Christmas TV Guide: the best shows to watch this Christmas

Christmas TV Guide - Trixie Franklin (HELEN GEORGE) and Jonty Aylward (ARCHIE O'CALLAGHAN) in Call the Midwife standing in front of a Christmas tree
Call the Midwife is back for another festive episode this Christmas. (Image credit: BBC / Neal Street Productions / Laurence Cendrowicz)

Here's our Christmas TV guide, bringing you all the must-see shows so you don't miss a thing this festive season - and we now have confirmed air dates and times! 

One of the best things about Christmas is spending time at home, unwinding in front of the television as you watch all the Christmas TV specials. But with so many shows on offer, it is hard to remember what is on, and when. 

But fear not, because our UK Christmas TV Guide has got all the information you need in one place, so you can stop panicking about missing your favourite shows, and focus on the more important things, like cracking open the festive chocolates.

For more information about what is on over the festive break, see our TV Guide for full listings.

Everything you need to know about your favourite festive shows is in our UK Christmas TV Guide...

BBC

Call the Midwife Christmas special, Christmas Day, 8.15pm, BBC One 

The Call the Midwife cast sitting round a dinner table for the 2023 Christmas special

Christmas is a busy time in Nonnatus House!   (Image credit: BBC / Neal Street Productions)

There's nothing like a festive visit to Nonnatus House to get us feeling Christmassy, and as in previous years, the Call the Midwife Christmas special 2023 comes just before Call the Midwife season 13 starts in the new year. 

This year's special sees Christmas 1968 getting underway (picking up shortly after where Call the Midwife season 12 left off) but while newlyweds Matthew (Olly Rix) and Trixie Franklin (Helen George) are looking forward to their first Christmas together as a married couple, they are soon sprung with an unexpected visitor - Trixie's brother Geoffrey (Christopher Harper)! 

Elsewhere, Nancy Corrigan (Megan Cusack) is staying at Nonnatus House after Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) offers her and her daughter Colette (Francesca Fullilove) a room for the foreseeable future, and there is drama for Cyril (Zephryn Taitte) when he discovers a lost soul living alone in a dilapidated basement flat, while Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett), away on her refresher course, makes it home in time for Christmas festivities despite treacherously heavy snowfall. 

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, Christmas Day, 4.40pm, BBC One

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special 2023 dancers and celebs

Strictly is back for a festive special.  (Image credit: BBC/Guy Levy)

Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special 2023 will see a new batch of celebrities take to the floor in a bid to be crowned Christmas champions 2023. Each of the couples will perform a festive-inspired routine with the hope of impressing the judges, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Anton Du Beke and Shirley Ballas once again. 

The Christmas special will follow shortly after Strictly Come Dancing 2023 wraps up, and once again the show will be hosted by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman

This year's celebrity lineup is as sparkly as ever, with EastEnders star Jamie Borthwick dancing with Nancy Xu, broadcaster Dan Snow dancing with Nadiya Bychkov, BBC Breakfast presenter Sally Nugent dancing with Graziano Di Prima, actress Tillie Amartey dancing with Neil Jones, former rugby player Danny Cipriani dancing with Jowita Przystał and Sugababes star Keisha Buchanan will be paired with Gorka Márquez.

Death in Paradise Christmas special, Boxing Day, 9pm, BBC One

DI Neville Parker wearing a santa's hat in the Death in Paradise Christmas 2023 special

DI Neville Parker is getting in the festive spirit.  (Image credit: BBC)

The Death in Paradise Christmas special 2023 will see Neville's mum Melanie (played by Doon Mackichan) arrive in Saint Marie. Yes, DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little) will be taking dating advice from his mother and solving a new case! 

The Christmas episode, which will air before Death in Paradise season 13 kicks off in January will see entrepreneur and family man, Gerry Stableforth (Geoff Bell) found dead in a ravine, leaving his family — wife, Bella (Patsy Kensit), children Benjamin (Freddy Carter), Mariana (Amelia Clarkson), and niece Riley (Leila Khan) in shock. 

As DI Neville Parker, DS Naomi Thomas, Officer Marlon Pryce and Trainee Officer Darlene Curtis set to work on cracking this mysterious death, things take a turn as the family’s visiting digital marketing guru, Debbie Clumson (Bronagh Waugh), suddenly disappears. Once news of Debbie’s disappearance reaches home, her hapless partner, Dave (Youssef Kerkour), is determined to work out what happened to her. 

Tabby McTat, Christmas Day, 2.35pm, BBC One 

Tabby McTat on BBC1 for Christmas 2023 is narrated by Jodie Whittaker.

Tabby McTat is this year's festive animation by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer. (Image credit: Magic Light / BBC)

Tabby McTat is the latest festive animation by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer arriving on BBC One. 

After the success of last year's The Smeds and the Smoos, Tabby McTat follows the story of busker Fred and his cat Tabby McTat who enjoy a contented life singing on the streets of London until one day while chasing a thief, Fred falls over and breaks his leg and is whisked away in an ambulance. What will become of the busker’s cat left alone on the streets of the capital city? 

The voice cast includes former Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker as narrator, alongside the voices of Rob Brydon, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísú, Cariad Lloyd, Joanna Scanlan and Susan Wokoma. 

Ghosts Christmas special, Christmas Day, 7.45pm, BBC One

Ghosts Christmas special 2023 gather around with Mike wearing a festive hat and Alison reading A Christmas carol

The Ghosts Christmas special brings us one last visit to Button House. (Image credit: BBC)

Ghosts season 5 was previously believed to be the end of the beloved comedy, but the BBC has announced there’s "one last present under the Christmas tree" for fans to enjoy with the Ghosts Christmas special 2023

Christmas is just around the corner and Mike’s mum, Betty is staying. Although she is just trying to be helpful, Mike and Alison soon lose patience with her interfering ways. There’s no easy way to ask her to go home so the couple (and the Ghosts) struggle on, with Button House feeling fuller than ever.

Just as Betty announces she’s heading home she suspects there is something wrong at Button House. This triggers a U-turn – Betty resolves that she cannot leave until the house is safe. Desperate, Mike and Alison must recruit the Ghosts to start Operation Bye Bye Betty! The Ghosts soon realise however that they may have more in common with Betty than they first thought. The whole experience inspires the Ghosts to reflect, and a big decision awaits them all.

Doctor Who Christmas special 2023, Christmas Day, 5.55pm, BBC One

Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) and The 15th Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) in The Doctor Who Christmas Special 2023

Ruby Sunday and The 15th Doctor will arrive in The Doctor Who Christmas Special 2023. (Image credit: Lara Cornell/BBC Studios/Bad Wolf)

Doctor Who fans are in for a festive treat this Christmas because the Doctor Who Christmas special 2023 is on the way. While plot details are being kept tightly under wraps for now, we do know that the festive episode will be called 'The Church on Ruby Road'. 

The only insight we've had so far is that the Christmas Special will see Ncuti Gatwa taking over from David Tennant after the Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials and that the 15th Doctor will be crossing paths with Ruby Sunday as they set off for their first adventure. 

Beyond Paradise Christmas special, Christmas Eve, 9pm, BBC One

Humphrey Goodman (KRIS MARSHALL) and Martha Lloyd (SALLY BRETTON) wearing a Christmas hat in the Beyond Paradise Christmas special 2023

Beyond Paradise is getting its first festive special.  (Image credit: BBC / Red Planet Pictures / Joss Barratt)

Beyond Paradise is enjoying its first-ever Christmas special this year, following in the footsteps of its sister show, Death in Paradise.

Details of the Beyond Paradise Christmas special 2023 are being kept tightly under wraps for now, but with Humphrey and Martha reunited in Saint Marie at the end of the first series, it looks like the wedding is back on. But will they make it down the aisle? Well, it would be a pretty bleak Christmas if they didn’t! And surely, there will also be a big case for Humphrey to solve to keep him busy. And will Archie, Martha’s former fiancee, throw a spanner in the works?

Not Going Out Christmas special 2023, Christmas Eve, 10 pm, BBC One

Posed shot of the main cast in festive form in front of a Christmas tree.

The Not Going Out Christmas special is also the show's 100th episode.  (Image credit: BBC/Avalon/Pete Dadds)

The Not Going Out Christmas Special 2023 sees Lee wanting to put on the perfect family Christmas! The aim is to have a "normal Christmas where nothing goes wrong". Of course, they deserve some luck after all in previous Christmas escapades they've got stuck in a haunted house and trapped in a shop with a gun-wielding robber. Feeling charitable, they invite Wilfred, a lonely pensioner from a nearby care home, to join them for Christmas dinner. They just need to make sure Wilfred doesn't have a drop of alcohol or things might turn messy…

Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas and New Year specials, Christmas Day, 10.45pm and New Year's Day, 10pm,  BBC One

The Mrs Brown's Boys cast gathered around the dining table for the Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special 2023

Mrs Brown and her gang are back for another festive special.  (Image credit: BBC Studios / Elaine Livingston)

Mammy (Brendan O'Carroll) and her chaotic clan are back with Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas and New Year specials 2023

The Christmas special is titled Mammy's Mare. With Cathy cooking Christmas dinner, a sentimental horse ornament going missing, two last-minute guests and an Australian-sourced tree, this festive visit to Finglas has more jokes than a Christmas cracker factory. In the opening scenes, there's a chill in the air as (brave!) Cathy (Jennifer Gibney) kicks her mum out of her own kitchen but, before the credits roll, Agnes (Brendan O’Carroll) is rocking around the Christmas tree in delight!

Meanwhile, New Year, New Mammy sees Agnes and co attempting to start 2024 off right with a health and fitness routine, but how successful will it be? If laughter is the best medicine there's a healthy dose of comedy on show here (and some rather fetching shell suits!) as Mrs Brown and the gang turn their attention to getting fit for 2024. 

Stacey Solomon’s Crafty Christmas, Thursday, December 14, 8pm, BBC One - catch up on iPlayer

Stacey Solomon holding a Christmas wreath in Stacey Solomon’s Crafty Christmas

Stacey Solomon is getting crafty once again this Christmas.  (Image credit: BBC/Optomen TV/Mark Dolman)

Stacey Solomon returns with another hour-long Christmas special, Stacey Solomon’s Crafty Christmas, where friends and family join her to create a new batch of ingenious homemade gifts and decorations that she hopes will bring joy without blowing the budget. 

This year she’ll be making even more gifts as she throws a special Christmas party to say thank you to the volunteers in the local area who have been working through the year to help those in need... and with her husband Joe being Joe, and five kids to keep occupied, Stacey will need all of the help she can get. Together with her boys, sister, the local WI, and with a special appearance from her 90-plus grandmother and professional organiser and Sort Your Life Out co-star Dilly Carter, it’s time to put everyone to work. Can Stacey pull off her most ambitious Christmas craft party yet?

The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Christmas Special, Thursday, December 21, 9pm, BBC One

Patrick Grant, Kiell Smith-Bynoe, Esme Young wearing santa hats and holding presents for the The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Christmas Special 2023

Kiell joins Patrick and Esme for the Sewing Bee Christmas episode. (Image credit: BBC/Love Productions/Paul Andrews)

Esme Young and Patrick Grant are back for another festive special as they put four new celebrities to the test in The Great British Sewing Bee Christmas Special 2023.

Brand new host, Ghosts star and former Christmas Special sewer, Kiell Smith-Bynoe is joined by actor, musician Toyah Willcox, actor and comedian Kerry Godliman, comedian and writer Jessica Knappett and actor Hammed Animashaun as they put their twist on a pattern for a Christmas stocking. They then turn puffer jackets into food-themed fancy dress for kids and finally create an outfit fit for their dream Christmas Day.

Nigella’s Amsterdam Christmas, Thursday, December 21, 8pm, BBC One

Nigella Lawson in a kitchen with fairy lights for Nigella's Amsterdam Christmas

Nigela is whipping up a storm in the kitchen this Christmas.  (Image credit: BBC Studios / Jay Brooks)

Nigella’s Amsterdam Christmas sees Nigella Lawson bringing Dutch joy to viewers as she visits her favourite places in Amsterdam and shows us the city's special festive atmosphere and sense of enchantment.

Nigella has a long history with Amsterdam and her family ties go back generations, with her many visits to the city bringing up fond memories of lights reflecting in the canals, the sights of people huddled against the cold drinking Claret Cup, the smells of spice-sweet and fruited breads and the crunch of icing-laced cookies.

This special will follow the tried and tested Nigella approach – alongside her unique narrative storytelling which viewers love.

Lot No. 249, Christmas Eve at 10 pm on BBC Two

Colin Ryan, Kit Harrington and Freddie Fox in A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No. 249

There are spooky goings on in Lot No. 249 this Christmas.  (Image credit: BBC)

Christmas wouldn't be complete without a ghost story, and Lot No. 249 sees Sherlock creator Mark Gatiss adapting another classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story.

It’s 1881, and Old College, Oxford plays host to three very different academics. Abercrombie Smith is a model of Victorian manhood, clean of limb and sound of mind. Monkhouse Lee is a delicate and unworldly student from Thailand. And occupying the rooms between them is the strange and exotic Edward Bellingham, whose unnatural research into the secrets of ancient Egypt is the talk of the college. Can Bellingham’s experiments truly bring the breath of life to the horrifying bag of bones that is the mysterious Lot No 249?

Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off 2023, Wednesday, December 20 at 9 pm and Thursday, December 28 at 8 pm, BBC One 

Duncan James, Faye Winter, Melanie Blatt, Richard Blackwood from Celebrity MasterChef: Christmas Cook-Off 2023

Who will win the Golden Whisk? (Image credit: BBC/Shine TV)

The Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Cook-Off 2023 sees another set of stars heading into the kitchen to try and impress John Torode and Gregg Wallace and see whether their culinary skills are enough to earn them the Golden Whisk.

The 2023 festive special will see singer Melanie Blatt, EastEnders and Hollyoaks star Richard Blackwood, Blue star Duncan James and Love Island 2021 finalist Faye Winter tasked with serving up a recipe inspired by Australia's sunnier climate (which will be judged by a very special guest!) and then their culinary skills will be put to the test as they whip up a classic Christmas dinner!

ITV

The Masked Singer Christmas special 2023, Christmas Day, 7.30pm, ITV1

Mo Gilligan, Davina McCall, Leona Lewis, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross (L-R) together for The Masked Singer UK Christmas Special 2023

The Masked Singer UK is getting in the festive spirit.  (Image credit: ITV/Bandicoot TV)

Joel Dommett presents The Masked Singer Christmas Special 2023 - the first-ever festive offering of the nation's favourite guessing game. 

We will see four more famous faces hidden under some extra special festive costumes, and all we have to do is work out who is under them! Rita Ora, Jonathan Ross, Mo Gilligan and Davina McCall are back on the panel and, in a festive twist, we also know that the four celebs will be joined by popstar, Leona Lewis!

The festive special will see characters Reindeer, Decorations, Sprout and Partridge (In a Pear Tree) - but we'll have to wait until Christmas Day to find out which celebrities are hiding underneath the masks. 

Vera: The Rising Tide, Boxing Day, 8pm, ITV1

Vera: The Rising Tide is a Christmas special that sees DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) put in danger.

Brenda Blethyn is back as DCI Vera Stanhope this Christmas.  (Image credit: ITV)

It may be Christmas, but this doesn’t mean that DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) can slow down and enjoy a bit of Secret Santa in the Vera Christmas special 2023 - instead, the apparent suicide of Rick Kelasall sees Vera’s boss insist that she takes a look into the case as it’s a high-profile death on Holy Island and that’s her home stomping ground. 

Vera soon finds out that there is more to Rick’s death than initially suspected and that he was murdered - Rick had been attending a reunion with old friends, a ritual they have all stayed true to for over 40 years. Had one of those at the reunion been holding a grudge for all these years and finally snapped? And how far will the killer or killers go to cover their tracks? Could Vera and her team also be in danger, and will they all see Christmas?

Nolly, Wednesday, December 27, 9pm, ITV1

Helena Bonham Carter as Nolly

Helena Bonham Carter as Nolly. (Image credit: Quay Street Productions/ITV)

This three-part drama, starring Helena Bonham Carter, shines a spotlight on 1980s TV icon Noele Gordon, the Queen of the Midlands, a star who could be tough, haughty, and imperious, grandly sweeping into rehearsals from her Rolls Royce, but also a hard-working actress who was fiercely loyal and loved by cast and crew alike. 

And, at last, the biggest question can be answered — why was she sacked from Crossroads so abruptly? Nolly reveals the truth, the consequences, and the legacy of that terrible day.

Having first aired on ITVX in February 2023 Nolly is now coming to ITV this Christmas. 

Channel 4

The Great British Bake Off festive specials 2023, Christmas Eve at 8.15 pm and New Year’s Day at 7.40 pm on Channel 4

Paul Hollywood, Dame Prue Leith, Noel Fielding and Alison Hammond stand behind Mark, Maxy, Maggue and Jurgen who are wearing tinsel and stars in the tent in The Great British Bake Off.

Bake off is getting a festive twist!  (Image credit: Channel 4/Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions)

Paul Hollywood and Dame Prue Leith will be on hand to judge the bakers’ offerings as usual, while hosts Noel Fielding and Alison Hammond will oversee proceedings in not one, but two, Great British Bake Off festive specials 2023.

The Great Christmas Bake Off will see Sophie (the series eight winner), Dan (series 9), Amelia (series 10), Linda (series 11), George (series 12) and Carole (series 13) return to whip up Yuletide bakes - but who will be crowned festive baker when they take on mince pies for the Signature Challenge, tackle a tricky Technical and bake a Redemption Cake in the Showstopper?

Meanwhile, in The Great New Year Bake Off, Mark (series 11), Jürgen (series 12), Maggie (series 12) and Maxy (series 13) brandish their wooden spoons once more to celebrate Hogmanay with some tasty offerings. The special episode sees the bakers make stacked choux buns for a religieuse in the Signature, before they face another fiendish Technical and then make a ‘Smash Cake’  inside a chocolate shell for the Showstopper.

Mog's Christmas, Christmas Eve at 7.45pm on Channel 4

Mog’s Christmas arrives on Channel 4 for Christmas 2023.

Mog’s Christmas arrives on Channel 4 for Christmas 2023. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Mog’s Christmas arrives on Channel 4 for the festive season, following the success of the 2019 adaptation of The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Classic feline Mog was created by much-loved children’s author Judith Kerr and this animation will come alive with voices from a stellar cast. Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh will narrate, while The Crown star Claire Foy voices Mog’s owner Mrs Thomas and Benedict Cumberbatch voices her husband, Mr Thomas. Miriam Margolyes plays an aunt who visits the Thomas family at Christmas, leaving their cat Mog feeling excluded. 

The storyline sees Mr Thomas bring a huge Christmas tree into the house, making Mog panic and scramble onto the roof. The Thomas family try everything to rescue her but Mog refuses to come down, and despite everyone’s fears for her safety, she has a magical night in the snow and a cat-themed Christmas dream. 

Channel 5

All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special 2023, Thursday, 21 December at 9pm on Channel 5 

Nicholas Ralph and Rachel Shenton in the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas Special

Nicholas Ralph and Rachel Shenton in the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas Special. (Image credit: Channel 5)

The All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special 2023 will carry on the story from the end of All Creatures Great and Small season 4, and with James away at war there promises to be plenty of drama.

At the end of the series, Helen had feared that she had lost the baby after an incident on the family farm, but thankfully she's ok. She's now back at Skeldale with Siegfried and Mrs Hall, who decided to stay put and not to head off to the Lakes with Gerald. 

Might Siegfried finally wake up to the fact that Mrs Hall could be the one? Or will he just carry on being a bit grouchy? Knowing Siegfried we'd go with the latter, but the fact Mrs Hall is still there gives us hope of a kiss under the mistletoe for the pair! 

The Madame Blanc Mysteries Christmas Special 2023, Friday, December 22 at 9pm on Channel 5

A cast shot from The Madame Blanc Mysteries Christmas special 2023, showing Robin Askwith as Jeremy, Sue Holderness as Judith, Sally Lindsay as Jean, Steve Edge as Dom, Sue Vincent as Gloria and Alex Gaumond as Caron, all standing outside the door of a grand-looking building, bordered by lush vegetation

The Madame Blanc Mysteries Christmas special 2023 is here!  (Image credit: Channel 5)

The Madame Blanc Mysteries Christmas special 2023 is here — and while there may not be any snow in the fictional southern France village of Sainte Victoire, there's definitely plenty of mystery and mayhem over the festive season!

Christmas is approaching in Sainte Victoire, and Judith and Jeremy have arranged for their friends to attend a murder mystery night at a hotel with something of a spooky history, so Jean, Dom, Caron, Judith, Jeremy and Gloria set off to stay at the Hotel Sanguinet.

But once there, a terrible storm breaks out unexpectedly, and as the murder mystery event begins, things take a terrible turn when an actual murder is committed! Jean is determined to solve the mystery and decides to look around the hotel with Dom — so will she unmask the killer and get to the bottom of the ghostly goings-on that have haunted the hotel for many years?

Sky 

A Very Brassic Christmas, Thursday, December 21 on Sky Max & Sky Showcase

A Very Brassic Christmas Joe Gilgun Greg Davies Imelda Staunton

They're back!  (Image credit: SkyMax)

Sweary Santas, erratic elves and some very unwise men can mean only one thing… Vinnie, Erin and their gang of loveable rogues are up to some festive high jinks in A Very Brassic Christmas

It's the nightmare before Christmas for Vinnie (Joe Gilgun), as he gets a frantic call from Dr Chris (Dominic West), who’s sunning himself abroad, to say his aunt Edie is in crisis. As it’s the season of goodwill, Vinnie agrees to keep an eye on Aunt Edie over the festive season - but has he met his match? All your favourite characters are back for this festive special, along with some special guests, including Imelda Staunton! 

The Heist Before Christmas, Christmas Eve at 8pm on Sky Max

Heist Before Christmas

James Nesbitt stars as Bad Santa!  (Image credit: SKY)

The Heist Before Christmas is a heartwarming festive comedy drama starring Timothy Spall and James Nesbitt who play Santas with very different agendas. 

Set in Northern Ireland, 12-year-old Mikey Collins witnesses a bank robbery by a man dressed as Santa Claus, so he decides to follow the criminal, only to meet a man claiming to be the real Father Christmas. But Mikey becomes determined to get his hands on the bank robber's cash, so he can give his family the Christmas they all crave. However, as Mikey risks everything for the loot, will the spirit of Christmas hit him?

If you are looking for more to watch, check out our guide to the best Christmas films on TV this festive season including Christmas Day and Boxing Day 2023.

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 


After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off


She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 


As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.