Santa, and Father Christmas and Sinter Klaas before him, is the penultimate character representing Christmas spirit, but he has many helpers.
In Germany, there’s his evil counterpart Krampus, and since 1823 (when A Visit from St. Nicholas — better known as The Night Before Christmas — was first published) his reindeer. In the twentieth century Santa accrued Mrs. Claus, his elven helpers, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who shot to fame with a 1964 stop-motion animated TV special. You can read about the character’s genesis here; it’s a fascinating tale. In fact, it’s hard to remember a time without Rudolph.
The same decade brought us Frosty the Snowman and the 1970s a slew of other TV specials that tried to replicate Rudolph’s popularity: The Little Drummer Boy, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, Nestor the Long-Earred Donkey, and The Year Without a Santa Claus, from which the above screenshot was taken. First aired in 1974, it should have been a worthy successor to Rudolph with its characters of Heat Miser and Cold Miser, but it took decades, at a slow simmer, for it to reach cult status. And that could be attributed to Heatmiser, a grunge band that took its moniker from the hot-headed puppet who melted thermometers in his bare hand.
In the four decades since there have been other contenders for Christmas icon status, among them The Elf on the Shelf and Olive, the other reindeer, who unfortunately had her heyday the Christmas after the 9/11 attacks. It was so sad to wander through Macy’s, whose holiday decorations were Olive-themed that year, under that black cloud. Olive the little fox terrier deserved better.
In some other universe, perhaps there were Christmas characters like these with their own animated specials.
Christmas Characters Deserving Their Own TV Special
|Humbug the Selfish Witch
Sissy the Blue-Nosed Sheep
Greta the Buck-Toothed Shepherd Girl
Mistletoe, the Cold-Hearted Wolf
Noel the Sky Penguin
Snickers the Three-Humped Camel
Norbit the Chanukkha Hamster
Olive the Bow-Legged Penguin
Jingle Jangle the Dimwitted Fairy
Cookie the One-Earred Otter
Blizzard, the North Pole Squid
Aloyisius the Littlest Owl