickens and Disney rolled into one in this Christmas special, when greed and excessive wealth have corrupted Scrooge McDuck into becoming a bitter, heartless man. But after getting a visit from three Christmas spirits, this Scrooge becomes a reformed duck; thankful for a second chance, he bestows his wealth on the world. This classic Christmas tale featuring some of our Disney favorites, including Mickey Mouse as the faithful Bob Cratchit, encourages us to look beyond ourselves this holiday season, and give of ourselves to each other.


‘Modern Family’: ‘Express Christmas’

Modern Family Express Christmas

They don’t have the turkey! They don’t have the tree! But when it seems like Christmas is doomed for the Pritchett clan after all, it turns out all this family needed was each other. So go ahead and cuddle up kids, because all that really matters in life is the people who love you.


‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’


“Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” In this famous special, it might be Christmas, but Charlie Brown has a case of the winter blues. Commercialism has hijacked the holiday spirit for this Peanuts gang, and it’s hard for them see past the glitz and glamour of aluminum trees and expensive presents. “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share,” explains Sally, and it seems that everyone’s sense of entitlement has made them forget the reason for the season. So what is Christmas all about? After Charlie Brown gets mocked for bringing back a shrimpy Christmas tree, Linus, with his blue blanket and firm belief in the Great Pumpkin, explains: Christmas is about having a little faith. Faith in our friends, and faith in ourselves. Life is about learning to let ourselves believe.

What Christmas special is your holiday favorite?

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