This holiday season, I did something that I have never done before: I watched “Frosty the Snowman” after Dec 25. In fact, it was the 27th. My father had already begun to dismantle our tree, and I was looking ahead to my plans for New Year’s Eve. But I noticed the special on our DVR and I’ve watched it every other year of my life so I figured, heck, why not?

I have to tell you, it’s not good. I can confidently say that it’s a bad half-hour of television. Nothing happens, really, except a bunch of kids take a hat that isn’t theirs, a girl gets cold and then Jimmy Durante sings over the credits.

That’s when it hit me: Every Christmas special, ever, is awful.

What baffles me is that I never realized it until now. It never occurred to me that those specials could ever be considered not good until I came across one out of its element. I’ve always watched them in a context of Christmas cheer, holiday spirit and Yuletide blah blah blah, which always had me assuming that each of them met the quality standards that dictate my television-viewing decisions during the other 11 months of the year. Now I look back on all of those crappy movies that have such sentimental value for me with a doubting grimace.

Take “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” for example. That hour-long Christmas special is quite possibly the worst combination of low-quality stop motion animation and writing you can find. They really emphasize the dickishness of the characters in that story, too: Let’s pick on this kid that’s different and exclude him until he becomes useful to us (seriously, the Santa Claus in that movie is a real asshole). It has gotten to the point that, on a rational level, I should stop watching the specials because they’re not only bad, but also potentially unenjoyable. But we aren’t dealing with a rational monster here; we’re dealing with Christmas.

I don’t think I’m watching these specials for the entertainment value they try to offer anyways, but for the memories they unearth, and I search for each year like a Christmas spirit crack addict going through withdrawal. I like these crappy holiday specials because I grew up with them, but if I met them at a party, well, I don’t think I would call them the next day.

But now I can’t tell what’s good and what’s not. Is every Christmas movie just terrible? Each year I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and each year, as I grow up and its message becomes more relevant, I cry a little bit more. Seriously: real grown-up tears. This reaction can’t possibly be rooted in the nostalgia of past Christmases, right? It also doesn’t hurt that the film is well-written, not poorly animated and has strong performances throughout (that Jimmy Stewart is quite an actor).

I am usually a very picky TV viewer, meaning that I enjoy programming that is extremely intelligent, edgy and well-executed — as cocky as that may sound. Christmas movies, though, are very often none of these things because they are so rooted in tradition and nostalgia. But I think these are the values you can prioritize around the holiday season, even if it is just for a short time.

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