Vintage Christmas TV Specials from the '60s, '70s and '80s

These are a few of my favorite retro/vintage Christmas shows and specials from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that I remember watching the reruns of growing up. This post is inspired by the article on Click Americana, "100 vintage Christmas TV specials & holiday episodes you might remember from the ’70s & ’80s"

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The 1965 Christmas special starring the Peanuts gang. It's about the true meaning of Christmas, with Biblical elements. Specifically, Luke 2.8-14. In recent years, it has received some criticism for the segment about the birth of Jesus, the story of the Nativity. Some schools have also chosen to no longer show the Christmas special in classrooms.

But the apprehension about the Biblical element being included goes as far back to 1965 when the special was being made. One producer was hesitant about including it. Schultz practically had the convince them to keep it in. The whole, detailed story behind it can be read at How the Bible Almost Got "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Canceled Without that part of the special, and how it adds a depth that ties everything together, A Charlie Brown Christmas would have (more than likely) been forgotten long ago.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

First premiered on December 6th, 1964 and is the longest-running Christmas special. It's the one everyone has seen and is a must-watch every December. Though I also recommend watching the 1948 version
Click here to read the history of Rankin-Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Little Drummer Boy

Also produced by Rankin-Bass and premiered on December 19, 1968. It showed every Christmas season on television until the late 1980s and didn't air for a few years until some time in the 1990s. It also had a 1976 sequel, The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the Grinch special that people are most familiar with. It first premiered on December 18, 1966. On top of watching on television growing up, we'd also watch in school on the last day before Christmas break in the 90s,.

Frosty the Snowman

Premiered on December 7, 1969.

A Christmas Carol (1971 Cartoon)

Premiered on December 21, 1971. This one didn't air often when I was growing up and I haven't seen it in a long time. The two other memorable ones I would watch every year though was the 1951 version starring Alastair Simm and the good but really eerie (at least when to a younger me) the 1954 version with Fredric March and Basil Rathbone, which we had on a videotape bought from Ames (remember them?).  Of course, then there's the 1938 adaptation starring Reginald Owen.

And I cannot forget Mickey's Christmas Carol

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Premiered on December 8, 1974 (See also: Twas the Night Before Christmas from 1946)

The Year Without a Santa Claus

Premiered December 10, 1974

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Premiered December 10, 1976

One more, though it's not from the 1960s-1980s, is the 1936 Christmas cartoon Christmas Comes But Once a Year. Which we also had on one of those Christmas collection videotapes. The parallax animation and real objects included in the animations always stood out about the cartoon to me (and still does). Which they were creative and complicated effects back in 1936.

Here are a few Christmas commercials from the 1970s, 1980s. There are plenty of Christmas TV variety specials and Christmas cartoons from the 60s, 70s and 80s available on YouTube and streaming platforms

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