From ‘A Christmas Story’ to ‘The Hangover': TheWrap's 2012 Guide to Essential Holiday Viewing

This holiday season, make sure to spend plenty of time with loved ones — such as that kid from "A Christmas Story"

With the holidays upon us, you're going to have a lot of time on your hands — that is, when you're not busy shopping, traveling, entertaining guests, reveling and recovering from said revelry.

What better way to kill off the abundance of downtime than by plopping yourself in front of the television for some fine, holiday-themed programming? Herewith, TheWrap presents your best viewing bets this year. (Where times aren't noted, please check your local listings.)

MARATHONS

ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas: ABC Family is the network equivalent of your overzealous aunt who starts her Christmas shopping in June. For its annual "25 Days of Christmas" extravaganza, the network began running nonstop holiday programming on Dec. 1. You'd be insane to try to have taken it all in. But Christmas Eve, when the network airs such classics as "The Santa Clause" trilogy, "Home Alone" and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," is as good an entry point as any.

The Hallmark Channel: Every day is Christmas at the Hallmark Channel, which is pretty much running continuous holiday programming this time of year. It includes "A Bride for Christmas," "Matchmaker Santa," "A Christmas Wedding Tail," and "A Princess for Christmas."

DEC. 24

"A Christmas Story": TBS's 24-hour marathon of the 1983 comedy (beginning at 8/7c Christmas Eve) is a cherished annual tradition for millions. If you're not one of them, you should probably consider shooting your eye out with a Red Ryder BB gun.

"Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Featuring Jane Seymour and Nathan Gunn": Tired of punks like Michael Buble and Blake Shelton clogging up the airwaves with their holiday musical specials? Allow the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to rock you gently with some boss tunes on PBS.

"Christmas Eve at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome": Once upon a time, back before retailers began setting up their Christmas displays in August, the holiday used to be about something more than rampant consumerism. Let NBC take you back to that long-gone time at 11:34/10:34c.

"Pawn Stars": A History Channel is airing 20 consecutive hours of "Pawn Stars," which started at 8/7c this morning. Because what better way of reminding yourself how far the holidays are putting you in hock?

"Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale": Want to get an animated start to your Christmas? Cartoon Network will air this yuletide offering, featuring the famous cat and mouse, plus "Abominable Christmas, "Scooby Doo!: Haunted Holidays" and "The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol" over three hours beginning at 3:30/2:30c.

DEC. 25

"Doctor Who: The Snowmen": Matt Smith helps celebrate the holiday in particularly twisted fashion with the "Doctor Who" Christmas special "The Snowmen," which features the Doctor doing battle with an army of pointy-toothed snowmen. The special airs at 9 p.m. on BBC America. As a bonus, the network will run a "Doctor Who" marathon starting at 8/7c.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" He's a mean one, that Mr. Grinch — but he's been enthralling audiences ever since the 1966 release of this animated Dr. Seuss adaptation. And with good reason — directed by master animator Chuck Jones and featuring Boris Karloff in one of his final roles, this is one of the more enduring Christmas specials going. And going. It's on ABC at 8/7c.

"Bad Santa": Admit it — as much as you love the spirit of the holidays, Billy Bob Thornton's portrayal of a drinking, thieving, fornicating shopping-mall Kris Kringle never fails to bring a smile to your face. On Comedy Central at 6 p.m.

DEC. 31

"Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With With Ryan Seacrest": If you insist on staying in and avoiding the crowds this New Year's Eve, your best bet for at least some semblance of revelry is this annual ball-dropping ceremony, which this year features performances from serial dater Taylor Swift and "Call Me Maybe" sensation Carly Rae Jepsen. The festivities officially kick off at 10 p.m. on ABC, but they'll be preceded by the special "New Year's Rockin' Eve Celebrates Dick Clark" at 8. It's the next-best thing to actually gathering with your fellow human beings.

"New Year's Eve With Carson Daly": Of course, Carson Daly's nice, too. Well-groomed. An easy smile. Probably smells faintly of lilacs. He's never done anything to offend you. And you like his show "The Voice," don't you? You're not some kind of freak, are you? (On NBC at 10 p.m.)

"The Walking Dead": Then again, if you're feeling especially misanthropic, AMC is airing a marathon of the first half of season 3 of "The Walking Dead", beginning at 9/8c. It's a good way to ring in the New Year with fantasies of humanity being all but wiped out by an army of marauding zombies. Chances are, if you watch the whole thing, you'll end up feeling a little zombified yourself.

JAN. 1

"Tournament of Roses Parade": The pageantry! The tradition! The roses! NBC and ABC will both be airing Pasadena's crowning moment at 11 a.m., when flowers pretend to be other things as they roll through the street. Plus, this way, you don't have to camp out on the sidewalk all night to watch it, like some fools do.

"The Hangover": If you've celebrated New Year's Eve too aggressively, chances are you'll be feeling pretty sluggish the next day. The ability to perform such tasks as sitting upright will elude you, as will your memory of the previous night's events. As you nurse a recuperative Bloody Mary and ponder the mystery of who installed shag carpeting on your tongue while you were asleep, use whatever remaining energy you have to click over to TBS, where Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and the rest of the "Hangover" over-imbibers will make you feel relatively temperate. "The Hangover" will air four times, beginning at 11/10c.