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The six best Christmas Radio Times covers

IT’S NOT HARD. You’ve all year to think about it. You’ve been doing it for almost a century. And it’s not like the occasion hasn’t been responsible for inspiring, at the last count, 134,932 carols, songs, films, plays, musicals, myths, costumes, jokes, rituals, foodstuffs, fluids, religious fables and drunks shouting.

And yet the Radio Times Christmas cover is often so poor, so throat-narrowing, colon-clenching, Scrooge-besting poor, you have to wonder just what the magazine has been up to over the past 12 months*.

Anyhow, let’s not dwell on the periodical equivalent of a Brussel sprout dry fart. Let us instead look back to half a dozen festive fancies we’d drop everything to save from the flames of an Advent crown, fireproof tinsel or no fireproof tinsel. Doff your paper hats to the six greatest Radio Times Christmas front covers.

*Aside from not watching TV programmes, of course.

6: 2005

Oh, and by the way...

Celebrating Dr Who’s return to Christmas Day after 40 years, the Tardis gets plonked in a globe along with a snowman sporting Tom Baker’s scarf, the inevitable pepperpot, and blobs of space junk looking like baubles. Nobody would’ve expected this 12, even nine months earlier. Sod Narnia; please Mum, can I have a Dalek for Christmas?

5: 1959

Claus for thought

Not for the last time, RT puts a bunch of pricks on the cover. But there’s Claus for thought in the shape of not one but two Saint Nicks, one vaguely resembling Alan Whicker, the other crouched behind a camera thumbing a red nose at the electricians’ union. Why can’t you give Santa the sack? Because he’s already got one. Ho bloody ho.

4: 1964

Er...Ponce alert! Radio Times goes a bit way out as it dips a toe into the cold Serpentine of mid-60s abstract art. It could be the British Isles, it could be a dove of peace, it could be what happens when one of your Woolworths baubles falls on the floor. Whatever, it’s rather splendid.

3: 1927

A dose of the clap

Got your number, ducky. RT goes gay with a swinging toast to the roaring 20s, offering up its own Christmas Reith in the guise of a bell ringing out – huzzah! – radio waves. ALL THE CHRISTMAS PROGRAMMES too, should there be any doubt.

2: 1968

Hanging looseGroovy typeface adorns a preposterously pendulous bauble, star-encrusted with the famous and not so (who’s the chap on the far left with the teeth and suit?). It looks like a poster for the original (and best) Casino Royale. If only this HAD been the cast of the original (and best) Casino Royale.

1: 1963

Toppermost of the poppermostThe most imaginative seasonal cover ever – and the most gorgeous. Carol singers with no eyes, a clump of Lowry parishioners trudging to worship, reindeer that look like the Black Rabbit from Watership Down, and an angel with a bouffon. Bold, unique, and utterly baffling: the true spirit of Christmas.

Honourable mentions for…

A hard-working family, yesterday

1923: a hard-working family

What fascist undertones?

1926: what fascist undertones?

That's what they call you

1929: that’s what they call you

Christmas Deco-rations

1933: the Deco in decoration

Pop goes Christmas

1966: taking Christ out of Xmas

Oh no it isn't - oh yes it is!

1988: oh yes it is, oh no it isn’t

Now see the six worst Christmas Radio Times covers



  1. Applemask

    December 17, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    I see what you mean about this year’s cover. While it’s physically impossible for it to be any worse than “okay”, since it’s a Raymond Briggs Father Christmas (albeit not done by the great man himself), it’s extraordinarily uninspiring, particularly since it’s what they did last year, only last year the show it refers to wasn’t a repeat! For my money, randomly putting Wallace and Gromit there a couple of years ago is worse, though, because they didn’t even HAVE a show on.

    I’ma plug my videos about this now, because I can. Sorry about the sound quality.

  2. Noax

    December 17, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    The chap on the far left of the 1968 cover looks like DJ Dave Cash to me!

  3. DroogieRichie

    December 18, 2013 at 12:30 am

    The bloke on the ’68 cover with the suit and teeth is Radio One DJ Dave Cash

  4. Glenn A

    December 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Just to add, in the 1968 cover, is the twentysomething blonde Mary Hopkin?

  5. Glenn A

    December 13, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    The 1968 bauble is by far the best. Also this is Morecambe and Wise’s first Christmas on the BBC and Benny Hill’s last, as he would move to Thames in 1969 and become even more successful.
    Still agonising over who the blonde is, initially I thought it was the BBC guest singer regular, Lynsey de Paul, but she didn’t break through until 1972 and my money is still on Mary Hopkin, who was one of the biggest stars of that year.

  6. Glenn Reuben

    March 8, 2023 at 12:26 pm

    This is several years late (sorry), but I’ve managed to find a copy of the 1968 Christmas Radio Times. There was a quiz in the magazine where one of the questions asked you to name the all the stars on the cover, apart from the choirboys from Carols from Kings and the clown from Billy Smart’s Circus. The answers were published on page 17. They are, reading from left to right: Ken Dodd, Benny Hill, Cilla Black, Dave Cash, Sam Costa, Mary Hopkin, Morecambe and Wise, Leslie Crowther, Lulu, Dean Martin and Gene Kelly.

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