Updated on April 23, 2022
During the holidays, I enjoy watching my favorite animated Christmas specials, including the “big three”: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the original animated version, not the feature-length remakes). However, one thing these and other favorite holiday specials have in common is the lack of diversity in their casts.
Thus, here’s a look at some animated holiday specials (or holiday episodes of ongoing TV shows) that feature or star people of color. While most of these are Christmas related, a few include other seasonal holidays.
Note home video availability is just in the United States; those outside the US might want to check with the website JustWatch for streaming/digital availability in their country.
The first season of the Adult Swim series (based on the newspaper comic strip of the same name) features the episode “A Huey Freeman Christmas.” Here, Huey heads the school Christmas play, but runs into trouble with the school administration, due to Huey’s condition that Jesus is portrayed as Black.
The entire series, including this episode, is available on HBO Max. It’s also available on DVD (but not to buy digitally).
This spin-off of Nickelodeon’s “The Loud House” has its own Christmas episode, as seen in the 2020 episode “A Very Casagrandes Christmas.” The plot sees Ronnie Anne hoping for the best Christmas Eve ever, but things go awry.
The episode’s not available on any streaming services (or DVD) at this time. (Paramount+ as of this writing only has the first 10 episodes of “The Casagrandes.”) However, it is available to buy digitally through Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, or Vudu.
Disney Junior’s “Doc McStuffins” has two separate Christmas episodes:
- “A Very McStuffins Christmas,” from the second season. Doc and the toys accompany an elf to Santa’s workshop to repair a Christmas gift for her brother.
- “The Doc McStuffins Christmas Special,” from the fifth and final season. Doc saves Christmas through the power of time travel.
Both episodes are available to watch on Hulu and Disney+. They’re also available to buy digitally (on Google Play and Apple TV), but (as far as I can find) not on DVD.
Dora the Explorer
Nickelodeon’s Dora has several holiday episodes:
- “A Present for Santa,” from season two. Dora and Boots go to the North Pole to bring Santa a gift.
- “Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure,” from season five. At Dora’s nochebuena party, Swiper ends up landing on Santa’s naughty list. The only way to get him off the list? Time travel for Dora, Swiper, and company, including visiting their past and future selves. (Which seems a bit complicated of a plot for a show aimed at preschoolers?)
- “Dora Saves Three Kings Day,” from season five. Basically what the title says; it’s also the only special I can think of that’s about Three Kings Day (aka Epiphany), a holiday that falls on January 6 and (basically) marks the complete end of the Christmas holiday season. The song “The 12 Days of Christmas” refers to the period between Christmas and Epiphany/Three Kings Day.
All of these “Dora” episodes are available on Paramount+. The episodes are also available to buy digitally and on DVD.
Elena of Avalor
This Disney Channel series features the adventures of Elena, a young Latina princess of a fictional (but Latin American-influenced) kingdom. The show ran from 2016 to 2020, and had two holiday episodes:
- “Navidad,” from season one.
- “Snow Place Like Home” from season two.
Both episodes are available on Disney+, and to buy digitally. “Navidad” is also available on DVD.
Molly of Denali
PBS’ “Molly of Denali” features a few holiday themed episodes:
- “Tooey’s Hole-i-day Sweater”: Molly and Tooey try to repair a hole in Tooey’s holiday sweater.
- “The Shortest BIrthday”: The gang celebrate Trini’s birthday, which falls on December 21, the same day as the winter solstice.
Borth episodes show the residents of Qyah celebrate a variety of winter holidays. Along with Christmas and the winter solstice, Connie (the kids’ canoe coach) has a menorah in her window. Trini and her father also have decorations for Kwanzaa; the holiday’s trademark candles are seen in their living room window. Interestingly, neither episode mentions Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah by name, just “the holidays.”
Both episodes are usually available on the PBS Kids streaming app during December. Otherwise, they’re available for sale digitally. Neither episode is available on DVD.
The Proud Family
“The Proud Family” ran on Disney Channel from 2001 to 2005, but only had one holiday episode. The first season episode “The Seven Days of Kwanzaa” sees the Proud family celebrate, and learn about the true meaning of, both Christmas and Kwanzaa.
The episode’s available on Disney+, as well as digitally. The show isn’t available on DVD (save its series-ending TV movie).
Nickelodeon’s original “Rugrats” run featured several episodes about Jewish holidays (Passover and Hanukkah), as well as a Christmas episode. The show also had an episode about Kwanzaa. In season seven’s “A Rugrats Kwanzaa,” Susie’s great-aunt pays her family a visit, with Susie (and the babies) learning about Kwanzaa.
“A Rugrats Kwanzaa” is available to watch on Paramount+. It’s also available to buy digitally. The episode’s also on the show’s season 7 DVD set (now out of print).
The Snowy Day
An animated adaptation of Ezra Jack Keat’s 1962 classic children’s book “The Snowy Day.” In the special, a young boy, Peter, excitedly explores his New York City neighborhood after a big snowfall on Christmas Eve.
The special won two Daytime Emmys in 2017. It features some celebrity voices, including Angela Bassett, Regina King, and Laurence Fishburne, as well as a song sung by 90s R&B group Boyz II Men.
“The Snowy Day” is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. It’s not available to buy digitally or on DVD.
“Static Shock” ran on the WB network from 2000 to 2004. The second season episode “Frozen Out” sees Virgil face off against a new foe, “Permafrost”—a teenage girl with ice powers. However, Permafrost’s motivations aren’t as malicious as they first appear.
The episode stands out for focusing on the subject of homelessness. Along with showing Virgil celebrating Christmas, the episode also features other holidays, including Hanukkah and (in a rarity for children’s animation, even today) Ramadan.
“Frozen Out” is available on HBO Max. It’s also available to buy digitally and on the show’s second season DVD set.
Photo by Any Lane (Pexels)