Recently I wrote about Christmas tree ornaments that have always been a part of my life. Well, television has always played a very important role in my holiday celebrations, as well. Three of my TV traditions are not very surprising. But, then again, maybe they are. There are three animated Christmas specials that I have watched every single year of my life. Two of them are older than me and the third might as well be.


It was Christmas 1964 when the classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"--based on a poem by Robert L. May and the timeless tune written by May's brother Johnny Marks--landed on American television for the very first time. It has been a holiday perennial ever since. I was watching it the other night and realized that while some things from our childhood we give up simply because of the process of maturity, this little gem has aged like fine wine. It appears to have been remastered because it looks as crisp as I remember it from back in the day. Is the animation crude? Of course. Is its attraction a mystery to those raised on digital Pixar animation? Perhaps. But neither of those points IS the point. The point is that when we become adults, we still may enjoy Christmas very much. But we will never again enjoy it the way we did as kids. Even living Christmas vicariously through children really isn't the same. And that is perfectly alright. It's called the passage of time. But certainly I'm not alone when I say that the best parts of Christmas are still those that somehow remind us of how it was when we were young. And that's where Rudolph comes in. And Charlie Brown. And the Grinch, for that matter.


"A Charlie Brown Christmas" premiered at Christmas time in 1965. It's been an annual ratings smash ever since. How many of us adults can quote just about every line from this yuletide standard? And how many of us have always wondered how that sad little tree with the two branches that Charlie Brown came up with--the one for which everyone made fun of him--turned into a miniature version of the Rockefeller Center behemoth that lights up Manhattan? I'll never know...or care, I guess. Got to have Charlie Brown at Christmas. And the Grinch. Always the Grinch.


"How the Grinch Stole Christmas"--based on the Dr. Seuss tale of the same name--came to us in December of 1966. It remains my favorite. And I guess that's because me and my sister were raised on Dr. Seuss. We had all the books. Any Dr. Seuss special was appointment television. And "Grinch" is his most famous offering. And then there's the great Boris Karloff. When I was a kid, I loved old horror movies. And Karloff was in quite a few of them. So as I got older and became more cognizant of who was actually involved in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," I became more fascinated with it. Here's this old screen legend who had spent his entire professional life scaring the crap out us--or at least trying to--performing a children's special (to the hilt) and seeming to have a great time doing it. I've seen a creaky old interview with Karloff, which I cannot find at the present time, in which he describes his great pleasure at being able to do something for children. Of course, the one time he does a children's special, he still does play a scary character; hey, old habits die hard. But the Grinch never will. I have yet to see Charlie or Grinch this season. But I've got them earmarked for viewing. I haven't missed them. And I don't plan on it. Yeah, you can call them children's specials all day long, but until I simply cannot do it, I will watch them every single Christmas. I imagine you will too.