Every Christmas TV Special Airing in 2021

Get in on the holiday cheer by tuning into these specials, from parades to tree lightings.

macy's thanksgiving day parade, santa at the macy's thanksgiving day parade
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2019 | Noam Galai/Getty Images
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2019 | Noam Galai/Getty Images

Rewatching classic Christmas movies definitely helps kick off the holiday season, but few traditions make it feel as official as tuning into themed TV specials. Putting on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and seeing Santa Claus waving at the end or watching reruns of A Charlie Brown Christmas just makes you feel like a kid again! Maybe it's because they never change, or maybe it's a rush to stumble upon them airing on linear TV—but regardless, many make it a tradition to put a few movies or go-to specials on their calendars when the snow starts to fall. To help plan accordingly, we're breaking down all of the holiday specials set to air this year on network TV, cable, and some streaming services.

To find out what Christmas movies and series are coming to Netflix this year, read our Netflix-specific guide.

archie yates in home sweet home alone
'Home Sweet Home Alone' | Disney+/20th Century Studios

Home Sweet Home Alone

When: Friday, November 12 on Disney+
Okay, so it's not necessarily a holiday special, but if you're that devoted to Christmas movies and TV, you're likely curious about the Home Alone remake. Whether it was particularly necessary to redo John Hughes' masterpiece or not is besides the point, the new movie is about to slide down your chimney. Written by SNL writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell and directed by Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Dan Mazer, it follows the same formula about a young boy (the very adorable Archie Yates from Jojo Rabbit) who's left behind around the holidays and must fend off a pair of robbers (Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney). (Yes, Macaulay Culkin will appear in a cameo.)
(Watch the trailer)

A Saturday Night Live Thanksgiving

When: Wednesday, November 24 at 9pm ET on NBC
It's not an all-new special, but if you're an SNL super fan, you'll find all of your favorite sketches from Turkey Days past rerun here.

8-Bit Christmas

When: Thursday, November 25 on HBO Max
Once you transition into a food coma post-Thanksgiving dinner, you can kick off your it's officially okay to watch Christmas movies now season by watching this all-new one on HBO Max. This '80s-set movie follows one boy's quest to get the best new gaming system for Christmas, and stars the likes of Steve Zahn and Neil Patrick Harris.
(Watch the trailer)

12 Dates of Christmas

When: Thursday, November 25 on HBO Max
Expect a whole lot of mistletoe on this one. HBO Max's dating competition series about three singles looking for someone special to bring home around the holidays returns for another romantic installment.
(Watch the trailer)

al roker the macy's thanksgiving day parade
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2016 | NBC

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

When: Thursday, November 25 at 9am ET on NBC
For many, Thanksgiving just didn't feel the same last year without the opportunity to see the sidewalks of NYC lined with people to watch giant balloons float down 34th Street. So, after a year without it, the parade will be back to scale this year. Performers include Carrie Underwood, Kristin Chenowith, Kim Petras, and others, and the casts of Broadway hits Six, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, and Wicked will also appear.

National Dog Show

When: Thursday, November 25 at 12pm ET on NBC
While some might see a giant Pikachu or something as the main event in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, others might just say he's only there to usher in the real stars of the show: the National Dog Show participants. This year is the landmark 20th anniversary of the dog show and you can expect all of your favorite pups to be there, including this year's new addition, the Biewier Terrier.

'Twas the Fight Before Christmas

When: Friday, November 26 on Apple TV+
This documentary tells the story of holiday festivities from hell that spiraled out of control in an Idaho town when a jolly, Christmas-loving man had his plans to throw a massive community celebration squashed by the home owners association, turning him into one bad Santa.
(Watch the trailer)

5 More Sleeps 'Til Christmas

When: Friday, November 26 at 8:30pm ET on NBC
Did you know Jimmy Fallon has published a handful of children's picture books? Well, he has, one of which is a Christmas-themed story about a boy try to plan for the most perfect Christmas ever. The funny man is bringing it to the screen for a 30-minute animated adaptation, which he will narrate. 

disney holiday special, walt disney world holiday special
'The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration' 2020 | ABC

The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration

When: Sunday, November 28 at 7pm ET on ABC
Have the ultimate magical, wholesome time by watching Disney's annual holiday special. Families and Disney adults alike should look forward to the event hosted by Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, and Ariana DeBose and featuring performances from Kristin Chenoweth, Gwen Stefani, Darren Criss, and others. 

The Waltons' Homecoming

When: Sunday, November 28 at 8pm ET on The CW
Are CW viewers familiar with The Waltons, a Depression and WWII-set show that ran between 1972-1981? Hard to say! An all-new Waltons movie is coming regardless to mark the 50th anniversary of the made-for-TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. The new film sees John Sr. stuck in a snowstorm on his travels home for the holidays, and John Boy on a journey sent out to look for him. Ben Lawson (Firefly), Bellamy Young (Scandal), and Logan Shroyer (This is Us) star.
(Watch the teaser)

The Great Christmas Light Fight

When: Sunday, November 28 at 9pm ET on ABC
Maybe you or your parents go to great lengths to make sure your holiday lights are the best on the block—but do they compare to these families who live for doing up their holiday displays? The ABC special that tries to find the best of the best light decorations returns for a ninth season this November/December, with two episodes airing back-to-back on the 28th and the rest on the 29th and December 2nd.

CMA Country Christmas

When: Monday, November 29 at 8pm ET on ABC
Why go carolling when you can sing along with your favorite yeehaw artists covering Christmas songs? The annual variety show from CMA is back this year with Gabby Barrett and Carly Pearce on as hosts and Carrie Underwood and Brett Eldredge among the performers. 
(Watch the teaser)

rudolph the red-nose reindeer tv special, rudolph
'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' | NBCUniversal Syndication Studios

Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas

When: December 1-December 25
If you're someone who's always in the Christmas spirit, this is the moment you've been waiting for. All throughout December, Freeform's programming is jam-packed with holiday movie after holiday movie, from your favorite claymation titles and Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Check out the full schedule here.

Candified: Home for the Holidays

When: Wednesday, December 1 on Hulu
If you think your gingerbread houses are impressive, wait until you see the confectionary creations on this reality show. The four-parter follows the "Candy Queen" Jackie Sorkin, a professional candy artist, as she and her design team put together fantastical creations for the holidays.

Christmas in Rockefeller Center

When: Wednesday, December 1 at 8pm ET on NBC
Do you remember the sad fir that was supposed to be NYC's star Christmas tree and got destroyed en route to Rockefeller Center last year? It was disappointing and memed to death, but it did represent 2020 kind of perfectly. Well, this year Rockefeller Center plans to come back with a better-than-ever tree, a 79-foot-tall Norway Spruce from Maryland. You can watch it get light up with appearances from Alessia Cara, Brad Paisley, Harry Connick Jr., The Radio City Rockettes and more on TV on December 1st, just as you're decorating your own tree.

kelly clarkson in when christmas comes around, kelly clarkson 2021 christmas special
'Kelly Clarkson Presents: When Christmas Comes Around' | NBC

Kelly Clarkson Presents: When Christmas Comes Around

When: December 1 at 10pm ET on NBC
Kelly Clarkson dropped a new Christmas album this year, When Christmas Comes Around…, and to follow up the release, she's putting on a holiday special. She'll perform songs off the record, as well as classics, and plans to honor everyday heroes with the help of guests like Amy Poehler, Ariana Grande, Leslie Odom Jr., and Melissa McCarthy.

Baking It

When: Thursday, December 2 on Peacock
How would you like to have Andy Samburg and Maya Rudolph over for the holidays, cracking jokes while you're in the kitchen cooking up sweet treats? The two comedic actors host this holiday-themed baking show that finds real-life families and pals tasked with whipping up seasonal dishes. The competition series features six episodes, all of which are available to stream on the 2nd.
(Watch the trailer)

Santa Inc.

When: Thursday, December 2 on HBO Max
Here's an all-new stop-motion series to bring you some holiday cheer. It's not necessarily full of the whimsy you're probably used to with stop-motion Christmas movies, though. This eight-episode series comes from Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, who also lead the voice cast as Santa and Candy, the executive vice president at Santa Inc. who dreams of becoming the jolly old man's first woman successor. The cast is rounded out with a handful of silly North Pole characters, voiced by the likes of Nicholas Braun, Leslie Grossman, Maria Bamford, Craig Robinson, and others.
(Watch the trailer)

Annie Live!

When: Thursday, December 2 at 8pm ET on NBC
'Tis the season for NBC's chaotic-but-always-entertaining live musicals. Following up productions of shows like The Sound of Music and Peter Pan, this year will be a rendition of Annie starring Taraji P. Henson as the iconic Miss Hannigan and Harry Connick, Jr. as Daddy Warbucks. It's a hard knock life.
(Watch the teaser)

vella lovell in A Clüsterfünke Christmas
'A Clüsterfünke Christmas' | Comedy Central

A Clüsterfünke Christmas

When: Saturday, December 4 at 7pm ET on Comedy Central
Even if you love Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies, you have to laugh at how corny and cliché they all are. This TV movie from SNL alum Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer is a fun parody of the genre that sounds like something that could literally air on the Hallmark Channel (if you strip away the snark). Vella Lovell plays a real estate exec who travels to a small town around the holidays to buy up the Clüsterfünke Inn from a pair of spinsters (Dratch, Gasteyer) and finds herself taken with their woodsy nephew (Cheyenne Jackson).

23rd Annual A Home for the Holidays

When: Sunday, December 5 at 9:30pm ET on CBS
This event tends to be a tearjerker, as it brings awareness to and tells stories about adoptions out of the foster care system. Justin Bieber, Kane Brown, Alessia Cara, and Darren Criss will perform.

Michael Bublé's Christmas in the City

When: Monday, December 6 at 10pm ET on NBC
Michael Bublé's about to jingle rock your world. The crooner is returning to NBC for another musical special to honor the 10th anniversary of his album Christmas. Guest appearances are TBD, but it seems likely some SNL stars will swing by, since it's being filmed in Studio 8H.

a very boy band holiday
'A Very Boy Band Holiday' | ABC

A Very Boy Band Holiday

When: Monday, December 6 at 8pm on ABC and Tuesday, December 6 on Hulu
All of your favorite '90s dreamboats are about to slide down your chimney real soon. Members of Boyz II Men, *NSYNC, New Edition, New Kids on the Block, and 98 Degrees are reuniting to make you swoon with their renditions of holiday classics and their groups' own Christmas songs.

Live in Front of a Studio Audience: "The Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes"

When: Thursday, December 7 at 8pm ET on ABC
In 2019, ABC launched Live in Front of a Studio Audience and recreated famous episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons with a contemporary cast. They're bringing the special this year with episodes of The Facts of Life and Diff'rent Strokes, produced by iconic TV producer Norman Lear. Anna Dowd, Kevin Hart, John Lithgow, and Damon Wayans are among the cast of the Diff'rent Strokes special, but the cast of The Facts of Life have yet to be announced. Long live nostalgia, baby!

Christmas Around the World

When: Wednesday, December 8 at 8pm ET on The CW
Because Christmas traditions are different across the globe, this docu-special explores the ways that different cultures celebrate, from the cuisines they eat at Christmas dinner to how they decorate their trees.

For Auld Lang Syne

When: Friday, December 10 on Apple TV+
Even if you've watched A Charlie Brown Christmas 100 times, it never gets old. But if your holiday wish was for another Peanuts special, Santa was definitely listening. Snoopy and the gang are celebrating New Years Eve here, as Lucy tries to throw the best party ever after having a disappointing Christmas.

Greatest Holiday Commercials Countdown 2021

When: Sunday, December 12 at 9pm ET on The CW
In the spirit of commercialism, see what all the brands whipped up to market their products this holiday season.

Gordon Ramsay's Road Trip: Christmas Vacation

When: Tuesday, December 14 at 9pm ET on FOX
Gordon Ramsay's travel show in which he eats across the globe with pals Gino D’Acampo and Fred Siriex returns with a holiday rendition. In the special, they're said to travel through a winter wonderland… in search of the big jolly man himself.

lil nas x at jingle ball
Lil Nas X at Jingle Ball 2019 | Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2021

When: Wednesday, December 15 at 8pm ET on The CW
As always, a two-hour taped version of the Jingle Ball tour featuring major names in music will air on The CW. Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, and Megan Thee Stallion are among the big name acts playing this year.

With Love

When: Friday, December 17 on Amazon Prime
A new five-episode holiday rom-com series from One Day at a Time showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett. Each episode focuses on the Diaz siblings (Emeraude Toubia, Mark Indelicato) during a different holiday as they look for love and celebrate with their family.

89th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade

When: Friday, December 17 at 8pm ET on The CW
It may not be as big as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or even aired live, but it's still a sight to see! The Hollywood Boulevard staple that supports Toys for Tots returns with Erik Estrada, Laura McKenzie, Dean Cain, and Motel Williams as hosts, and Elizabeth Stanton as co-host.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

When: Sunday, December 19 at 7:30pm ET on PBS and streaming now on Apple TV+
There may be dozens of Christmas specials, but few compare to this sweet, innocent one that you may have watched at least a hundred times. What's another viewing? Charlie Brown and his silly, little tree are guaranteed to make you feel merry and bright!

Yearly Departed

When: Thursday, December 23 on Amazon Prime
Last year to send of the cursed year of 2020, Amazon organized a comedy special to reflect on (and roast) the year. The streaming service is wrangling a group of comedians to do the same to 2021, this time with Insecure's Yvonne Orji on as host.

ryan seacrest new years eve special
'Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest' | Jamie McCarthy/DCNYRE2016/Getty Images for dcp

Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2022

When: Friday, December 31 at 8pm ET on ABC
Whether you prefer to stay home or beg whoever's party your at to turn on the TV to watch the ball drop, Rockin' Eve is back as usual, and with a bigger production than last year. Fans will fill Times Square yet again for festivities and performances, including Jennifer Lopez, who's headlining. (Hopefully her beau Ben Affleck will be there so the two can give the paps a NYE kiss.)

New Year's Eve Live: Nashville's Big Bash

When: Friday, December 31 at 8pm ET on CBS
Do you wish Rockin' Eve had a bit more giddy up energy? Well, this celebration from country music USA is probably for you. The special will feature performances from names like Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Darius Rucker, and others as they play sets at iconic venues around Nashville. (Don't worry: It ends at 11pm, just in time so you can watch the ball drop on the other NYE special.)

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She's on Twitter and Instagram.