Do you fire up the TV on Christmas Eve in hopes of drowning out your relatives, or do you respectfully wait until after presents are opened on Christmas Day to do the same thing? I find that if the programming is holiday-centric enough, you can get away with ignoring everyone, turning up the volume and staring at the TV starting quite early on Dec. 24.
There are always plenty of movies around Christmas—the sort of sappy, highly seasonal confections you’d never think to watch any other time of year. Among Christmas Eve’s can’t-miss classics is 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life (KOB-4 7 p.m.), still the most heartwarming movie about holiday suicide ever made. Although it doesn’t have Jimmy Stewart killing himself, 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street (WGN 8:30 p.m.) is a pioneer in product placement, featuring lots of great plugs for Macy’s department store. American Movie Classics rounds out the Christmas classic trifecta with 1954’s White Christmas (AMC 8:15 p.m.), which paved the way for future songs-turned-movies Ode to Billy Joe and Purple Rain. Among the more recent offerings is 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (TV Land 6 p.m.). It’s even creepier now that Cousin Eddie has gone insane and is hiding out in Canada. You’ve also got 1983’s A Christmas Story (TBS 6 p.m.). Turner is kicking off its annual 24 Hours of A Christmas Story with that, so you can pretty much tune in any time you like.
If the eggnog has dulled your senses and you don’t have the attention span to watch a full movie, there are plenty of holiday specials to choose from. ABC Family is hooking us up with a sleighful of Rankin-Bass flashbacks including 1970’s “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (ABC Family 6 p.m.), 1974’s “The Year Without a Santa Claus” (ABC Family 7 p.m.) and 1976’s “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” (ABC Family 8 p.m.). For those who like their animation less stop-motiony and more CGI-y, there’s “Disney Prep & Landing” (KOAT-7 7 p.m.), a quite clever, computer-animated original from 2009.
If, like the Fox News anchors, you want to put Christ back in Christmas, you can do so with “CNN Presents: After Jesus: The First Christians” (CNN 8 p.m.). It’s narrated by actor Liam Neeson and is broadcast on that Godless liberal network CNN. Oddly enough, at the same time, FOX is fueling the war on Christmas with lousy reruns of “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity.” Go figure. Feel free to say the following in your best “Saturday Night Live” announcer voice: Live from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., it’s “Solemn Mass of Christmas Eve” (EWTN-24 9 p.m.). Of course, if you like things solemn, but not quite that solemn, there’s “Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Featuring Natalie Cole and David McCollough” (KNME-5 9 p.m.).
Catholics, Mormons and atheists alike can find common ground in “Invasion of the Christmas Lights” (TLC 7 p.m.) and “More Crazy Christmas Lights” (TLC 8 p.m.), which allow you to stare at pretty lights without the bother of putting on a coat and going outside. Now that, my friends, is the true spirit of Christmas.