Updated Dec. 27, 2012, 1:46pm CT
You know it’s the holiday season when the sounds of joyous carols fill the air (and sometimes those sounds start even earlier than the holiday season, with many radio stations kicking into Christmas mode the day after Halloween).
But the radio is not the only place where you can hear holiday music. There are plenty of new and returning music-filled specials hitting the TV airwaves in December, featuring Christmas music of all sorts — from the sacred to the rockin’ — as well as New Year’s specials geared to pump you up for 2013 with a variety of musical performances. Here are some of the top holiday music specials on TV in 2012. All times are Eastern. Programs are subject to change; check back for regular updates and additions.
Sounds of the Seasons: Christmas – Nov. 2-Jan. 6 on Music Choice.
Great Performances: Rod Stewart: Merry Christmas, Baby – Through December on PBS (check local listings). Rod Stewart’s first holiday special features songs from his recent holiday album of the same name. This special features 13 songs, ranging from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to “Auld Lang Syne,” and includes duets with Michael Bublé (“Winter Wonderland”), Cee-Lo Green (“Merry Christmas, Baby”), Mary J. Blige (“We Three Kings”) and even Ella Fitzgerald (“What Are You Doing on New Year’s Eve?”).
Christmas in Rockefeller Center – Nov. 30 at 8pm on NBC. An encore airing of this year’s Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York City, which originally was broadcast Nov. 28. Musical performers in the celebration include Tony Bennett, Scotty McCreery, Mariah Carey, CeeLo Green, Victoria Justice, Chris Mann, Rod Stewart, Trace Adkins and Il Volo.
Blake Shelton’s Not So Family Christmas – Dec. 3 at 10pm; Dec. 14 at 9pm on NBC. The Voice judge Blake Shelton hosts his first Christmas special. The event finds Shelton joined by guest stars Kelly Clarkson, Miranda Lambert and Reba on songs like “Let It Snow,” “Oklahoma Christmas” and more. The special also features Shelton in a duet with his mother, Dorothy Shackleford, with whom he co-wrote the song, “Time for Me to Come Home.”
Christmas at St. Olaf: Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing (encore) – Dec. 9 at 8pm on PBS (check local listings). This production of one of the nation’s most highly acclaimed annual musical celebration marks the 100th anniversary of the annual Christmas Festival from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Featuring St. Olaf’s renowned choirs and orchestra, the program’s blending of compositions highlight selections from previous Christmas Festivals, including excerpts from R.V. Williams Hodie. Additionally, the centennial performance debuts newly commissioned works by American composers André J. Thomas and David N. Childs.
Feliz Navidad Con Los Nuestros… Tony Bennett y Sus Amigos – Dec. 9 at 10pm on Univision. Tony Bennett becomes the first non-Latino artist with a Univision prime-time special, as this program — hosted by Univision’s Giselle Blondet — gives an inside look at the recording of Bennet’s Viva Duets album, including studio performances and segments with Marc Anthony, Romeo Santos, Gloria Estefan, Vicente Fernandez, Thalía, Juan Luis Guerra, Chayanne and more of today’s leading Latin music figures. There will also be new duet performances with Latin stars Shaila Durcal and Armando Manzanero. In addition to performing several of his classic hits, Bennett will usher in the holiday season with a performance of “Silent Night.”
Michael Bublé: Home for the Holidays – Dec. 10 at 10pm; Dec. 21 at 8pm on NBC. Michael Bublé (pictured at top) returns for another Christmas special, this time joined by guest stars Rod Stewart, Blake Shelton and Carly Rae Jepsen, as well as Elmo, on songs such as “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Let It Snow,” “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “Winter Wonderland.” Technical magic also allows Bublé to perform a special duet with Bing Crosby of the iconic “White Christmas.”
Larry’s Country Diner Christmas Special – Dec. 13 and 20 at 8pm on RFD TV. A two-part Christmas special in which friends from Country’s Family Reunion stop by the diner for a Christmas celebration.
Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Featuring Jane Seymour and Nathan Gunn – Dec. 16 at 8pm; Dec. 21 at 9pm; Dec. 24 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress Jane Seymour and Grammy Award-winning baritone Nathan Gunn join the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in a magnificent Christmas special featuring some of the season’s best-loved songs.
A Home for the Holidays With Rascal Flatts – Dec. 19 at 8pm on CBS. Country group Rascal Flatts hosts this 14th installment of the holiday special that tells inspirational stories about adoption from foster care. Rascal Flatts will perform, as will Rachel Crow (whose performance accompanies her personal story about foster-care adoption), Melissa Etheridge, Matchbox Twenty and Phillip Phillips.
CMA Country Christmas – Dec. 20 at 9pm; Dec. 22 at 9pm; Dec. 23 at 4pm on ABC. For the third year, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland hosts this two-hour Christmas special featuring performances from and fireside interviews with Dierks Bentley, Colbie Caillat, Katherine Jenkins, Lady Antebellum (pictured below), John Legend, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Scotty McCreery, The Band Perry and Keith Urban.
Christmas in Washington – Dec. 21 at 8pm on TNT. Conan O’Brien hosts this annual Christmas celebration for the second year. The concert benefits the Children’s National Medical Center, and is attended each year by the president and first lady. Performers this year include Diana Ross, Megan Hilty, Demi Lovato, Chris Mann and Scotty McCreery. And, you can’t even get away from PSY here — the “Gangnam Style” sensation will close out the concert with a special performance.
Christmas at Belmont 2011 (encore) – Dec. 21 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings). Taped at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tennessee, nearly 700 student musicians join host Laura Bell Bundy, the Belmont School of Music faculty and the Nashville Children’s Choir to present this annual production of traditional carols, classical masterworks, world music and light-hearted seasonal favorites. The program features the University Symphony Orchestra, Belmont Chorale, Percussion Ensemble, Musical Theatre, Jazz Ensemble and Bluegrass Ensemble. This seasonal celebration also features a mass choir.
Late Show With David Letterman – Dec. 21 at 11:35pm on CBS. Legendary singer Darlene Love marks her 19th year of performing her classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the broadcast. She is again backed by musical director Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra.
Christmas at Luther: Tidings of Comfort and Joy – Dec. 23 at 8pm on PBS (check local listings). This program celebrates the joy and traditions of Christmas with the renowned choirs of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Holiday music, 500 choristers, a symphony orchestra, thousands in the audience and glowing candlelight capture the wonder and joy of the season as Luther College’s internationally acclaimed musicians mark 31 years of sharing the seasonal gift of music with their annual Christmas concert.
New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Celebrates Dick Clark – Dec. 31 at 8pm on ABC. Before kicking off the New Year’s celebration, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve remembers its namesake and the man who launched it all — Dick Clark, the legend who passed away earlier this year. This two-hour celebration is hosted by Fergie and Jenny McCarthy, and features clips and reminiscences of the man who helped America ring in the New Year for four decades and nurtured the careers of countless artists.
Dick Clark’s Primetime New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2013 – Dec. 31 at 10pm on ABC. Ryan Seacrest hosts this hourlong pre-event from New York, with Jenny McCarthy interviewing revelers in Tims Square. Some of America’s hottest artists and groups will perform throughout the night.
New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly – Dec. 31 at 10pm; Dec. 31 at 11:30pm on NBC. Train will perform “Mermaid” and John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Cassadee Pope, recent winner of The Voice, will also perform, live from Times Square in New York City. The two-hour special will also feature a retrospective of some of the best musical performances from 2012, including Justin Bieber in Mexico City, Coldplay from the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Madonna’s halftime show at the Super Bowl XLVI, Adele from Albert Hall, The Spice Girls from the Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony, PSY from the MTV European Music Awards, Beyonce from World Humanitarian Day and David Guetta from Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro. The program airs in primetime from 10pm-11pm, then continues from 11:30pm-12:30am.
New Year’s Eve Live! – Dec. 31 at 11pm Live on FOX (tape-delayed CT/MT/PT). Broadcast from Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, this special features performances from Lifehouse, Carmen Electra and recent X Factor winner Tate Stevens.
MTV’s Club NYE 2013 – Dec. 31 at 11pm on MTV. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jenni “JWOWW” Farley and comedian Jeff Dye host this year-end bash, featuring performances by Ke$ha, Ne-Yo, Sean Kingston, Rita Ora and Conor Maynard. The Knocks will serve as house DJ. Choreographer Binkie will provide fans step-by-step instructions on mastering the year’s most popular dance moves, and the special will also feature appears by Pretty Little Liars stars Tyler Blackburn and Keegan Allen.
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2013, Part 1 – Dec. 31 at 11:30pm on ABC. Rockin’ Eve gets down to business now, with Seacrest hosting from NYC, and Fergie hosting the West Coast party. In New York, Psy, Carly Rae Jepsen and Neon Trees join headliner Taylor Swift, while in the west, performances include Justin Bieber, Jason Aldean, Greyson Chance, Ellie Goulding, The Wanted, Brandy, Flo Rida, Karmin, OneRepublic and Pitbull.
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2013, Part 2 — Jan. 1 at 1:08am on ABC.
From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2013 – Jan. 1 at 2:30pm and 8pm on PBS (check local listings). Julie Andrews returns as host for the fourth time of this festive annual New Year’s celebration with the Vienna Philharmonic. The concert, which features the infectious waltz melodies of the Strauss Family and contemporaries, will air live at 2:30pm, with an encore at 8pm.
Michael Bublé: Chris Large/NBC
Blake Shelton: Lewis Jacobs/NBC
CMA Country Christmas: Jon LeMay/ABC