The best Christmas TV specials ever

Christmas specials are a cornerstone of the festive TV schedules. (BBC/Channel 4/Netflix)

It is an unarguable fact that one of the most positive things about Christmas is the television. Popular TV shows offer up seasonal episodes, the best films are put into the schedule and the old Christmas favourites come out.

The most enduring of the best Christmas specials of all time have often been comedies, as they are something the UK does so well. Many have become seasonal classics.

Read more: BBC One confirms schedule for Christmas Day

This year notably sees the return of Gavin and Stacey after nearly a whole decade as Ruth Jones and James Corden have brought the beloved characters back for a one-off episode set to air on Christmas Day. But (and in no particular order) what about the ghosts of Christmas specials past?

Only Fools and Horses Christmas trilogy (1996)

Del and Rodney accidentally went as Batman and Robin to a wake. (Netflix)

The first episode of the 1996 Christmas trilogy of the classic sitcom gives viewers the iconic Batman and Robin scene from Del Boy and Rodney when they have to run to a fancy dress party after their van breaks down – only to find out the party is cancelled and they’ve turned up to a wake instead.

The following episode on 27 December hits a more sombre note as Rodney's wife Cassandra suffers a miscarriage, leading to an emotional breakdown for the pair.

Then everything finally comes full circle in the 29 December instalment Time On Our Hands as Rodney and Del Boy go from rags to riches when they discover they are in possession of a sought-after antique watch.

Gavin and Stacey Christmas special (2008)

The Gavin and Stacey 2008 special brought Christmas to Billericay. (BBC)

While Gavin and Stacey is returning to screens this year for the first time in almost a decade with a Christmas special, it isn't the first seasonal instalment for the comedy.

The 2008 festive episode gets to grips with some of the most relatable aspects of a family Christmas, including turkey troubles and Christmas card conundrums.

Read more: Ruth Jones reveals her extreme bid to keep Gavin and Stacey reunion plot a secret

One of the stand-out moments from the episode is when Nessa and Dave give everyone a Celebration each as a present, with Gwen ending up with the Bounty. Poor Gwen.

Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014)

Jon Hamm starred in the Black Mirror Christmas special. (Netflix)

Although far from being fun festive fare, the Black Mirror special White Christmas offered an alternative to anyone suffering from seasonal overload.

The horror of human nature are brought forth in a three-stories-in-one package as Jon Hamm's character Matt recounts some tales to Joe, played by Rafe Spall, in a snowbound country cottage.

The chilling reason as to why the two men are there, in true Black Mirror fashion, is only revealed at the end, when Wizzard's classic I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday ends up being manipulated as a torture device. Merry Christmas.

Father Ted: A Christmassy Ted (1996)

Father Ted and a gaggle of priests got stuck in a lingerie department. (Channel 4)

The unforgettable scenes of a group of priests struggling to find their way out of a lingerie department before being led to safety by Ted cements Father Ted's Christmas special's place firmly on the list.

Read more: ITV unveils full Christmas Day listings

It offers up plenty of other classic moments too, including Mrs Doyle's devastation at having being bought a tea-maker and Dougal's terrible attempt to conduct a funeral service.

The Vicar of Dibley: The Christmas Lunch Incident (1996)

The Vicar of Dibley is a Christmas classic. (BBC)

Vicar Geraldine Granger is forced to eat an ungodly amount of Christmas dinners in the festive special as she receives numerous invitations she just can’t turn down.

Dawn French's hilarious performance as the overly satiated clergywoman, who is so full she's forced to get a taxi just a few hundred yards, makes the episode a Christmas classic.

The Office Christmas specials (2003)

Dawn and Tim finally got together in the second episode of the Christmas double bill. (BBC/Netflix)

The Office had aired just two highly-acclaimed seasons before creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant said no more would be made. However, they did make two final episodes to tie up all the loose ends over Christmas 2003.

Read more: Brendan O'Carroll hints at new full series of Mrs Brown's Boys

Viewers finally saw will-they-won't-they couple Dawn and Tim get together with their story ending with Dawn finally realising how she felt about Tim.

The Royle Family Christmas special (1999)

Jim was the only one there to help Denise in the 1999 Christmas special. (Netflix)

The Royle Family has aired several Christmas instalments over the years but the best of them is arguably the very first, from 1999.

Denise goes into labour while everyone else is out of the house, and it's up to Jim to help his daughter through it. The emotional moment between the grouchy patriarch and his daughter produces one of the most touching moments ever seen in sitcom and the genius of the late, great Caroline Aherne is felt throughout.