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What better to get you in the holiday spirit than some traditional seasonal viewing?

'Tis the Season

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It's not too early to start planning your holiday TV viewing.

Being a traditionalist at heart, I'm going to stick to the tried and true in my holiday recommendations. You'll find a lot more seasonal programs in whatever detailed TV reference you use, but here are the must-see specials and movies you'll want to make time for to get you and yours in the proper seasonal spirit.

"Twas," airing Dec. 17 on HBO, will get you ready for all three holidays, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. With music and animation, along with the voices of Satchmo and Old Blues Eyes, among others, this special will trace the meaning of each festival and explore the serious side of their origins.

What would Christmas be without "The Nutcracker Suite"? And this year, there are three to choose from. If you're looking for a new take on an old favorite, check out the "Live from Lincoln Center" version airing at 9 p.m. Dec. 19 on PBS-TV. "Nutcracker Swing" will present the traditional score as performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Kurt Masur interspersed with movements from the Ellington/Strayhorn arrangement as performed by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

There are two full-blown ballet versions of the "Nutcracker" on tap this year. "The Joffrey Nutcracker" will feature the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago in a performance taped at the historic Auditorium Theatre in the Windy City, airing on PBS at noon on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day at 1:30 p.m. And PBS' "Great Performances" will present the Royal Ballet in Sir Peter Wright's version of the story from the restored Covent Garden Opera on Christmas Day at 9 a.m. and again at 4 p.m.

Traditionalists will also be happy to hear that two of the greatest Christmas movies of all time will be airing again this year.

Forget that bad colorized version and all of those awful black-and-white prints that aired when "It's a Wonderful Life" slipped briefly into the public domain a few years back. This year on Christmas Eve from 8 to 11 p.m., NBC will present the exclusive broadcast of the original Frank Capra director's cut.

And if you're so inclined, you can watch Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood in the 1947 classic, "Miracle on 34th Street," for 24 hours straight on AMC, from 8 p.m. Christmas Eve to 8 p.m. Christmas night.

So grab a mug of something hot and buttery, build a fire in the fireplace, light up the Christmas tree, and prepare to summon up some treasured memories — or perhaps store up some new

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