Last year, former Naval War College instructor, and contributor to The Atlantic, Tom Nichols wrote a piece entitled, “The Most Beloved Christmas Specials Are (Almost) All Terrible,” where he runs through the list of animated and Claymation specials we were subjected to as youths in the 1960s and 70s, pointing out their flaws and coming to the conclusion that only two are really worth watching.

Now, full disclosure here, I follow Mr. Nichols on Twitter and subscribe to The Atlantic, find his insights on foreign policy fairly astute, and enjoy his writing, yet while we’re of the same age, we’re far apart in ideology. However, this liberal atheist completely agrees with the take of the conservative (I’m assuming) Christian on the only two worthy Christmas specials of the era, and for the same reasons.

He reasons that “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” encapsulates the ethos of the season because in the end, even after the Whos wake up on Christmas morning with no gifts, they still celebrate because it’s more about being with family and the religious aspect of the day. The same goes for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which is my personal favorite. Even after renouncing religion decades ago, Linus’ monologue about the true meaning of Christmas at the end of the show never fails to bring a sentimental tear to this eye. Again, because it refers back to the true meaning of the season, and to Charlie Brown’s comments about the commercialization of what used to be a time for families to reflect and renew.

That brings us to a new classic now streaming on Disney+ in the form of “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” which is really a misnomer since right from the start characters Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) discuss how their leader, Star Lord-Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) misses Earth, his former girlfriend Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and the fact it is Christmas. They then proceed on a quest to provide him with what they think would be the greatest Christmas gift ever (his Terran hero.)

That leads to all sorts of laughs and misadventures, and plenty of music – which is something any Guardians work is known for. And in the end, the guest star who was the victim ends up a willing participant and musical guest for the grieving leader, even though he has to tell his compatriots what they did was technically not legal.

However, with any great Christmas special comes a happy and unexpected ending. In this case, Quill finds out a piece of family information he previously didn’t know and proclaims, “That’s the greatest Christmas gift I could ever get!” Zoom out, hopeful music rising, characters hugging, space station completely decorated in tiny Xmas lights and decorations, new instant Christmas classic status added. Thanks James Gunn, Marvel, and Disney for a 21st Century update to a list that was growing stale.

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