Christmas Entertainment

Remembering Olivia Newton-John: Australian Christmas Icon

From Made-For-TV Christmas movie specials to chart-topping holiday albums, we fondly remember Olivia Newton-John and her hit Christmas favorites.

by | August 17, 2022

Olivia Newton-John sings one of her hit holiday songs in a red blazer in front of Christmas lights

The late Olivia Newton-John will always be best known as Sandy in 1978’s Grease, but we at Rent-A-Christmas can’t help but hold all her holiday-based contributions close to our hearts. In fact, she has released so much holiday content that it’s hard to believe she wasn’t doing it for much longer. Other Christmas Queens, like Mariah Carey or Dolly Parton, started releasing their Christmas songs and Christmas movies early on but Olivia Newton-John, on the other hand, was almost three decades into her career before she fully embraced the holidays. But like they always say, better late than never. And when she finally went all in, boy was it all fantastic!

Let’s take a look back on everything this Australian icon has done for this magical time of year.

A Mom For Christmas Movie Poster by Disney Starring Olivia Newton-John

A Mom for Christmas & Olivia Newton-John's Christmas Specials

Olivia Newton-John started off her holiday-centric work by appearing in several TV specials during the 1970s. Most notably, she joined John Denver in Rocky Mountain Christmas in 1975. She also appeared alongside Mark Hamill and Perry Como for a skit in Bob Hope’s 1977 All-Star Christmas Comedy Special.

But her first big foray into the holidays came in 1990, with her starring role in the made-for-TV Disney Christmas movie A Mom for Christmas. It centers around a motherless little girl living with her workaholic father. When she gets the chance to make a wish at a wishing well, she asks for a mother for Christmas. At that moment, a department store mannequin — played by Newton-John — comes to life to be her new mom. But there’s a big catch, she can only play this role until Christmas Eve. In desperation, the little girl and her father do everything they can to make sure she stays human long after the holiday season.

While filming on-location in Cincinnati, Newton-John even took the time to interview with the local news station WLWT. It was then that she talked about the impact this movie would have on children and non-conventional families everywhere.

“You know, I think children who are in single-parent families will relate to her part a lot because they’re missing either a mom or a dad at Christmas, and this little girl is going through all their feelings and it’s a hopeful film.” 

Of course, this wasn’t her only holiday special. In 1994 she moved on to CBS and starred in A Christmas Romance alongside her own daughter Chloe Lattanzi. The special, about a broke single-mom snowed in with a hard-nosed banker, was enjoyed by 25.5 million people that December.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Christmas Themed Photo for Christmas Album This Christmas

Olivia Newton-John Christmas Songs and Holiday Music

Along with her TV specials, Newton-John also had plenty of holiday songs and albums under her belt. This includes her appearances on a number of holiday compilation albums between 1994 and 2020. Some of our favorites include 95’s Mother and Child, 2000’s ‘Tis the Season, and three different releases from The Spirit of Christmas album series. It was released by Australian department store Myer Grace Bros. with the proceeds going to the Salvation Army.

In fact, she’d been on so many compilation albums that she released all of her Christmas songs at once on The Christmas Collection in 2001. Then, after much anticipation, we finally got an official solo holiday album, Christmas Wish, in 2007. And, of course, we can’t forget about her two duet Christmas album releases: 2012’s This Christmas with Grease co-star John Travolta and 2016’s Friends for Christmas with John Farnham. Her last song came out in 2020, when she joined Delta Goodrem on a song for her holiday album Only Santa Knows.

Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in movie version of Grease

Who Is Olivia Newton-John?

Olivia Newton-John is an actress and Grammy-award winning singer best known for her role as Sandy in Grease, and the chart-topping hit song Physical in 1981.

Born in England in 1948, Newton-John emigrated to Australia with her family at the age of six. She developed an interest in singing and went professional in her teens, but didn’t officially break out until releasing her first solo album If Not For You in 1971. From there, she had at least one album every year for the next seven years. And amongst all her hit singles, 1974’s I Honestly Love You became her signature song. That is, of course, until 1981’s Physical topped the charts and turned into one of the biggest songs of the year.

Despite being in her late twenties at filming, Olivia Newton-John starred as teenager Sandy in the musical film adaptation of Grease alongside John Travolta, Stockard Channing, and Jeff Conway. Two years later, she starred in the poorly received but wonderfully campy Xanadu. While she continued to record and make TV appearances, motherhood and a cancer diagnosis caused her to shift focus from the 90’s onward. She was a strong advocate for breast cancer research and dedicated much of her time to environmentalism and animal rights. In 2012 she created the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, contributing much of her personal finances to the foundation. 

While we’re all saddened by her passing, we can’t help but smile when we look back at everything she gave us. Even five decades later, she’s just as beloved now as she was back then. And long with her iconic songs and movie roles, we’ll remember her as an amazing woman who fought bravely until the end, stood up for what was right, and fully embraced the Christmas Spirit.

Thank you for everything, Olivia, and Happy Holidays to you!