For many, the Christmas break is a prime opportunity to kick back, relax and catch up on some festive telly while quietly demolishing an entire box of Quality Street. This small end-of-year treat is made even more appealing thanks to the wide array of cosy Christmas specials available to stream throughout December leading up to the big day.
From quaint animated classics to a full-on MCU extravaganza, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to finding small-screen delights to enjoy in between bigger Christmas movies and yep, even more Quality Street.
With that in mind, here are 10 seasonal specials worth checking out this month…
The Santa Clauses | Disney+
Less of a one-off and more of a mini-series, The Santa Clauses is currently streaming on Disney+ and picks up after the events of Tim Allen’s last outing in the red suit in 2006. Here, we find Scott Calvin (Allan) about to turn 65 having clocked up 28 years as Santa Claus after accidentally offing St Nick and inheriting his job in the first movie.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in December
However, with the festive strain of the role taking its toll and his family longing for a more normal life away from elves, presents and the North Pole, the idea of hanging up his hat and retiring his sleigh is looking more attractive by the day. Thankfully, a new clause appears that will allow Scott to do just that - if he can only find a worthy Santa successor. With six episodes dropping weekly until 14 December, this one’s perfect for the whole family to binge.
Robin Robin | Netflix
There’s something so wholesome and lovely about Aardman animations that just make them an instant fit for Christmas. While their Wallace and Gromit adventures have become defacto festive favourites, it wasn’t until 2021 that the creative team at this stop-motion studio poured their skills into a story with Christmas at its core.
Read more: The best modern Christmas movies to stream
Available to stream on Netflix, Robin Robin tells the tale of a plucky robin raised by a family of mice. Despite not quite fitting in with her adoptive guardians, her differences soon become invaluable when she’s forced to sneak her way into a human’s house and retrieve a festive star in a colourful holiday heist. With a voice cast including Richard E. Grant and Gillian Anderson, Robin Robin has cosy Christmas day viewing written all over it.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special | Disney+
Not content with dominating the summer blockbuster market, this year saw Marvel set their sights on the season of goodwill with their latest one-off. To sweeten the deal, they based it around their most eclectic cast of characters that in a weird way, kind of personify all the key themes of Christmas, like innocence, acceptance and the importance of family.
Available now on Disney+, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special offers a meta-take on a Christmas story of gift-giving, with Draxx (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) heading to Terra (or Earth, as we know it) to steal real-life Kevin Bacon and deliver him as a Christmas present to Quill (Chris Pratt), who’s been perpetually fed-up since losing Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). Packed with James Gunn humour and festive music courtesy of Old 97s, it’s one of the bigger budget-ed offerings on this list.
Shaun The Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas | Netflix
Who would’ve thought that Wallace and Gromit’s furry friend from 1995’s classic A Close Shave would’ve had such a strong afterlife? In addition to starring in two feature films, his own television series and one mini-film special, this voiceless stop-motion character also got his very own festive special in The Flight Before Christmas, which originally aired on Christmas Eve on BBC One back in 2021.
Cut to today and you’ll find Shaun’s Christmas jaunt over on Netflix but no less enjoyable. After a quest for bigger stockings goes awry, Shaun loses his little pal Timmy and must set to work finding him before Christmas day arrives. With its dialogue-less format and lovingly crafted visuals by Aardman Animation, this one makes for a great lazy afternoon watch while your Christmas dinner digests.
The Snowman | All4
Is the little boy in The Snowman meant to be David Bowie when he was younger? We may never know the answer to this question — but we do know that this iconic Christmas short is currently available to stream for free on All4.
Let’s be honest; this one’s so Christmassy it’s almost impossible to separate it from the season of present-giving and wrapping-paper-ripping. It’s also one of the few shorts on this list that’s unafraid to take things into unexpectedly cold places and hit you right in the feels at the most festive time of the year. Just as the titular snowman and his little-boy creator are starting to become pals, viewers are suddenly reminded of the fleeting nature of life… and snow in the UK. Thankfully, this stark realisation doesn’t arrive until they’ve had a magical adventure and taken to the air amid that haunting song that’s since become synonymous with Christmas itself.
The Snowman and the Snowdog | All4
Keep those tissues close by, as The Snowman and The Snowdog is also currently available to watch on All4. Created to mark the 30th anniversary of its predecessor, this follow-up is similar in style and tone and once again refuses to shy away from shining a light on the more difficult aspects of life. After his pet dog dies, a young boy writes a letter to Santa asking for a new four-legged friend — and after he stumbles upon a familiar hat, scarf and tangerine nose, it’s not long before the Snowman is once again alive and well alongside a brand new snowdog. Free from the nostalgia of its predecessor, The Snowman and the Snowdog offers a more modern continuation of the world while keeping its distinct animated aesthetic made famous by illustrator Ramond Briggs alive and well.
The Snowy Day | Prime Video
Over on Prime Video, you’ll find The Snowy Day, a vibrant and fun Christmas adventure that combines a grounded narrative with a few fantastical festive elements. The short is based upon the best-selling 1962 children’s book of the same name written by the award-winning author Ezra Jack Keats.
It follows a young boy on his way to his nana’s house for a Christmas Eve meal; along the way, he encounters a host of festive characters, including a biscuit-loving mouse, some talking animals and — unique to this TV adaptation — a guest appearance from Boyz II Men. However, underneath its snowy, seasonal exterior lays a powerful and progressive tale highlighting the importance of diversity and cultural representation. Undeniably a message worth sharing.
The Goes Wrong Show: The Nativity | BBC iPlayer
One of the more enjoyable — if underseen — comedy specials of 2020, The Nativity edition of the Goes Wrong Show dished up a heady dose of silly wrapped in a big festive bow. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it centres around a fictional theatre troupe named the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society who spend each episode trying their hardest to recreate a different stage production.
However, despite their best intentions, anything that can go wrong does — usually with unexpected and often pretty funny results. For their pandemic-filmed Christmas special, the company tackled the nativity and the much-celebrated birth of Santa’s dad, baby Jesus Christ. If you’re looking for a family-friendly live-action special full of distinctly British humour, look no further.
Stick Man | BBC iPlayer
On the surface, any story about a talking stick isn’t inherently Christmassy. However, throw some chilly visuals, a heartwarming story and a guest appearance by Father Christmas into the mix and it’s hard not to include Stick Man in this round-up of seasonal specials.
Based on the popular children's book of the same name by the author behind kids' mega-hit The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson, it follows the titular Stick Man who becomes estranged from his family and is forced to go on a journey in order to reunite with them back at the Family Tree. Beautifully animated and featuring the vocal talents of Martin Freeman, Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville, it’s more than enough to warm your cockles this Christmas.
The Smeds and the Smoos | BBC iPlayer (from Christmas day)
Speaking of Julia Donaldson — from one hit Christmas special to a Christmas special yet to come, this year sees the debut of a brand new adaptation of one of her popular literary works. The Smeds and The Smoos is a love story about the red Smeds and the blue smoos, two alien species who are kept apart due to their colourful differences.
However, when a red Smed and a blue smoo fall in love, their cultures come together in an unlikely and life-affirming way. The film is once again animated by The Gruffalo and Stickman production company Magic Light and features the voices of Bill Bailey, Sally Hawkins and Rob Brydon. While we haven’t seen it yet, it’s a safe bet that it’ll be one worth adding to your festive viewing schedule when it debuts at 2.30pm on Christmas Day.
Watch: BBC shares first look at Smeds and the Smoos