Christmas TV schedule 2023: It's the most wonderful time of the year for TV, and there's something to keep the whole family entertained with these festive specials.
Forget the best Christmas films on Netflix, because the TV listings for the festive season have been revealed and BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are pulling out all the stops this year. For many families, watching a Christmas special (or 10) together is a Christmas tradition and a way to keep kids and adults alike entertained in the lead-up to and on the big day itself.
Over in Poplar the team behind Call The Midwife has teased "dangerous snow" for the residents that could potentially spell disaster, while Doctor Who will be unveiling its latest time-travelling incarnation over the festive period. Meanwhile, Channel 4 has revealed they'll be airing a special animated adaptation of a Judith Kerr classic children’s book.
As everyone gathers around to see which other delights the broadcasters have in store for us this year, we unveil the Christmas specials every family needs to add to their Yuletide watch list.
Christmas TV schedule 2023 - Highlights
- Tabby McTat - The BBC are bringing another adaptation of a wonderful children's book to life this year. Originally written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the animated adventure follows the life of busker Fred, and his faithful cat. When Fred falls chasing a thief and breaks his leg, his sidekick is left alone in the streets of London to fend for himself - will the inseparable pair be reunited? (Christmas Day: 2.35pm, BBC One.)
- Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special - Is it even Christmas without the festive edition of Strictly? We think not! Dan Snow, Sally Nugent, Jamie Borthwick, Tillie Amartey, Danny Cipriani and Keisha Buchanan are confirmed to be taking part in the hip-shaking antics. Sam Ryder is set to perform, and two spectacular group routines are being promised to add to the festive fun. (Christmas Day: Time TBC, BBC One)
- Masterchef: Battle of the Critics 2023 - A Masterchef first, this is definitely one to tune in for. For the first time in the show's history, five of the regular critics will be putting their own cookery skills on display. Battling for the title of Chef Critics Champion 2023 are Grace Dent, Leyla Kazim, William Sitwell, Jay Rayner and Jimi Famurewa. They'll first face regular judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace, before trying to impress returning champions Ping Coombes (MasterChef 2014), Kenny Tutt (MasterChef 2018) and Nikita Pathakji (MasterChef: The Professionals 2022). (December 28: 8pm, BBC One)
- Call The Midwife - Never waning in its popularity, the popular midwives and residents of Poplar are back for a Christmas special. With heavy snowfall affecting the East Londoners, Sister Monica Joan becomes convinced she is seeing her final Christmas. Newlyweds Trixie and Matthew have an unexpected guest, while Cyril intervenes when he discovers a man living alone in an abandoned flat. (Christmas Day: Time TBC, BBC One)
- Death in Paradise Christmas Special - The Saint Marie residents and police team are back for a feature length festive special. When an entrepreneur and family man is found dead, his family are left in a state of shock. DI Neville Parker and his team begin investigations, amid a series of distractions. (Boxing Day: 9pm, BBC One)
- Beyond Paradise Christmas Special - Not only are we being treated to a Death in Paradise Christmas special, its spin-off, Beyond Paradise, is also getting one! Watch what happens when the Shipton Abbott residents are concerned by a series of strange burglaries. However, a breakthrough in the case leads to a bittersweet discovery and a rethink of the true meaning of Christmas for everyone. (Christmas Eve: 9pm, BBC One)
- The Repair Shop Christmas Special - Jay Blades and the team are set to restore items full of Christmas memories in the yuletide special. This includes a 1940s mechanical Christmas cake, and a Caribbean steel pan. The experts will also be creating Secret Santa gifts for each other for more festive cheer. (Christmas Eve: 8pm, BBC One)
- Ghosts Christmas Special - It's time to say a very sad final farewell to the humans and ghosts of Button House. Mike’s mum, Betty is staying and Mike and Alison soon lose patience with her presence. Robin isn't feeling ‘Christmassy’ enough and everyone comes together in an attempt to boost the Christmas magic - but will they be able to do it? (Christmas Day: 7.45pm, BBC One)
- Here We Go: Mum’s Classic Family Christmas - We love Here We Go, so much that we wrote what is essentially a love letter to the comedy series. Of course, we are hugely excited to see there will be a Christmas special! Amy is home for the holidays, and Rachel wants the perfect family Christmas. She has a schedule, and is determined everyone will stick to it - but this is the Jessop family, so carnage is absolutely going to ensue. (December 22: 8.30pm, BBC One)
- Not Going Out: Wilfred - Not Going Out is reaching the incredible milestone of airing its 100th episode. This means its now the longest running sitcom on air. Lee and Lucy are also trying to create the perfect family Christmas. Trying to be charitable, the couple invite lonely pensioner Wilfred around for Christmas dinner. Toby, Anna, and Lucy's parents also join in, and the perfect Christmas is sure to go wrong. (Christmas Eve: 10pm, BBC One)
- Doctor Who - Sex Education's Ncuti Gatwa is taking over as the fifteenth Doctor, joined by Millie Gibson as sidekick, Ruby Sunday. Abandoned on Christmas Eve as a baby, Ruby lives with mum, Carla, and grandmother, Cherry. Her path crosses with the Doctor and changes her life for ever as they set off on their adventures. Davina McCall and Anita Dobson are also set to appear. (Christmas Day: 5.55pm, BBC One)
- Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy - In 1954, Fitzwilliam meets Miss Pinkerton on a train to London, who tells him of a killer at large in the village of Wychwood under Ashe. The villagers believe the deaths are accidental, but when Miss Pinkerton is found dead, Fitzwilliam makes it his duty to find the killer. Morfydd Clark, Douglas Henshall, Mark Bonnar and Tamzin Outhwaite are among the names set to star in the special. (December 27 and 28: 9pm on BBC One)
- Men Up - This interesting sounding drama is based on the events surrounding the Welsh men who took part in the trial of a new drug which would become Viagra. The world's first medical trials for the drug were actually held in Swansea’s Morriston Hospital in 1994. The fictionalised account stars Iwan Rheon, Steffan Rhodri, Paul Rhys, Phaldut Sharma and Mark Lewis Jones in the stellar cast. (December 29: 9pm, BBC One)
- Nigella’s Amsterdam Christmas - The holiday period involves plenty of food, and watching sumptuous bites created on the TV is just as exciting as eating it. Nigella is a fan of Amsterdam’s food and culture, and wants to share her enthusiasm with viewers. With family ties to the city, Nigella recalls memories of watching people drinking Claret Cup, and the smells and textures from Christmas visits there gone by. (December 21: 8pm, BBC One)
- The Hairy Bikers: Coming Home For Christmas - If Nigella's culinary exploits aren't enough, The Hairy Bikers have a very special Christmas outing on offer. One year ago, Dave was diagnosed with cancer. After a break from filming with Si, the pair are reunited to create a feast for all those who helped Dave on the road to recovery. (December 19: 9pm, BBC Two)
- A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No. 249 - This adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle short story stars Kit Harington and Freddie Fox. Set in Old College, Oxford, in 1881, the story follows three very different academics. Abercrombie Smith, Monkhouse Lee, and Edward Bellingham unite over a bag of bones tagged Lot No.249. Bellingham’s unnatural experiments might just bring the bones back to life... (December 24: 10pm, BBC Two)
- Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster - The national treasure that is Sir David Attenborough, brings a Christmas special attempting to uncover the mysteries surrounding a giant skull found in the cliffs of Dorset. Joined by two of the UK’s most intrepid fossil hunters, the team will attempt to excavate the skull from its 12 metres high place in a cliff face. (New Year's Day 2024: 8pm, BBC One)
- Mrs. Brown’s Boys - The marmite of comedy shows, Mrs Brown is back for both a Christmas, and New Year special. Christmas Day sees Mrs Brown just want a peaceful Christmas, but the family aren't quite on board. The new year finds Mrs Brown and the gang starting a new health and fitness regime, while a mysterious visitor raises some difficult questions from Agnes and Winne’s past. (Christmas Day: 10.45pm, BBC One, New Year's Day 2024: 10pm, BBC One)
- Caroline Aherne: Comedy Queen - Christmas hasn't been quite the same since the passing of Caroline Aherne, and no more The Royle Family on Christmas Day. This Arena film celebrating her life features unseen photographs and contributions from her close friends. Steve Coogan, John Thomson, and Craig Cash are set to appear. (Christmas Day: 10.25pm, BBC Two)
- Charles III: The Coronation Year - One for the Royal fans, a 90-minute documentary will offer a unique insight into King Charles III and Queen Camilla as they undertake the first year of their reign. Narration is provided by Helena Bonham Carter, who portrayed Princess Margaret in The Crown. (Release date and time TBC)
- The Winter King - An adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles, the series is set in the fifth century amid a brutal land of warring factions and tribes. It follows Arthur Pendragon as he transitions from outcast to legendary warrior and leader. (December 21: Time TBC, ITVX)
- Britain Get Singing - Stars from TV’s biggest shows gather for a sing-off in front of a studio audience and Super Panel. Who will succeed 2022 champions, Loose Women, who won with their rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water? The show supports ITV’s groundbreaking mental health campaign, Britain Get Talking, with the stars discussing their own experiences of mental health. (December 24: 8.35pm, ITV)
- The Masked Singer: Christmas Special - The one-off TV special sees four famous faces go undercover to fool the panel of detectives and those watching at home. Jonathan Ross, Rita Ora, Davina McCall and Mo Gilligan will be hedging their bets over who is behind the masks. (Christmas Day: 7.30pm, ITV)
- The Royal Variety Performance - The world’s longest running entertainment show returns for another year, with members of the Royal family in attendance. Expect top performers, world-class theatre, singing and comedy. Money raised from the performance goes to the Royal Variety Charity, helping those from the world of entertainment in need of care and assistance. (December 17: 8pm, ITV)
- Deal Or No Deal - The newly resurrected iconic TV game show returns for a festive special. Now in its new home, with brand new host Stephen Mulhern, contestants battle the Banker in attempt to win large sums of cash. (December 17: 7pm, ITV)
- Barry Humphries: The Last Laugh - After the sad passing of Barry Humphries in April, this documentary offers intimate and honest insight into the life of the iconic performer. Revisiting signature characters such as Dame Edna Everage, the roots of his characters stemming from his suburban Australian upbringing will be explored. (Christmas Day: 10pm, ITV)
- Vera: The Rising Tide - The much-loved detective series returns with a Christmas special based on Ann Cleeves’ 11th best-selling novel. DCI Vera Stanhope is plunged into a dangerous investigation, untangling deceit to prevent further tragedy. With peril at every turn, will Vera and the team live to see Christmas? (December 26: 8pm, ITV)
- Mr Bates vs. The Post Office - Telling the story of one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British legal history, this shocking drama depicts hundreds of innocent subpostmasters and postmistresses wrongly accused of crimes. A defective IT system saw the innocent postal workers accused of theft, fraud and false accounting - many were prosecuted and some imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit. (January 1, 2024: 9pm, ITV)
- Mog's Christmas - An all-star voice cast take on Mog’s Christmas, a special animated adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic children’s book. Mr and Mrs Thomas and their children Debbie and Nicky are preparing for Christmas. They're joined by two Aunts and an Uncle, leaving family cat Mog, feeling a bit ignored. Frightened by the arrival of an enormous Christmas tree, Mog takes to the roof for safety. Although she has a magical night in the snow, will Mog arrive back home in time for Christmas Day? (December 24: 7.45pm, Channel 4)
- Gogglebox Christmas Special - Armchair critics will be offering their own special brand of hilarious commentary from their homes, festive style. This show always brings the laughs, and is a perfect addition to everyone's Christmas TV line up. (December 24: 9:30pm, Channel 4)
- The Festive Pottery Throw Down - Siobhán, Keith and Rich will be joined by Alice Levine, Hugh Dennis, Joe Swash and Sophie Duker for The Festive Pottery Throw Down. We can't wait to tune in to find out who will be crowned Yuletide champion of the pottery. (Christmas Day: 7.30pm, Channel 4)
- The Great Christmas Bake Off - Instead of celebrities, returning contestants will feature in Bake Off Christmas Eve and New Year specials. Appearing on the Christmas special will be George (series 12), Sophie (series 8), Dan (series 9), Amelia (series 10), Linda (series 11), and Carole (series 13). The New Year's special will see Mark (series 11), Maxy (series 13), Maggie and Jürgen (both series 12) returning. (December 24: 8.15pm and January 1, 2024: 7.40pm on Channel 4)
- Big Fat Quiz of the Year - Jimmy Carr will return to ask the big questions in the nation's favourite annual quiz. He'll be asking "Who was the real star of the King's Coronation?", and "Were you team Barbie or Oppenheimer?" Celebrity teams go head to head to find out who knows the most about the year gone by. (December 26: 9pm, Channel 4)
- 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown - More Jimmy Carr on your screens, as he hosts a special Christmas edition of 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown. Joe Lycett and Danny Dyer take on Jon Richardson and Roisin Conaty. Rachel Riley will be at her usual spot, while Nick Mohammed and Susie Dent sit in Dictionary Corner. (December 21: 9pm, Channel 4)
For more festive TV, we've looked into where Best. Christmas. Ever! was filmed after the new movie landed on Netflix. For more classic Christmas films, we have the lowdown on where The Holiday and Love Actually were filmed too.
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Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.
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