For many of us, it’s the part of Christmas day that we look forward to the most. The lunch is eaten, presents are opened and heads are fuzzy from the fair amount of alcohol that’s been consumed slowly throughout the day (what’s Christmas without a glass of sherry or three?)

The family gathers on the sofa ready to be entertained by the jam-packed festive TV schedule that studio bosses have been meticulously planning for months. It’s that rare time of year when everything that’s on the box pre-9pm is family orientated, designed for those of us sitting with multiple generations of relatives and looking for something that everyone can enjoy- whether that’s a cartoon like Wallace and Gromit or the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special.

But despite all the exciting new stuff, there are still those famous episodes that are repeated every year in the run-up to Christmas and that keep people talking – or laughing – for years after they’ve aired. Whether it’s a special celebrity guest appearance or a particularly traumatic event, the best Christmas specials snap you out of your post-turkey dinner, pre-turkey sandwich haze to leave you moved, shocked or – in some cases – helpless with laughter.

We’ve whittled down our top 5 Christmas TV moments (from a very long list) to bring you what we think are some of the best TV specials in recent years. From unexpected exits to welcoming new faces, the list highlights British TV at its best.

The Vicar of Dibley: The Christmas Lunch Incident- 1996

Who could forget this episode? Feeling guilt and a heavy sense of Christian charity the vicar, Geraldine, agrees to go to three different Christmas lunches with various Dibley residents. Hilarity ensues at the vicar’s reactions as each meal seems to be bigger than the last, and just when you think she might be defeated, she is challenged to a sprout-eating contest and pulls through victorious.

Finally, too full to walk, the vicar hitches a lift home on a bulldozer and sleeps off the afternoon’s overindulgence.

The Royle Family: The New Sofa- 2008

In a rare change of scenery the Royles venture out of the comfort of their living room for this episode, to the home of their daughter Denise who – inspired by Nigella Lawson – has decided to cook Christmas dinner for her parents and in-laws this year.

With the promise of Cup-a-Soup ‘with a twist’ (it’s in a bowl) and roasties cooked to perfection with ‘a knob of Stork’ (which turns out to be the whole block) the Royle’s turn up and admire Dave and Denise’s new reclining sofa while they wait for their food. But, with the turkey still frozen an hour before everyone arrives and guests who refuse to stick to Denise’s carefully planned schedule of ‘mingling’, the day doesn’t quite go as well as hoped.

Downton Abbey: Christmas Special 2012

Even though Downton Abbey is known for its dramatic storylines and complex characters, nothing could have prepared viewers for Matthew’s shocking and unexpected departure in the Christmas day special of 2012.

After a turbulent few series’ focussing on the outbreak of war and the death of Sybil after childbirth, this episode seemed to take quite a welcome turn as the family spent the holiday together, free from the threat of war, with Matthew and Mary finally married and now expectant parents.

Even when Mary goes into early labour and is forced to rush home to give birth, nothing can squash the feeling of contentment and hope for the residents of the big house. Mary gives birth to a little boy – signalling a more secure future for the Crawley’s of Downton – and an elated Matthew rushes from the hospital to tell the family all about his new son.

But in a tragic twist he crashes his car whilst driving to Downton, and the episode ends in a close up of Matthew lying lifeless and bleeding in a ditch by the side of the road. Viewers everywhere were left heartbroken and shocked by this dramatic and unexpected turn of events.

Only Fools and Horses: Heroes and Villains- 1996

In one of the most well-loved and memorable episodes in the sitcom’s history, Del Boy and Rodney are planning to attend a fancy-dress birthday party as superhero Batman (Del Boy) and his sidekick Robin (Rodney).

On the way to the party their van breaks down so they run the rest of the way, managing to prevent a mugging when they stumble upon thieves and – having emerged unexpectedly through the fog dressed as superheroes – scare them away.

When they get to the party, they find out that the host – whose birthday they should have been celebrating – has died and the ‘party’ is now his wake, a fact they only learn after they’ve rushed into the room singing the Batman theme.

Dr Who: The Christmas Invasion- 2005

The Christmas Invasion was the first full episode to star tenth doctor David Tennant, and was also the very first Christmas special in Doctor Who’s history.

The new doctor doesn’t have much to do in the episode – he’s undergoing the regeneration process and is unconscious and bed-ridden – so the rest of the world is left to face an alien invasion without his help.

When the Doctor finally wakes up, he heroically fights off the threat in his pyjamas and dressing gown, winning the trust of his companion Rose who was initially wary of his transformation. The episode was a success and started off David Tennant’s reign as the Doctor with a bang.

He would go on to play the role for a further three series’ and became one of the best-loved and longest-running doctors in the show’s history. Since The Christmas Invasion, there has been a Doctor Who Christmas special every year.

As much as we enjoy working behind-the scenes installing TV and broadcast studios, nothing quite beats sitting in front of the TV enjoying the finished product, and this year’s Christmas schedule looks set to be as packed and entertaining as ever.

You can look forward to the usual treats like Downton Abbey and Eastenders, but as well as this there’s special Christmas episodes of Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys plus plenty of family-films to look forward to throughout the day, so you’re bound to find something that all of the family can enjoy!

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