Are these 10 of the best Christmas TV moments ever?

Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special cast

Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special - Credit: BBC

Like turkey and tinsel, advent calendars and carols, cracking TV programmes are a tradition for most of us during the festive season. With your selection box and port at the ready, here is a countdown of 10 of our best-loved Christmas TV moments, from jaw-dropping revelations to cuddly cartoon characters, vicars to a Royle baby.

1. Dirty Den and Angie’s divorce (EastEnders, 1986): The Granddaddy of them all and the benchmark for anyone striving for a truly miserable Christmas, 30.2 million people tuned in to watch Den Watts hand Angie the divorce papers after finding out that she’d been lying about only having six months to live (in lying terms, this is a really difficult one to pull off). “Happy Christmas, Ange…” said Den, shortly after telling her he’d overheard her confessing her “big black lie” to, of all people, a waiter on the Orient Express.

2. The Office: Christmas special (2003): The episode we had all been waiting for, namely the one in which David told loathsome Chris Finch to go forth and multiply and, more importantly, Dawn told Lee the same thing and went to claim her man, Tim. At the end, David finally makes the whole office team laugh with an impersonation of Frank Spencer – even more poignant this year after months of soulless Zoom meetings and working in home offices where your colleagues are plants.

3. Only Fools and Horses: Heroes and Villains (1996). When this aired on Christmas Day in 1996, it attracted a UK audience of 21.3 million. Del Boy and Rodney dress up as Batman and Robin for a fancy dress party only to discover on arrival that the party is now a wake. They run through the fog on their way there and scare muggers trying to rob Councillor Murray. There’s also an unfortunate incident with some apple juice for Uncle Albert, a futuristic dream involving President Keanu Reeves and news of a Christmas baby.

4. The Snowman (1982): Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it, the heartstring-tugging cartoon fantasy about a boy whose snowman magically comes to life and takes him to visit Father Christmas. Just a bar or two of the swelling choral ballad ‘Walking in the Air’ is enough to transport most of us to happier times. That said, creator Raymond Briggs (sadly no relation) said of The Snowman: “The idea was clean, nice and silent. I don’t have happy endings. I create what seems natural and inevitable. The snowman melts, my parents died, animals die, flowers die. Everything does. There’s nothing particularly gloomy about it. It’s a fact of life.”

The Vicar of Dibley

The Vicar of Dibley - Credit: BBC

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5. Vicar of Dibley: Christmas special (1996) Geraldine goes to four Christmas lunches. It’s the Vicar’s second Christmas in Dibley and she’s under pressure to write a great sermon and also not offend anyone that wants to spend time with her over the festive season: so she accepts four lunch invites and finds herself eating for Britain. There’s also a marriage proposal (kind of). Dawn French has, of course, reprised her role as the much-loved Vicar in 2020 with a series of lockdown specials: “Back in the dog collar, back in Dibley and back on your telly at Christmas. I couldn’t be happier,” she said. The series started on December 7 at 8.50pm.

6.  Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special (2019) The biggest Christmas TV rating of the decade across all channels since 2008, the reunion of the Billericay-Barry gang had been hotly-anticipated and would, of course, probably be banned this year. The Essex contingent decamps to Wales and Smithy plans to propose to his new girlfriend over turkey and tinsel. It’s fair to say it doesn’t quite work out that way, although there is a proposal that leaves us on the edge of a cliff.

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7. The Royle Family: Christmas Special (1999) Not a dry eye in the house as Denise (Caroline Aherne, who sadly died in 2016) goes into labour on Christmas Day and is comforted by Dad Jim in the family bathroom who tells her how he felt when she was born. Poignant and beautiful.

Father Ted cast

Father Ted - Credit: Hat Trick Productions

8. Father Ted: In this Christmas special from 1996, Ted, Dougal and a group of priests find themselves lost in the lingerie department of a large shop. Ted manages to usher the priests out, therefore averting another scandal for the Roman Catholic Church and winning himself a Golden Cleric. Comedy gold from Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews.

9. Hilda Ogden leaves Coronation Street: Still the most-watched episode in its history, Hilda Ogden’s final farewell on Christmas Day in 1987 saw an audience of 26.65 million viewers joining the regulars in the Rovers to see her singing Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye. “I know I’ll be going to a posh house and that, but I’ll be leaving my heart behind in this street, I will, honest…”

10.  Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (1993) Wallace lets his spare bedroom to a penguin who drives Gromit from the house and hijacks Wallace’s techno trousers for criminal purposes. Disguised as Feathers McGraw the chicken, the crook sets out to steal a diamond but is thwarted by loyal Gromit who rewires the trousers. The stand out moment is when Wallace and Gromit chase Feathers around their house on a toy train.

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