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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
ye olde idiot box

Your Christmas Day in front of the telly, December 1962

Teilifís Éireann’s first ever TV Christmas, 53 years ago.

Young Audience Associated Press Associated Press

THIS YEAR’S RTÉ Guide features thousands of separate programmes on hundreds of different terrestrial, satellite and digital TV channels.

While you’re out at your granny’s, you can record Journey to the Centre of the Earth, without even requiring the involvement of a VCR.

Back in 1962, however, things were a bit different.

This was the birth of Teilifís Éireann, our national broadcaster’s first television station, which was launched on New Year’s Eve, 1961.

If you were like most people, and you didn’t yet have highly-desired access to the English channels, here’s what your Christmas Day in front of the TV would have looked like, 53 years ago.

6.30 am

Wake up, open present, play with your new car for exactly four and a half hours, then switch on the telly.

While you’re waiting, remind yourself that Christmas Day is special – ordinarily you have to wait until 5.30 pm.

11 am

PA-13095242 PA Images (Modified) PA Images (Modified)

A 30-minute broadcast of a Church of Ireland service, most likely from Christ Church in Dún Laoghaire.

11.30 am

Teilifís Éireann shuts down again, so you might want to whip out yesterday’s newspaper, and take on the cryptic crossword.

12 pm

Switch codes for an hour, and watch High Mass until lunch.

1 pm

Do something else, because Teilifís Éireann is off again. Sit silently with your siblings, eat dinner, listen to a Cliff Richard record on repeat for four hours. Switch over to RTÉ Two, realise THERE IS NO RTÉ TWO.

Turn on Radio Éireann and listen to a programme of special requests from Irish soldiers serving in the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo, followed by a Johann Strauss operetta.

5 pm

Let there by light! Entertainer Jimmy O’Dea appears on the screen to tell a story and sing a song, as he often would at Christmas in the ensuing years.

5.05 pm

Two short films in a row, December: Month of Children, which shows how kids celebrate Christmas differently in England, France, Holland, Luxembourg and Germany.

And, Mary Had a Little Lamb.

osvaldgruppen / YouTube

5.35 pm

A classical guitar performance by Dutch Salesian priest Father Ben Strik.

dirkolga / YouTube

6 pm

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be – the Angelus.

6.01 pm

School Around the Corner. The jewel in the crown. Paddy Crosbie took it from Radio Éireann to Teilifís Éireann that year, and it immediately became a massive hit with the Irish public.

Crea / Vimeo

6.45 pm

Pick of the Post – a panel of commentators mull over letters sent to RTÉ earlier in the week.

7.25 pm

Siamsa Nollag – an Irish Christmas, with Irish music and Irish folklore, as Gaeilge, and on TV for the first time ever.

8 pm

Amahl and the Night Visitors – a one-act opera by the Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti, about a disabled boy and his mother, based on the nativity story.

Rio1949 / YouTube

9 pm

News and weather. All five minutes of it.

9.05 pm

But Once a Year

10 pm

The World of Bob Hope – a 1961 special, commissioned by NBC, from the king of American comedy.

10.55 pm

The Desilu Revue. Another major US import – the Christmas Day variety special headed by Lucille Ball, Desi Arnez, and featuring Carole Cook.

William French / YouTube

11.50 pm


11.55 pm – Midnight

Recollection - Teilifís Éireann’s very own Thought for the Day – a few minutes for a priest, bishop or reverend to get us all back on track before bedtime.

Back to normal on St Stephen’s Day. Doing whatever it is you do, until Teilifís Éireann wakes up again at 5 pm.

25 December 1962 schedule taken from the archives of the Irish Times.

WATCH: Relive a 1940s Irish Christmas with these magical archive videos>

WATCH: Santa visits the children of Dublin in 1949>

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