All the best Christmas TV specials for 2023, from the biggest dramas and comedy specials to family favourites
By Simon Ward, Content Director
Christmas is hard enough without sifting through Christmas TV guides trying to find something to watch. Wouldn’t it be great if someone had done that for you, found the best Christmas TV for 2023 and collected it all in one place? Look no further. From the Christmas specials popping up in mid-December to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day themselves, Virgin TV have you covered.
Discover what Christmas specials you can watch and when they’re on with our Christmas TV guide. We’ve got best Christmas TV across BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky Max and more, handily broken down into Drama, Comedy, Family, Entertainment and Documentaries.
You also don’t need to battle for the remote this Christmas. Thanks to the Virgin TV Go app, you can register on up to 5 devices and view on 2 devices simultaneously at no extra cost. You can access more than 100 live TV channels on the go from your devices, including your iPhone, iPad, Android mobile or tablet, and PC/Mac.
Bookmark our Christmas TV listings page for updates from now until the festive season.
Doctor Who Christmas Special
After the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate for three special episodes celebrating Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary, Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) is bringing his incarnation of the 15th Doctor to our screens for the first time this Christmas. This Christmas special sees Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) meets the Doctor and some goblins.
Doctor Who is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Day at 5.55pm
Murder Is Easy
England, 1954. On a train to London, Fitzwilliam (David Jonsson, Industry) meets Miss Pinkerton (Penelope Wilton, Downton Abbey) who tells him a killer is on the loose in a sleepy English village. When she’s found dead on her way to Scotland Yard, Fitzwilliam feels he must find the killer before they strike again in this new Agatha Christie adaptation.
Murder Is Easy is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Wednesday 27 December at 9pm
Beyond Paradise Christmas Special
Joyful escapism, laughs and mind-boggling cases brought in millions of fans to crime drama Beyond Paradise, following the continuing story of Death In Paradise character DI Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) as he takes up a position in a sleepy Devon town. In this special we’ll find out what’s next for Humphrey and Martha (Sally Bretton) after their make-or-break trip to Saint Marie.
Beyond Paradise is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Eve at 9pm
All Creatures Great And Small Christmas Special
The cosy period drama about Yorkshire vet James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) returns for another festive edition. It has been a tumultuous time for James and wife Helen (Rachel Shenton), and this Christmas will be unlike any the couple have experienced before.
All Creatures Great And Small is on Channel 5 HD (CH 105) and in On Demand on Thursday 21 December at 9pm
Lot No. 249
Mark Gatiss’ recent tradition of the Christmas ghost story is gift that keeps on giving. This year, Gatiss returns to a very familiar author – Arthur Conan Doyle. In the Sherlock Holmes author’s short story, Oxford students experiment with a horrifying bag of bones. Time to push out the sofa in preparation to hide behind it… Kit Harington (Game Of Thrones) stars.
Lot No. 249 is on BBC Two HD (CH 102) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Eve at 10pm
Call The Midwife Christmas Special
After Trixie (Helen George) and Matthew (Olly Rix) had a rather action-packed wedding in the final episode of the series 12, will it be a quieter Christmas for our favourite characters from Nonnatus House? You wouldn’t bet on it. This year’s Christmas special has been described as “teary”, which would make sense if a certain casting rumour is true…
Call The Midwife is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Day at 8.15pm
Sister Boniface Mysteries Christmas Special
Lorna Watson is back as TV’s favourite Vespa-driving, crime-solving nun for a feature-length Christmas special of the brilliant Father Brown spin-off. In a sort of Cotswolds version of Murder On The Orient Express, Sister Boniface is travelling to visit family at Christmas when her train becomes stranded in the snow. So far, so mildly irritating – but then the lights go out and when they come back on, a crime has been committed…
Sister Boniface Mysteries is on Drama HD (CH 116) and in On Demand on Tuesday 19 December at 8pm
Death In Paradise Christmas Special
“Amazing and joyful” is how the Death In Paradise Christmas has been described. If anyone needs a bit of joy in their life, it’s Ralph Little’s DI Neville Parker, who was deceived by his girlfriend and framed for murder in the most recent series of the hit crime drama. Neville is newly single (obviously!), so will this Christmas be his chance to mingle?
Death In Paradise is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Boxing Day at 9pm
Ghosts Christmas Special
Fans were bereft when it was confirmed that Ghosts would end after the fifth series – but it was revealed the team had sneakily filmed a Christmas special, acting as both a festive treat and a finale in one. The show’s previous yuletide outings have usually resulted families crammed on the sofa trying ever so hard not to ugly-cry, so the fact this is the final ever episode… well, make sure you’ve got your hanky handy.
Ghosts is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Day at 7.45pm
Late Night Lycett Christmas Special
Few shows have captured the chaos of entertainment shows in the 90s – an endless array of anarchy that felt like they were seconds from being pulled off the air. Late Night Lycett follows that tradition with its mix of celebrity chat (where the celebs look like they actually want to be there) and members of the public. This Christmas special should be off-the-wall.
Late Night Lycett is on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/108) in Apps & Games > Channel 4 on Thursday 21 December at 10pm
Bad Education Christmas Special
Jack Whitehall is returning for an all-singing, all-dancing special of Bad Education. Whitehall left the series after cameoing in the show’s reboot now led by original cast members Layton Williams and Charlie Wernham as teachers. The special episode features original songs and choreographed dances – perfect for Strictly star Layton to show off his skills.
Bad Education is now streaming in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
Two Doors Down
While this isn’t a Two Doors Down Christmas special that we have come to love and expect over the years, there is added poignancy to this final episode of the series – the last to have been co-written by Simon Carlyle before his sad death in August 2023. If this is to be the last ever episode, it’s an absolute belter.
Two Doors Down is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Saturday 23 December at 9.35pm
Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special and New Year Special
By now, you’re either on board the Mrs Brown’s Boys train by now or you’re not (did you know the show is older than Call The Midwife, first airing in 2011?). Ths year’s Christmas and New Year specials aren’t going to change your mind – but for its many fans, it’s the perfect way to end your Christmas with some light chuckles.
Mrs Brown’s Boys is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Day at 10.45pm and on New Year’s Day at 10pm
Taskmaster’s New Year Treat
Greg Davies and Alex Horne will be kicking off 2024 with their fourth New Year Treat special episode. Once the season of goodwill is out of the way, watch as five new celebrity guests get roasted like the proverbial turkey by Davies as they attempt a series of baffling tasks. The perfect easy-watching merriment while you recovery from New Year’s Eve festivities.
Taskmaster’s New Year Treat is on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/108) and in Apps & Games > Channel 4 on Tuesday 2 January at 9pm
Not Going Out Christmas Special
Now the UK’s second longest-running sitcom of all time, Lee Mack’s gag-filled series seems like it isn’t slowing down any time soon. Part of its success is ignoring sitcom convention that nothing changes, because now “Lee” is married with kids and living in Surrey (a far cry from the original flat-share sitcom). The Christmas special is always a highlight of the season.
Not Going Out is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Eve at 10pm
The Heist Before Christmas
Starring James Nesbitt and Timothy Spall star as two different Santa Clauses in this enchanting festive comedy drama that has a bit of a Home Alone vibe to it. Cynical 12-year-old Mickey is done with all that feelgood Christmas nonsense, until he meets two men dressed as the big red guy – one a bank robber, the other a bit vague…
The Heist Before Christmas is on Sky Max HD (CH 111) and in On Demand on Christmas Eve at 8pm
Channel 4’s Christmas calling card is taking a beloved illustrated book and turning it into gorgeous animation that pays homage to the original’s hand-drawn style. This latest one, from the mind of the legendary Judith Kerr, see’s the nation’s favourite cat, Mog, experience the strange new smells and sounds of Christmas. As much for adults as the wee ones.
Mog’s Christmas is on Channel 4 HD (CH 104/108) and in Apps & Games > Channel 4 on Christmas Eve at 7.45pm
The 11th animated special based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler books (beginning with The Gruffalo in 2009) sees the story about the warm and wonderful friendship between a musical cat and a talented busker called Fred. A star-studded voice cast includes Jodie Whittaker (as the narrator), Rob Brydon (as Fred) and Sopé Dìrísù (as Tabby).
Tabby McTat is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Day at 2.35pm
Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
As much a tradition as pigs in blankets and Googling returns policies, Strictly is once again bringing its dancefloor magic to Christmas Day. This special episode dials up the Christmas to 11 with dances to festive favourites, judges’ scores staying (mostly) on the nice list and enough combustible tinsel to be legitimately considered a health and safety nightmare.
Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and BBC iPlayer on Christmas Day at 4.40pm
The Masked Singer UK Christmas Special
If you thought The Masked Singer UK was totally bonkers, just imagine what a yuletide special would look like. Well, we’re finally getting our Christmas wish as the part guessing game, part singing competition brings its very first festive edition to our screens. Here’s hoping they have a giant baby dressed as Santa (“Santa Baby”) for the win.
The Masked Singer UK is on ITV1 HD (CH 103) and in Apps & Games > ITVX on Christmas Day at 7.30pm
Nigella’s Amsterdam Christmas Special
Rather than presenting another Christmas cookery show from the kitchen showing you the same goose fat roasties, Nigella is off to Amsterdam, showcasing her love for the city at this time of the year. At the same time, she’ll be creating dishes inspired by Dutch and Indonesian culinary cultures that she says are simple, celebratory and – most importantly – do-able.
Nigella’s Amsterdam Christmas Special is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Thursday 21 December at 8pm
The Great British Sewing Bee Christmas Special
It’s a big Christmas for Kiell Smith-Bynoe. Not only is he starring in Ghosts, but he’s also the new presenter of The Great British Sewing Bee, making his debut in this Christmas special before hosting the upcoming series 10. He’ll be joined by fan favourite judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young. We await the celebrity line-up eagerly.
The Great British Sewing Bee is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Thursday 21 December at 9pm
Rob & Romesh Vs Lapland
After the adventurous double act of Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan joined the circus for Christmas 2021 and danced on ice in 2022, this year they’re in Lapland’s Santa Claus Village to take on some festive-themed tasks and see if they have what it takes to become Santa’s elves. In a twist that will surprise no one, this somehow involves freezing their bits off with an ice dip. Get ready for some seasonal swearing and yuletide yelping.
Rob & Romesh Vs Lapland is available in On Demand
Britain Get Singing
Several groups comprising stars from TV’s biggest shows go head-to-head in a spectacular sing-off to impress the studio audience and a Super Panel made up of some of TV’s most iconic judges. Last year’s show featured teams from Love Island, Loose Women (who ended up as winners), Emmerdale and The Chase. Roman Kemp is once again on hosting duties.
Britain Get Singing airs on ITV1 HD (CH 103) and in Apps & Games > ITVX on Christmas Eve at 9pm
The Repair Shop At Christmas
John Lennon might have sung about imagining no possessions, but The Repair Shop is a show that celebrates things. A childhood doll. A watch given by a grandfather. An heirloom long relegated to a dusty drawer. The poignancy found in the reaction to small items being brought back to life is like nothing else on TV. Another one for the tissues.
The Repair Shop At Christmas is on BBC One HD (CH 101) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Eve at 9pm
Mortimer And Whitehouse: Gone Fishing Christmas Special
Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse sitting at the side of a body of water chatting about nothing might be one of life’s pure pleasures – like a spoon of newly bought ice cream fresh from the freezer, or that first moment when you feel fully submerged in a warming bath. The perfect gentle TV to help you slow down during this frantic season.
Mortimer And Whitehouse: Gone Fishing Christmas Special airs on BBC Two HD (CH 102) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Friday 29 December at 9pm
The Unofficial Science Of Die Hard & Indiana Jones
After last year’s stunt-unpacking Unofficial Science Of Home Alone special, the concept returns on Sky Max as comedians Paul Chowdhry and Chris Ramsey get into the nitty-gritty of Die Hard – from rooftop escapes to walking on broken glass. Someone cue up Annie Lennox! And there’s another 80s movie treat in the New Year when Greg Davies and Maisie Adam give the Indiana Jones films the same treatment. Meanwhile, Alex Brooker meets cast members to talk about what the films mean to them.
The Unofficial Science Of Die Hard is on Sky Max HD (CH 111) and in On Demand on Saturday 23 December at 9pm. The Unofficial Science Of Indiana Jones is on Sky Max HD (CH 111) and in On Demand on New Year’s Day at 9pm
Christmas With Katherine Jenkins
While we might have gone with the title “Kristmas With Katherine”, that’s the only remotely negative thing about this joyous festive celebration starring the wonderful mezzo-soprano in what’s basically her homecoming show at Swansea Arena. Joining her are Michael Sheen, singer/songwriter Jack Savoretti and classical pianist Chloe Flower.
Christmas With Katherine Jenkins airs on BBC Two HD (CH 102) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Saturday 23 December at 7.10pm
Inside M&S At Christmas
Marks & Spencer has been at the heart of British Christmas for well over a century. This special episode takes you behind the scenes to show how “Marks and Sparks” brings the festive feast to our tables each year, from the retailer’s top-secret development kitchens (spoiler: Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar are bound to feature) to shop floors across the nation.
Inside M&S At Christmas is available now in Apps & Games > ITVX
Caroline Aherne: Queen Of Comedy
This Christmas Day on BBC Two is a night celebrating the comedy genius of Caroline Aherne, including the 2000 Christmas special of The Royle Family, the first episode of The Mrs Merton Show and this new Arena documentary featuring the many people who loved and worked with her.
Caroline Aherne: Queen Of Comedy airs on BBC Two HD (CH 102) and in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer on Christmas Day at 10.35pm
Want more Christmas TV, movies and sport?
Check out our Christmas hub for the best on the box and loads more festive treats.
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