8 Holiday Television Specials to Get You in the Festive Mood

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! We love everything about the holiday season and the end of year festivities, and that includes getting tucked into bed or on the couch wrapped in our favorite linen throw to binge some Christmas TV episodes. 

They are something of an English invention: for decades, British television shows have been celebrating the festive season with one-off episodes that are all about Christmas, and they are the perfect viewing to get you in the festive mood.

From Downton Abbey to Mr. Bean, here are a few of our very favorites to binge throughout the holiday season.

8 Best Holiday Special Television Episodes

1. Ted Lasso

The Ted Lasso Christmas special aired earlier this year as part of the show’s second season, and boy is it a perfect half hour or so of television. The episode is split into a few different perspectives: Keeley and Roy planning to have a ‘Sexy Christmas’. Rebecca delivering gifts to children in need. Ted celebrating on his own, far from his ex wife and son in America. And the Higgins family, who regularly open their door to the players who aren’t able to make it home for the holidays.

Each of these strands comes together in the most wonderful way, so much so that by the end of the episode, when a wonderful Christmas meal is laid out at the Higgins’ home, who have to commandeer and ironing board and a surf board to stretch the table to accommodate all who come to visit, we had tears in our eyes. Heartwarming and tender and full of joy, this perfectly encapsulates Christmas.

Where can I watch it? Apple TV

2. Downton Abbey

There are several Downton Abbey Christmas specials, in fact, one aired for every season of the show. All of them are great, although at least one of them – spoiler alert, for anyone who hasn’t yet watched all of Downton Abbey – contains a moment of great tragedy.

If what you’re looking for is more happy and uplifting, then the final Christmas special attached to the sixth season is just the ticket, although we’re also partial to the second Christmas special, attached to the second season, when snow falls at Highclere and romance abounds between Cousin Matthew and Lady Mary. Sigh.

Where can I watch it? Netflix 

3. Doctor Who 

Every year, Doctor Who releases a Christmas special that is must-watch viewing for sci-fi fans. We have a very fond place in our heart for ‘Voyage of the Damned’, an episode in which the 10th Doctor, played by David Tennant, has to save the world from a starship coming towards it on a collision course.

The series features an iconic cameo from Kylie Minogue, who plays a waitress named Astrid, who gets to share a Christmas snog with the time-travelling Doctor at the end of the episode.

Where can I watch it? Amazon Prime

4. Sherlock 

There was only one Christmas special episode of Sherlock, which makes it all the more special. This Benedict Cumberbatch starring vehicle kickstarted our renewed obsession with all things Sherlock Holmes (and all things Benedict Cumberbatch), as evidenced perfectly in the one-off special ‘The Abominable Bride’, which originally aired in 2016.

The episode was such a gift for Sherlock fans, as it featured a time jump between 19th century England, with Cumberbatch and co-star Martin Freeman frocking up in historic dress as Holmes and Watson, as well as their modern-day counterparts, both investigating the same murder. The game was well and truly afoot in this one!

Where can I watch it? Amazon Prime

5. Call The Midwife 

Like many British shows, there are several Christmas special episodes of Call The Midwife, the long-running BBC period drama following the midwives helping deliver babies in East London in the ‘50s. How to pick a favorite of all the Christmas specials!

The one in Shetland, far north Scotland, is perfect for cosy, Christmas vibes, but we also love the one from season five, which follows a missing nun, a secret relationship between a nurse and a midwife, a carol service, a measles outbreak and… a lot of snow. It doesn’t get better than that!

Where can I watch it? Netflix

6. Friends 

It’s not only the English shows that celebrated Christmas with one-offs, some of our favorite American series, including 30 Rock and Friends created Christmas special episodes, too. Like Friends ‘The One With The Holiday Armadillo’, in which Ross dresses up as a Holiday Armadillo – whatever that is.

Where can I watch it? Netflix

7. Mr. Bean

The iconic 'Merry Christmas Mr. Bean' episode never fails to deliver some giggles. An excited Mr. Bean continues his usual chaotic shenanigans across the festive season bringing new meaning to 'dressing' a turkey and making a shambles of a department store toy section. This episode is a great watch for families and is injected with plenty of festive spirit. 

Where can I watch it? Netflix

8. The OC 

And last, but certainly not least, is The OC’s special Christmas episode, or should we say Chrismukkah. This is the holiday made up by Seth (Adam Brody), as he combines the traditions of Christmas and Hanukkah in one, bringing in his friend Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) to the fold. This episode is full of nostalgia feels for us, and also is a vision of a California Christmas that is not too dissimilar from our own Australian one.

Where can I watch it? Netflix

Enjoyed this? Here are 10 Holiday Movies to Get You Into the Festive Season

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