Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
The holiday favorite about a misfit reindeer who ends up saving Christmas one stormy winter night actually began as a children’s poem before morphing into the classic Christmas tune penned by Johnny Marks. Originally airing in 1964, Rudolph is the longest running Christmas special on TV – it celebrates its 52nd year on CBS this December.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
You can thank Charles M. Schulz and his famous Peanuts comic strip for giving us this holiday classic. A Charlie Brown Christmas follows our favorite member of the Peanuts gang as he looks for the true reason for the season amidst all the gift giving and decorating. The special isn’t just heartwarming and fun, it’s also an Emmy and Peabody award winner.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Dr. Seuss’ beloved tale of a Grinch who tried to take away Christmas from the residents of Whoville first aired on CBS in 1966. The TV short’s signature song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft who also happened to be the voice of another recognizable animated character, Tony the Tiger.
The Little Drummer Boy (1968)
Videocraft, which became Rankin/Bass was a company founded by the duo of Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass in 1960. They created many of these beloved specials, including Rudolph. They created another animated special based off a popular holiday tune, The Little Drummer Boy, which first aired in 1968 and was followed by a sequel in 1976. The story of Aaron, an orphan boy who plays his drum for the baby Jesus, was a beautiful reminder of faith and healing.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
You probably know the song off which this TV special is based. Rankin and Bass brought Frosty the Snowman to life in 1969 on CBS. The special marked the duo’s first short to utilize traditional animation (versus the stop-motion method used in their other projects).
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
What would happen if Santa decided to skip Christmas? That’s what this Rankin/Bass special – based off a book of the same name – set out to discover. When Santa comes down with a cold, he decides to take a vacation on his biggest day of the year, forcing two elves, Jingle and Jangle, to find proof that children still believe in him.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (1970)
Another Rankin/Bass classic, this story was also based off a Christmas song, one written decades before the special ever made it to air. The tune was first introduced in 1934. The story follows Kris, an orphan who grew up with elves and goes against the town’s big bad ruler by delivering toys to children in secret. It’s essentially the origin story of Santa Claus and it was an instant classic thanks to Fred Astaire, who narrated the tale.
Jack Frost (1979)
This Rankin/Bass favorite first aired in 1979 on NBC. The story follows Jack Frost, an immortal winter sprite who turns human to be with the girl he loves but must reassume his identity and regain his powers to defeat an evil adversary and protect the town of January Junction.