About Christmas TV History

Monday, November 19, 2012

Andy Williams Christmas Shows

Andy (holding the reins) singing "Sleigh Ride" with his back-sup singers on the annual Christmas episode of The Andy Williams Show.

Although singer Andy Williams passed away in September, he left behind a wonderful legacy of holiday music and Christmas TV shows.  I'd like to honor him by remembering his contribution to Christmas entertainment.  Williams starred on TV in his own variety TV series, The Andy Williams Show from 1962 through 1971. This series was so well-known for its annual Christmas show that Williams returned to TV for several additional Christmas specials in the 1970s, a couple more in the '80s and '90s, and two retrospectives in 2001.  Williams' holiday shows were usually the highest-rated installments of each season--and included elaborate costumes, sets, and even special effects.

Victorian costumes, choreographed dancers, and elaborate sets fill the musical productions numbers during the Christmas shows.

While a typical episode of The Andy Williams Show included special celebrity guest stars, Andy's Christmas shows featured family.  Andy would include The Williams Brothers, his real-life older brothers--Bob, Don, and Dick--with whom Andy had started singing professionally when they were still children.

The Williams Brothers started their careers singing on the radio in the late 1930s.  After agreeing to leave show business in the early 1950s, Andy went on to a successful solo career.

The Williams Brothers wear matching outfits in each of the annual Christmas shows--I LOVE the detail of the matching green socks and shoes!
Andy's shows would also include his parents, his wife Claudine Longet, and eventually their three young children, Noelle, Christian, and Bobby.

Andy's Christmas shows meant family time together.

Andy's beautiful wife Claudine Longet sings "My Favorite Things" on one of his annual Christmas shows.

 The Christmas shows also included another family, The Osmond Brothers--Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay.  Their four-part harmonies blended smoothly, much like voices of The Williams Brothers. Eventually the Osmond Brothers added young Donny for five-part harmony singing.

Williams with The Osmond Brothers in a Christmas show that features the boys singing while toasting marshmallows around an open fire.

The five Osmond Brothers (the youngest, Donny, is second from the left) sing along with the Williams Brothers, on the right.
Andy Williams has several signature Christmas songs.  The song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," written by George Wylie and Eddie Pola, was specifically written for Williams' Christmas TV show, which he first sang in 1963.

Another signature Andy Williams Christmas song is "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season," a song originally composed by Irving Berlin with added contributions from Kay Thompson.  This swingin' holiday song is one of my personal favorites.  (The original Irving Berlin song "Happy Holiday" can also be seen performed by Bing Crosby in the 1942 movie Holiday Inn).

In the above video clip, the four Williams Brothers are joined by the five Osmond Brothers singing "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season."

Another Christmas song closely associated with Andy Williams and his annual Christmas TV shows is "Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells" or a jazzy holiday medley that includes "Jingle Bells."  This song is featured on the original 1963 The Andy Williams Christmas Album.  They really don't make music like this anymore.

Though Williams can swing with the best of them, his annual Christmas shows also include very traditional songs of the season including reverent versions of "Silent Night," "Ave Maria," and "O Holy Night."

Williams is also known for his performances of traditional carols.

Though none of the original Andy Williams Christmas shows have been released on DVD, there have been two 'best of' compilations released.  Both include many of the same video clips of the best of the musical performances from the twelve Christmas TV shows.  I hope that complete versions of the Christmas shows will eventually be released on to DVD so that future generations can enjoy and appreciate Williams' outstanding holiday performances.


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for a 2021 release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com


  1. I have never seen any of these Christmas specials, sadly. I was born at the tail end, so I missed out. Love his Christmas music, though. Some of his tunes are some of my favorites holiday classics.

    1. Check out at least one of the DVD compilations--they have nearly the same title (on Amazon, neither title matches the cover of the DVD). I see Netflix has one of them--they are both good. My local library has them too.

      The extended video clips of musical performances certainly capture the spirit of the TV shows.

    2. Cool! Didn't think to check Netflix, will go add one to my (growing) Christmas queue now!

    3. Ah, sadly, they are only available if you have the DVD plan. We are on the Instant Watch only. Maybe next year!

    4. Go to Amazon Prime Video. We are watching one of the Best of compilations on it now!

  2. Thanks for covering these specials so well. I was too young to remember these specials myself as a child (I'm the same age as Andy's older son, who's seen as an infant in one of your pics above.), but it's great to look back at them.
    I had the privilege of seeing Andy's Christmas show from his theater in Branson in 2003 when I went there with my parents. He did lots of his great music, and he also had a door rolled out on stage so he could do his bit with the Cookie Bear for us. When I was there I bought both his Christmas DVDs at his gift shop, even though I'd just gotten my first DVD player. I enjoyed watching them and was very touched when he looked back wistfully at his by-then deceased parents, who were a big part of his Christmas shows along with his brothers and the Osmond brothers.

  3. This was a tradition I looked forward to every year. Public Television would play these in there classic features where I lived! I loved watching "old stuff" with my Grandma. I miss these classic and timeless shows now.

  4. These specials lifted your spirits. Loved them as a teen and love the DVD!!!!!

  5. Andy continued to do more Christmas specials: "Andy Williams' Early New England Christmas" (CBS 1982), "Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search for Santa" (NBC 1985), "The Andy Williams Christmas Show: Live in Branson" (PBS 1994), and a compilation retrospective, "Happy Holidays: The Best of the Andy Williams Christmas Show" (PBS 2001). A relatively new digital TV network, GetTV, began multiple airings of the "Happy Holidays" special and a nearly complete 1966 "Andy Williams Christmas Show" throughout December of 2015 and 2016. So glad to see his classic shows enjoying new exposure.

  6. I adored his Christmas shows. They were always on a Saturday night that my best friend had her large beautiful Christmas parties. You could always find me in the family room watching his show along with a few others! Miss those shows!

  7. It ain't Christmas without Andy.

  8. There are some of the Christmas shows on YouTube. Last night I watched the one from 1966. Absolutely first rate entertainment!!!!

  9. I'm trying to find out the air date of Andy's Christmas program in 1972. Is there anyone who might be able to find out the network airing on NBC?

  10. I appreciate your taking the time and effort to put together this tribute to a wonderful, wholesome entertainer. I was Blessed to live in a home where beautiful music was the norm. Thank you Mom and Dad. I miss you both.

  11. Andy Williams is on Amazon :)

  12. Wonderful compilation available on Amazon.