About Christmas TV History

Monday, November 16, 2020

Where to Watch Christmas TV Programs (2020)


It's the most wonderful time of the year, isn't it? The Christmas TV movies have already begun airing, Christmas music is playing on local radio stations, the days are growing shorter, and the air outside is crisp.

The viewing options for Christmas movies and specials during November and December each year can get overwhelming. Last year, I counted almost 400 new Christmas and New Year's TV programs and movies released. Let me help you with the details of where to find the best holiday programming for 2020. This is not an exhaustive list and new information is still forthcoming. I've noticed that the long lists of premieres show that the pandemic has not forced most networks to cut back on Christmas programs for 2020. That's good for all of us.


Christmas TV Movies:

For many Christmas TV movie fans, the Hallmark Channel is the network schedule to check first.  In 2020, Hallmark will be debuting 23 new Christmas TV movies, alongside many classics from their archives. If you didn't already know, the movie marathon has already begun--Hallmark started Friday, October 24th--and continues all day and all night through the end of December. They typically debut their new holiday movies on Saturday and Sunday nights. HERE is link to a checklist of Hallmark's Christmas TV movie premieres. The daily schedule of their holiday movies can be found on their website HERE.



Hallmark's sister channel--Hallmark Movies and Mysteries (HMM)--also airs new Christmas TV movies and older classics. In fact, the older holiday movies they broadcast are pulled from a deeper archive so this is the place to see some of your older Hallmark Christmas TV movie favorites. HMM will debut 17 new Christmas titles in 2020. Between Hallmark and HMM, this company will premiere 40 new movies this holiday season. Whew! Have you already started watching them? HMM is also making their debuts on Saturday and Sunday nights. Click HERE for the checklist of HMM Christmas movie debuts. And, just like the Hallmark Channel, HMM has already begun their holiday programming--which will continue through the end of the holidays.  Click HERE for the link to the daily HMM Christmas movie schedule.



Lifetime is debuting 34 new Christmas TV movies in 2020 as well. I know, right? Those new movies will be airing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Click HERE for more info about each of those. Lifetime is all-in on the Christmas TV movies this year just like they were last year. They also started airing a 24/7 marathon of their new movies and Christmas classics from their archives. You don't want to miss out. I'm looking forward to their new movie "Christmas Ever After" which debuts on Dec. 6th. This movie features Tony-winner Ali Stroker who first impressed me on the TV series The Glee Project. Click HERE for the daily schedule of Lifetime Christmas movies. [Please note: the initial release of information in October about Lifetime's Christmas movies was for 30 movies. They have since added 4 more movies to the schedule, to air the third week of December.]



Freeform is a major source of Disney-owned holiday movies and programming every year. But I didn't need to tell you that, right?  We're all familiar with their marathons of Christmas movies and family-friendly entertainment. They have a November schedule with holiday programming, and Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas programming marathon which begins Dec. 1st. Click HERE for the full December marathon schedule.



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In 2020, AMC is once again branding themselves "Best Christmas Ever" network. They continue to invest in airing a tremendous amount of Christmas movies and holiday programming beginning Nov. 16th. Here is where you'll be able to view most of the Rankin/Bass classic animation (other networks have Rankin/Bass titles too but a limited number of them).  For a schedule of all the Christmas movies and animation coming on AMC and AMC+, click here.



UP TV Network will also debut 8 new family-friendly Christmas TV movies, as well as showing older favorites too. For a list of their new Christmas movies, click HERE. For UP TV's 2020 Christmas programming movie schedule, click HERE.



ION Television's schedule is filled with holiday movies too. They are already airing holiday movies from their archives but will debut four new ones starting Nov. 29th. Look for the movie premieres on Saturday and Sunday nights. Click HERE for their website and a complete schedule.



OWN has three new TV movies this year: A Christmas for Mary debuting Dec. 8th,  Cooking Up Christmas on Dec.15th, and First Christmas on Dec. 22nd.

TV One usually debuts a Christmas TV movie each year featuring African-American characters in the lead as well. This year's new movie is Christmas Dilemma premiering Sunday, Dec. 6th. Here's more info on their website. Look to BET to premiere Christmas TV movies with African-American actors in lead roles as well. They too have yet to release more information for this year.


And of course, Netflix is debuting more than a dozen new Christmas movies and series episodes on their streaming service too. Several of those movies have already premiered, including the popular Holidate starring Emma Roberts, Operation: Christmas Drop, the musical Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, and more. So many Christmas movies, so little time, right?


Food Network's Holiday Baking Championship judges and host.


Netflix features several Christmas series including Sugar Rush: Christmas season 2, Great British Baking Show: Holidays season 3, and Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas. But did you know that the Food Network also includes several Christmas series? Sunday nights and Monday nights the Food Network rolls out Holiday Baking Championship, Holiday Wars, Christmas Cookie Challenge, and The Big Bake Holiday. Check their listings for even more holiday series' episodes and specials.

Hulu has a wonderful feature that the other streaming platforms haven't figured out yet: you can search for 'Christmas' and they'll provide not just Christmas movies, but Christmas episodes buried inside the seasons of sitcoms and dramas they have. YES! That's a great use of a search option. Hulu this year also is airing 2019's popular indie film Last Christmas with Emilia Clarke, and starting Nov. 25th, they will have 2020's Happiest Season with Kristen Stewart.

Disney+ is debuting Lego Star Wars Holiday Special starting Nov. 17th. This new program is drawing the attention of quite a few fans who love the Lego animated movies and those who fan over the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special too. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Classic Christmas Specials and Episodes:


Me TV is rolling out their retro programming's Christmas programs on Sunday early evening marathons throughout the holiday season. HERE's the schedule of episodes for the Sunday marathons. Look at all those Thanksgiving episodes too! I see Dec. 6th they're airing the 1988 TV movie A Very Brady Christmas, and early morning on Dec 24th, they are airing the 1970 movie musical Scrooge. Mark your calendars now.


FETV is airing Christmas episodes of their classic sitcoms and dramas too. I'm excited to see Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas--the 1977 reunion TV movie airing too. More on their website about their holiday programming here. And Antenna TV, another retro programming network, usually airs a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day marathon of holiday episodes from their current classic TV line-up. I hope they repeat that tradition this year.

I'm sad to see Get TV cut back on their usually extravagant schedule of holiday programming. I'll post more about their schedule when I know more.



Major Networks:
Of course, the major networks have their holiday programming as well. NBC has an all new animated TV special: Illumination Presents Minions Holiday Special. (Yes--the minions from your favorite animated Despicable Me movie franchise). It debuts Friday, Nov. 27th. The annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center live concert and tree lighting ceremony always airs the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving (Dec. 2nd this year). They haven't announced yet about the live concert or any potential guests yet. But the concert is followed by Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes. NBC is also airing Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Musical starring Matthew Morrison from a London stage production. It airs Dec. 9th. The Saturday Night Live clip show of everyone's favorite Christmas sketches will air Dec. 16th. And, the original 1946 movie It's a Wonderful Life is airing again on Dec. 24th.



ABC is happily airing the Rankin/Bass animated Santa Claus is Comin' to Town in honor of it's 50th anniversary. Watch that 1970 classic on Nov. 27th. On Thanksgiving night, ABC is airing the animated specials Olaf's Frozen Adventure, and Toy Story That Time Forgot. You don't want to miss those. And once again ABC is airing the variety special CMA Country Christmas. This year's concert features host Trisha Yearwood. It airs Monday, Nov. 30th at 9pm(ET). Also on Nov. 30th is The Disney Holiday Singalong--the third in their very popular singalong TV specials.



CBS is airing many animated classics. On Friday, Nov. 27th they are airing Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns.  On Saturday, Nov. 28th, CBS is running two Robbie the Reindeer animated stories, and The Story of Santa Claus. On Tuesday, Dec. 1st is Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. And on Dec 6th is an all-new Dolly Parton Christmas special A Holly Dolly Christmas. So much good stuff coming.

Note: Broadcast TV networks are NOT airing A Charlie Brown Christmas this year--you'll only be able to see it on TV streaming on Apple+ this year. Good thing you own the DVDs, right?

UPDATE: PBS has picked up A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving to air Nov. 22, and A Charlie Brown Christmas to air on Dec. 13th. Check your local lists and local PBS networks for time.


Stay close to my social media links for more announcements about fantastic holiday programming. If you'd like reminders of the new Christmas TV movie debuts and other exciting holiday TV  programming, don't forget to follow my Facebook page Tis The Season TV and/or my tweets at @TisTheSeasonTV.  

Where on the metaphorical television dial do you watch your favorite Christmas movies and specials?  Feel free to share in the comments below.


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