The holiday season is here, and just like so many ornamental lights, numerous first-run and evergreen programs are illuminating TV screens with images of good cheer.
Among the first-runs is "The Wish That Changed Christmas" (8:30 p.m. Dec. 20, CBS), an animated and live-action special that involves an orphan, a doll, a childless couple and a twist of fate. The voices of Jonathan Winters and Paul Winfield are featured.
"Wish," adapted from Rumer Godden's "The Story of Holly and Ivy," is the first in a series of "Ronald McDonald's Family Theater" productions.
McDonald's intends that this special and future family theater projects, all based on books, will encourage children to read.
Here are other original treats (except for holiday episodes on sitcoms and dramas) that the networks have planned. Check daily TV listings for last-minute changes.
*"A Little Piece of Heaven" (9 tonight, NBC), a whimsical tale about a young man (Kirk Cameron) who promises to find a friend for his developmentally disturbed sister.
*"One Special Victory" (9 p.m. Sunday, NBC), about a jaded real estate salesman (John Larroquette) who tries to destroy property lost to his ex-wife in a divorce settlement and is then sentenced to 50 hours of community service coaching an adult basketball team headed for the Special Olympics.
*"Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" (9 p.m. Sunday, ABC), a drama based on the famous New York Sun editorial from 1897. Richard Thomas, Edward Asner and Charles Bronson star.
*"The Story Lady" (9 p.m. Dec. 9, NBC) deals with the exploitation of a charismatic widow (Jessica Tandy) with a knack for reading children stories. Stephanie Zimbalist and Charles Durning also star.
*"John Denver's Cowboys, Indians & Christmas" (10 p.m. Dec. 13, CBS), a celebration of American Indian traditions. Joining Mr. Denver are 4,000 Assiniboine and Gross Ventre Indians, an Indian Children's Choir, Clint Black, Patty Loveless and Kathy Mattea.
*"Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too" (8 p.m. Dec. 14, ABC), an hourlong special that includes a featurette starring Pooh and the animated shorts "Bearly Asleep" and "Hockey Champ," both with Donald Duck.
*"Christmas on Division Street" (9 p.m. Dec. 15, CBS), the story of a young man (Fred Savage) who befriends an eccentric old man (Hume Cronyn). Set in Philadelphia, the story delves into the plight of the homeless.
*"In the Nick of Time" (9 p.m. Dec. 16, NBC), a drama that stars Lloyd Bridges as Santa, who's searching for a replacement because his 300-year tenure as the jolly toy distributor is up.
*"A Wish for Wings That Work" (8:30 p.m. Dec. 18, CBS), an animated feature in which Opus the Penguin (of the "Bloom County" and "Outland" comic strips) asks Santa for the gift of flight.
CBS also will air several animated holiday perennials, such as " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (8:30 p.m. Dec. 11), adapted from the Clement Moore poem; and "Frosty the Snowman" (8 p.m. Dec. 18), narrated by Jimmy Durante. "Mickey's Christmas Carol," a 1983 film short with Mickey Mouse as Ebenezer Scrooge's overworked clerk Bob Cratchit, airs at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 on Disney and 8 p.m. Dec. 13 on CBS.
"Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," another animated favorite, airs at 8 p.m. Thursday on the TNT cable channel. Boris Karloff provides the voice of the dastardly Grinch, who tries to destroy the Whos' holiday celebration.
Bob Hope's yuletide special and the musical extravaganza "Christmas in Washington," both annual traditions on NBC, are to run back-to-back beginning at 9 p.m. on Dec. 18. Another tradition, "The Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade," airs at 10 a.m. Christmas morning on ABC.
As usual, "It's a Wonderful Life," Frank Capra's sentimental gem that stars Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, will be shown throughout the holidays, including 10:30 p.m. Wednesday on Maryland Public Television's channels 22 and 67.
Programming on some other cable channels includes:
*Arts & Entertainment: "Jessye Norman at Notre Dame" (9 p.m. Dec. 10), with the opera star performing a Christmas recital in Paris.
*Bravo: "Ackroyd's Dickens" (8 p.m. Dec. 12), a "South Bank Show" profile of the Victorian author featuring excerpts read from his celebrated novels and a discussion with his biographer, Peter Ackroyd.
*Comedy Central: "Saturday Night Live Christmas Marathon" (1 a.m. Dec. 15), 24 hours of "SNL" holiday skits.
*Disney: "The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas" (8 p.m. Dec. 10), in which a young computer buff winds up spending Christmas Eve at the North Pole; "A Bing Crosby Christmas: Like the Ones We Used to Know" (9 p.m. Dec. 15), featuring clips from 13 vintage Crosby holiday specials.
*HBO: "Cirque du Soleil II: A New Experience" (8 p.m. Dec. 17), in which the Montreal circus troupe, in its second special, rings in the holiday through its unusual acts.
*MTV: "Big Picture Special Edition" (10 p.m. Dec. 11), a preview of holiday flicks.
*Showtime: "Father Christmas" (7:30 p.m. Dec. 10), an animated tale about a whirlwind tour of the globe on Santa's sled.
*The Nashville Network: "Christmas With the Gatlins" (8:30 p.m. Dec. 16); "Charlie Daniels: Christmas Time Down South" (8 p.m. Dec. 20); "Reba McEntire's Christmas Card" (9 p.m. Dec. 24).
*TNT: "Miracle in the Wilderness" (8 p.m. Dec. 9), a Christmas-themed frontier tale starring Kris Kristofferson and Kim Cattrall.