10 Most Merry Christmas Cartoons

Christmas cartoons

 Even in our modern age, one of the most popular traditions during the holidays is watching Christmas cartoons on TV. From classic stop-motion animation cartoons by Rankin/Bass to more recent holiday specials by Nickelodeon, this list includes my top picks for Christmas cartoons, with something for everyone -- naughty and nice.

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'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

A Charlie Brown Christmas
1965 United Features Syndicate

A Charlie Brown Christmas is easily the most popular and classic of all Christmas cartoons that have ever aired on TV. I defy anyone not to get a little misty in the eyes when that little tree comes to life, or when those tiny round mouths form perfect o's to sing Christmas carols. A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first TV cartoon that was based on Peanuts, the popular Charles Schulz comic strip. Original air date: December 9, 1965.

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'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'

The Grinch Talks to Max
Cartoon Network

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is another classic Christmas cartoon, but a little more on the devilish side. Based on the Dr. Seuss picture book by the same name, How the Grinch Stole Christmas quickly became a Christmas classic because it had the best talent in animation behind the scenes. Chuck Jones directed the cartoon, with stars Boris Karloff and June Foray providing voices.

Although the Grinch is the character you love to hate, the ever-optimistic Max is my favorite. The moral of this story has lasted for decades: "Maybe Christmas--perhaps--means a little bit more." Original air date: December 18, 1966.

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'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'

Rudolph and Hermy - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Videocraft International Productions

 is one of the highest-rated Christmas specials of all time. An example of a classic cartoon from Rankin/Bass Productions, Rudolph remains popular and timeless, using stop-motion animation instead of cel animation, which gives the cartoon a life-like style. "Silver and Gold." "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" and "There's Always Tomorrow" have become standard songs for the Christmas season. Original air date: December 6, 1964.

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'Frosty the Snowman'

Frosty the Snowman
Classic Media

Frosty the Snowman is based on the traditional Christmas carol. Frosty the Snowman tells the story of several buck-toothed children who bring a snowman to life, using a top hat. This cartoon was also produced by Rankin/Bass, although they used traditional cel animation rather than stop-motion. Legendary actor Jimmy Durante is the narrator. Frosty the Snowman inspired a sequel, Frosty's Winter Wonderland. Original air date: December 7, 1969.

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'The Year Without a Santa Claus'

The Year Without a Santa Claus
Warner Bros. Home Video

"I'm mister heat miser/I'm mister sun." Sing with me! The Year Without a Santa Claus is a tale of two cranky brothers, Heat Miser and Snow Miser, at opposite ends of the world who control the weather. When Santa loses his mojo, Mrs. Claus must reconcile the feuding siblings in order to deliver toys to the world's children on time. The Miser brothers' songs can be heard on every Christmas radio station around the country. Original air date: December 10, 1974.

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'The Little Drummer Boy'

The Little Drummer Boy
Classic Media

The Little Drummer Boy is a lesser-known stop-motion cartoon from Rankin/Bass. The Little Drummer Boy is a more religious holiday special because it is based on the Christmas carol about the little boy who follows the Christmas star to pay tribute to Jesus Christ, the newborn king. As a child, I found this holiday special terribly depressing, because I felt sad for the little boy who had nothing but his song to give. As an adult, I see that The Little Drummer Boy offers a message for the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating Jesus' birth and giving our talents, whatever they may be. Original air date: December 13, 1976.

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'Christmas With The Simpsons'

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
Twentieth Century Fox

This collection gathers a lot of Christmas episodes from the show into one neat package. It includes the first Christmas special, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," when the Simpsons adopt Santa's Little Helper, along with "Mr. Plow," "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace," "Grift of the Magi" and "She of Little Faith." What's fun about these episodes is that each one searches for the meaning of the holidays in a different way, but comes up with pretty much the same sweet answer.

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'Olive, the Other Reindeer'

Olive, the Other Reindeer

Although Olive, the Other Reindeer is a fairly recent cartoon, it stands out as a Christmas classic because it offers humor and insight for children and adults. Olive is a little dog who believes she is a reindeer. The cartoon tells the story of how her dream of being a reindeer comes true. Olive, the Other Reindeer works on many levels, much like The Simpsons, which is no coincidence, because Matt Groening produced both shows. This Christmas special is based on the children's book of the same name, perfectly capturing the illustrative style of J. Otto Seibold. Drew Barrymore's performance (one of her first voice-overs) as Olive is spot on. Original air date: December 17, 1999.

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'It's a SpongeBob Christmas!'

It's a SpongeBob Christmas!

 was Nickelodeon's first stop-motion animation Christmas special. In It's a SpongeBob Christmas!, SpongeBob must defeat Plantkon when he begins turning everyone into a humbug. The cartoon was an animation achievement, demonstrating the humor that is unique to SpongeBob SquarePants, while displaying the fun and cleverness of stop-motion. The mini sets, textured characters, and catchy musical numbers add up to a sleigh-ful of fun. Original air date: December 6, 2012.

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'Christmas Time in South Park'

Mr. Hankey in Toilet - Christmas Poo
Comedy Central

My list would not be complete without including  Christmas episodes. Only  could deliver the Christmas message wrapped in fecal matter. In "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo," Kyle discovers a special friend who lives in the toilet. In "A Very Crappy Christmas," Mr. Hankey is too busy with his family to spread Christmas cheer, so it's up to the boys. You can find more South Park Christmas episodes on digital and DVD, including the musical "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics," "Red Sleigh Down" and "Woodland Critter Christmas." Needless to say, you should enjoy these holiday cartoons once the kiddies are in bed. "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo" original air date, December 17, 1997.