Christmas is just two weeks away, so I thought it would be a good time to wax nostalgic about some of the most cherished Christmas specials we grew up with. But because that in itself isn’t enough fun, I thought I’d pit them all against each other using a definitive and completely objective ranking system based only on my mercy — because nothing says the spirit of Christmas like fighting with each other in the comments about whether or not A Charlie Brown Christmas was better than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (Spoiler alert: It’s not.)
8) I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown
This only came out in 2003, but apparently it’s a thing now so I feel like I have to include it. But whatever, I’ve never seen it so I’m putting it last. Sorry, millennials. Get off my damn lawn.
7) Frosty the Snowman
To be honest, even as a kid I thought Frosty the Snowman was kinda lame. I don’t know, maybe I just didn’t like his face. Or his hat. Either way, he’s pretty far down on my list.
6) A Charlie Brown Christmas
I hate to break it to you, but A Charlie Brown Christmas is really just not all that good. I feel like this is one of those things that people look back on with rose-colored glasses, but the fact of the matter is that A Charlie Brown Christmas is honestly just f*cking depressing, until just before the very end. Yeah yeah, I know the sad tree has become a staple pop culture icon, and that’s fine. We can keep the tree. But the special? It’s not great.
5) Mickey’s Christmas Carol
The lone Disney offering on this list was probably the most well done and animated out of the bunch, even though it was basically just another adaption of A Christmas Carol, with Scrooge McDuck playing the part of Ebeneezer Scrooge (who the character was named after). Overall pretty solid.
4) A Garfield Christmas
Premiering in 1987, CBS sadly stopped running A Garfield Christmas in 2000, probably due to the fact that it was the most ’80s special ever — but since I grew up with it, it will always have a place in my heart. If you’re fuzzy on the plot, Jon takes Garfield and Odie out to the farm (not that farm) where he grew up to spend the holiday with his mom, dad, brother “Doc Boy” and grandmother. A Garfield Christmas depicts a rare occurrence of Garfield’s “sentimental” side, after he bonds with Jon’s grandmother and finds her old love letters from Jon’s grandfather out in the barn. Between that and being presented with Odie’s gift of a DIY backscratcher, Garfield temporarily learns the true meaning of Christmas before he goes back to being a fat, lasagna-binging a-hole.
3) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
I was just saying the other day that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is actually pretty messed up, if you think about it, because at the end they rip all the teeth out of the face of the Abominable Snow Monster and break him of his will. But whatever, that guy was kind of a dick anyway. Aside from that, Rudolph is pretty great. Come on! It’s got adorable stop-motion reindeer and a gay elf who wants to be a dentist. What’s not to like there, seriously.
2) How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Decades before Fox News invented the War on Christmas, for one green-colored dude in Whoville — the struggle was real. All I can say is thank god the Grinch never lived to see Black Friday, because I feel like this story would have had a completely different ending.
1) Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
Produced by Jim Henson for HBO in 1977, Emmet Otter is definitely not as popular as some of the other specials on this list, but in my opinion it totally deserves the top spot. Inspired by O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi, Emmet Otter is the story of an adorable little otter and his otter mom who go to great lengths to get each other the perfect Christmas gifts, unknowingly throwing a wrench into the plans of the other. It’s got really cute dancing Jim Henson Muppets and catchy songs that are much, much better than the usual Christmas special fare. If you’ve never seen it, or haven’t seen it in years — give it a chance because it actually holds up.
Here’s a clip, but you can currently watch the whole thing on YouTube.