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A mostly American subgenre, these are special television shows, often one-shots, created with a (northern hemisphere) winter or holiday theme for broadcast during the month of December. While some depict what the holiday specifically celebrates — the birth of Jesus Christ — or make it key to the plot in some way (for instance, A Charlie Brown Christmas involves the staging of a Nativity play), most are secular to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Many prominently feature Santa Claus and his associated mythology. Some try to educate the viewers about the True Meaning of Christmas. Their plots often involve the characters Saving Christmas.

Perhaps the best-known Christmas Specials are the animated ones (including the stop-motion animations produced primarily by Rankin/Bass) from the 1960s through the 1970s that rerun annually. Far more numerous, though, are the various celebrity specials, which usually take the form of a low-key holiday-themed Variety Show. Usually the latter are rather forgettable by virtue of their one-off nature, but sometimes they can generate moments that survive decades. A case in point would be the Bing Crosby-David Bowie duet of "The Little Drummer Boy", which has taken on a life of its own above and beyond the 1970s-vintage Crosby special from which it sprang.

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Compare Christmas Episode (generally known as a Christmas Special in the UK), Easter Special, and Halloween Special. If the holiday celebrated in the special only looks like Christmas but is renamed to match the setting, it's a You Mean "Xmas". See also Julekalender, a type of Christmas-themed TV series in Scandinavia.


Examples:

  • There are two specials based on the "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" letter. The first one dates to around 1975, and was directed by Bill Melendez of Peanuts fame (the special has a Charlie Brown-esque look to it). The second, more recent one, was made in 2009, and featured Alfred Molina as the editor of ''The New York Sun.'
  • The Amazon Studios If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was followed up by the special If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie.
  • Trolls Holiday, based on the film of the same name, follows a pretty similar premise to the Frozen short mentioned above.
  • RWBY Chibi gives us two — "A Slip Through Time and Space Pt. 2", which is just one long Product Placement ad for the Rooster Teeth Store, and "Nondescript Holiday Spectacular", which is a parody of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.
  • Yet Another Partridge In A Pear Tree, written by Brian Sibley and performed by Penelope Keith.
  • Buster & Chauncey's Silent Night involves the creation of the song "Silent Night".
  • Holly Hobbie and Friends: Christmas Wishes: A rather more unusually traditional one for today's time, in a series that otherwise isn't overtly Christian. While it doesn't overtly pedal Christian religious themes, it does include a fully traditional Christian pageant, with an original manager a;song called "There's No Room at the Inn," and both Christian and non-Christian Christmas songs, such as "Jingle Bells" and "Oh Holy Night."
  • Charlie and Lola had an episode with the siblings visiting the elves and saving Christmas.
  • The Venture Bros. Christmas episode "A Very Venture Christmas" introduced the Krampus to much of America.
  • The Adventures of The League of S.T.E.A.M. had "The Fright Before Christmas".
  • Ice Age gave us "A Mammoth Christmas"...with no explanation on how talking animals can celebrate a holiday honoring someone who wouldn't be born until long after the animals are dead.

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