Babar and Father Christmas (1985)
But, much to my surprise, I wound up liking it quite a bit. Lindsay described it as "charming," which I think wraps it up nicely. While it's not about to become one of my all-time favorite specials, it was well worth the half-hour it took to watch.
Sure, it was aimed at a young audience, but the jokes were well orchestrated. The story had a decent number of twists and turns which, while simple enough for five year-olds to follow, didn't feel stupid or random .
The music, which I'm assuming appears in every episode, complimented the children's book animation style. What really made this stand out, was the depiction of Santa and his shop. I haven't seen this take before, and it feels simultaneously original and somehow very in tone with the legend. The episode's resolution, which I'd rather not spoil, played subtly with the reality behind the question, "Does Santa really exist?"
Add to that a parade of bizarre and fascinating characters - most of which get a single scene to stand out - and you've got an impressive addition to the vast warehouses of Christmas specials (a family of helpful French rats living in a hotel were especially lovable).
This isn't something I expect everyone to love, though I can't quite imagine many disliking it. If you have young ones and can find this online, I think you'll be very happy with the result.