It’s time to sing the carols. It’s time to light the tree. It’s time to watch A Muppet Family Christmas on YouTube on repeat! Premiering on ABC 29 years ago today — Dec. 16, 1987 — the all-star Muppet mash-up is the only Christmas special you need to watch this, or any other, holiday season. Made three years prior to Jim Henson’s untimely death, the hourlong program brings together beloved characters from all four shows that made up his puppet empire in the ‘80s: The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Muppet Babies, and Fraggle Rock. That makes it the rare opportunity to see, say, Rizzo the Rat checking out Oscar the Grouch’s trash can abode or Kermit paying a visit to Fraggle territory.
It’s worth noting that sightings of A Muppet Family Christmas are also rare: The special’s VHS and DVD releases are long out of print, and the streaming rights haven’t been acquired by any of the major services, like Netflix or Hulu. In contrast, other Henson holiday specials — including 1977’s Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas and 1982’s John Denver and the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday — are still in circulation. Fortunately, A Muppet Family Christmas can be found in its entirety, and in decent quality no less, on YouTube. Watch the special below and read on for our 12 favorite moments, one for each day of Christmas.
1) Wocka wocka Mama!
Poor Ma Bear: All she wants to do is escape the cold weather by jetting off to Malibu, even renting out her home to kindly inventor Doc and his trusty canine companion, Sprockets, for the holiday. But then her wisecracking son shows up with all of his friends in tow, and, just like that, her vacation becomes a staycation. At least she handles it all with good humor … something that bad joke expert Fozzie definitely didn’t inherit from her.
2) Git along little dogies
While Sprocket and Rowlf don’t speak the same canine dialect, they do bond over the universal language of an out-of-tune piano. Keep your ears peeled for their double album, Songs in the Key of Arf.
3) Do you want to build a snowman?
Finally, we’ve discovered the missing link between Frosty the Snowman and Frozen’s warm hug-loving Olaf! After hearing the familiar strains of “Sleigh Ride,” the snowman that Fozzie builds in his front yard comes to life and sings along. What a cool guy.
4) Baby days
The Muppet Babies were three years into the run of their beloved animated series when they resurfaced in their original puppet form — as seen in the 1984 classic, The Muppets Take Manhattan — in A Muppet Family Christmas. Seeing those cute little faces again really puts the “awww” in “awesome.”
5) Fresh baked
Groovy Electric Mayhem guitarist Janice learns the hard way that you should never walk past Cookie Monster carrying a plate of fresh-baked num-nums. Given her own mellow disposition, we can only imagine what special ingredient she “baked” into those cookies.
6) Pageant players
Bert and Ernie take center stage in the Sesame Street crew’s contribution to the party, a version of the classic poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Bert’s complaining aside, it’s a perfectly pleasant pageant, boasting unconventional casting choices like noisy Grover as a quiet mouse and the Two-Headed Monster as Santa Claus. That means double the presents, right?
7) Big Bird — it’s what’s for dinner
Unable to pin down a rogue turkey for the big holiday feast, the Swedish Chef’s eyes widen when he realizes he could substitute Big Bird for the menu instead. Fortunately, the oblivious yellow giant is able to use his size to (accidentally) protect himself, and then introduces his kitchen mate to a new gourmet food: chocolate-covered bird seed.
8) Piggy power
Miss Piggy doesn’t just have an iron will — she’s got muscles of steel, too. Trapped in a serious storm on her way to Ma Bear’s house, the porcine superhero single-handedly strains to shove her taxi out of a snowbank. Refusing to be defeated by the elements, she switches to a dog sleigh and makes a grand entrance just in time for the final sing-along.
9) Everyone’s a critic (especially these two)
Color us unsurprised that Ma Bear is best buds with mouthy duo Statler and Waldorf. It’s just not a party without someone dropping snark-bombs like “The snowman is ice-cold, and the bear’s not so hot!”
10) Fun with Fraggles
Fraggle Rock had wrapped up its five-season run in March 1987, followed by a short-lived animated series that aired its final episode mere weeks before A Muppet Family Christmas hit. That makes their appearance here an inadvertent farewell to our favorite gaggle of Fraggles. Hey, Netflix: you’ve already revived Full House and One Day at a Time. Here’s the next ‘80s favorite we want to see again.
11) The Muppets unplugged
To cap off the festivities, the entire Muppet extended family assembles for a nearly 10-minute medley of classic carols. Everyone gets a moment to show off their singing voice … even Beeker.
12) We heart Henson
The last line of the special belongs, appropriately enough, to Jim Henson, who looks on with fatherly pride as his “children” enjoy each other’s company. His cameo is the last, and best, gift of A Muppet Family Christmas.