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Guide to 2016 holiday TV specials

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Simon Ridgway; Michael Stewart/FilmMagic; Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

‘Tis the season for an abundance of televised holiday cheer! The holidays are the prefect time to kick back and binge watch. Maybe you use the opportunity to catch up on that new Netflix series, or spend hours watching every Hallmark holiday movie ever made, but don’t forget to find time for all the holiday specials airing between Thanksgiving and Christmas. From lights on trees to Angels on runways, there’s a gift for everyone this festive period.

Keep on top of all the cheerful viewing with the calendar of specials below.

November 24

To work up an appetite for the imminent feasting and the festive season in general, turn on the spectacular American tradition that is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Starting at 9 a.m. ET on NBC, you can see marching bands drum their way down Fifth Avenue while Snoopy and pals float serenely by. Feeling thankful yet?

Disney is here to make holiday wishes come true with three holiday specials. The first, The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration premieres Thanksgiving Day at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Hosted by the Julianne and Derek Hough siblings, the magical show features performances by Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood, and Garth Brooks, and was filmed at iconic locations across the Walt Disney Resort.

November 25

Amazon is adapting two beloved children’s books into kids’ holiday specials featuring some sparkling talent. If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie (based on the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series by Laura Numeroff) and The Snowy Day (based on the book of the same name by Ezra Jack Keats) will be available to stream on Black Friday. An American Girl Story – Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas will also be released on the same day.

The second Disney special: Disney Parks Presents: A Descendants Magical Holiday Celebration airs the day after Thanksgiving to ease you out of your food coma with gentle viewing. Stars of the television movie, Descendants, host the show on the Disney Channel at 8 p.m. ET.

November 28

Taped in front of a live audience at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, CMA Country Christmas is back to deliver all that festive crooner cheer. Hosted by Jennifer Nettles for the seventh consecutive year, the show features performances by Kelsea Ballerini, Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, Rascal Flatts, Andra Day, Sarah McLachlan, Loretta Lynn, and many more. And, because it’s not Christmas without Kelly Clarkson, she will — of course — be in attendance too. The special airs on ABC at 8 p.m. ET. 

November 30

Don’t miss the seeing the lights turned on the 94-foot Norway spruce tree on Christmas in Rockefeller Center at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. If LED lights aren’t enough to brighten your night, there are also performances from Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Josh Groban, Tori Kelly, Sarah McLachlan, Dolly Parton, the Radio City Rockettes, and more with narration from your favorite Today show anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, and Hoda Kotb.

Dolly Parton brings a TV movie sequel to last year’s Coat of Many Colors, with Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. The tale is based on Parton’s childhood and sees an unexpected blizzard put the family (and their Christmas celebration!) in peril. Surely love overcomes all bad weather in the end, though?

December 1 

Nothing says holiday season like the smell of baking pies and cookies. If you’d rather not spend hours in the kitchen, you could just watch others bake in a competitive manner on The Great Holiday Baking Show. The double-episode season premiere heats up at 9 p.m. ET on ABC with the season continuing through December.

December 4

It’s a Christmas miracle: Zack and Kelly are back together! Well, kind of. Christmas at Tiffani’s sees Saved By the Bell costars Tiffani Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar reunite for a festive bash. If that’s not enough ’90s nostalgia for you, Beverly Hills, 90210‘s Jason Priestley and his wife Naomi will stop by too. Plus, Thiessen will be cooking and sharing recipes for delights such as cheesy potatoes au gratin and boozy blood orange cranberry sauce. The special airs at 8 p.m. ET on Cooking Channel.

December 5

Patti LaBelle is bringing holiday cheer and feisty goodwill to all with her VH1 Divas Holiday Special: Unsilent Night. The legendary singer is joined by her goddaughter and renowned Christmas crooner, Mariah Carey, at 9 p.m. ET. Teyana Taylor, Chaka Khan, and Vanessa Williams round out the bill.

If you need a break from all the wholesome, family, festive viewing, the Victoria’s Secret Angels are your saving grace. Filmed in Paris and with performances from Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and The Weeknd, the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show struts onto screens at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

December 8

It’s time for some Christmas Cookie(s)! Empire’s Taraji P. Henson stars alongside Jussie Smollett (who plays her on-screen son, Jamal Lyon) as well as Taye Diggs, Pharrell Williams, Missy Elliott, Alicia Keys, Darryl McDaniels (Run-DMC), Snoop Dogg, and TLC in her second annual music and variety special. Taraji’s White Hot Holidays airs at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

December 12

Maybe the best thing about holiday TV is even the commercial breaks can be magical and heartwarming, or just plain hilarious. See if your favorite holiday commercial made the cut on the Greatest Holiday Commercials Countdown 2016 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. You might even pick up some gift ideas. Win-win.

December 13

Get ready to rock with The Rock on Spike at 9 p.m. ET. Dwayne Johnson hosts a star-studded show crammed with comedic and musical performances. The line-up includes Nick Jonas, Flo Rida, and Tenacious D, as well as Hollywood stars Kevin Hart, Matthew McConaughey, and Jack Black. But most importantly, Rock the Troops features meaningful tributes to veterans and their families.

December 14

Whittling down the best holiday movies of all time is a near-impossible feat — there’s so many to choose from. Luckily, Mr. TV holiday movie himself, Dean Cain, is here to ease your holiday woes with a countdown of The Top 12 Greatest Christmas Movies of All Time at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. Holiday in Handcuffs has to be a serious contender, no?

NBC brings you A Pentatonix Christmas Special, an hour-long holiday special featuring performances by the a cappella group as well as NBC holiday favorite Kelly Clarkson and country star Reba McEntire at 8 p.m. ET. Aca-believe it.

December 15

Move over, carolers: The biggest names in pop are here to do all the festive crooning instead. The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball airs at 8 p.m ET on the CW. The 90-minute broadcast will showcase highlights from the various Christmas concerts across the country featuring performances from Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, the Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears. Fingers crossed Brit brings back the holiday classic, “Santa, Can You Hear Me?”

December 16

Olivia Newton-John is the Grand Marshal for The 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade when it marches onto The CW at 8 p.m. ET. Plus, there’s another festive helping of Dean Cain to guide you through all the music, floats, and more, during the two-hour special.

December 17

Learn how to bake like a pro just in time for the holidays with The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass marathon on PBS from 12 to 6 p.m. ET (check local listings). Is there anyone else you’d rather spend six hours with on a cozy Saturday afternoon than Mrs. Mary Berry? She’s so charming and warm, you may as well dress her in red and call her Mrs. Claus.  

December 19

America’s Got Talent and the Christmas spirit, it seems! The talent show brings you a two-hour special with performances from Andra Day, Pentatonix, Penn & Teller, and many more past-season favorites (including 2016 winner Grace VanderWaal), all hosted by Nick Cannon. Plus, resident Scrooge Simon Cowell will be in the judge’s chair alongside Mel B, Howie Mandel, and Heidi Klum (who will join past Golden Buzzer contestant, Sal Valentinetti on stage for a performance). The special airs at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. 

December 20

Panic over! Terry Crews is here to rescue the holidays. Phew. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Crews stars in a week-long, holiday-themed special, Terry Crews Saves Christmas, premiering on The CW at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20 and running through Dec. 23. The four hour-long episodes and the two-hour finale feature Crews visiting hopeless holiday enthusiasts and giving them a lesson or two in festive cheer, from food and beverages to decorations and beyond. Take notes.

December 25

On Christmas morning at 9 a.m. ET on ABC, the third and final Disney holiday special: The Disney Parks’ Presents: Magical Christmas Celebration is here to accompanying your gift opening. The Houghs will be back to host.

There’s nothing like a little TARDIS action to wrap up the festivities. Tune into BBC America for a dose of time-traveling fun on the Dr. Who Christmas Special. Maybe, if we’re lucky, the doctor will take us back to Nov. 24 so we can start all the holiday special viewing all over again! Just me? 

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