"Call the Midwife" holiday special 2013 premieres at 6:30 p.m. CST Dec. 29 on PBS.

If you're in need of a good cry after Christmas that doesn't involve spending a week with your family, watch the "Call the Midwife" holiday special (6:30 p.m. Dec. 29, PBS; 3 stars out of 4). That's not a knock. If you've followed the show's first two seasons, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Set in London's East End in the 1950s and based on the memoir of Jennifer Worth, "Call the Midwife" follows a group of nurses and the nuns of Nonnatus House who work as midwives for the destitute Poplar district, where up to 100 babies are born each month.

The holiday special picks up just before Christmas 1958, as the district's citizens and the women of Nonnatus House are preparing for the holidays. Shelagh (Laura Main), the former Sister Bernadette, is planning her wedding to Dr. Turner (Stephen McGann). Former nurse Chummy (Miranda Hart), who has returned to the East End with hubby Peter Noakes (Ben Caplan) and their son, is frantically planning her scout troop's Christmas party.

Everything comes to a halt after an unexploded World War II bomb is found under a warehouse and the district's citizens are forced into an evacuation center. Nurses Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine), Trixie Franklin (Helen George) and Cynthia Miller (Bryony Hannah), along with Sisters Julienne (Jenny Agutter), Evangelina (Pam Ferris) and Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) take charge of the evacuation center while dealing with their regular duties, but not even they can anticipate the troubles to come.

I won't spoil it for you, but one plotline brings up one of my favorite aspects of "Call the Midwife." It may get a bit too sentimental at times, but I love how the show provides a sense of history in such intimate yet vivid ways.

At the evacuation center, Jenny and Trixie work with the pregnant wife of a young veteran who, already troubled by his memories of war, can't sleep and jumps at every loud noise. The bomb exacerbates his stress. The nurses believe that witnessing the delivery of his child will go a long way in helping heal his psychological wounds, so they argue with the sisters over his right to be in the delivery room.

I don't know when fathers first were allowed into delivery rooms, but isn't it a lovely idea that what is now standard procedure began as a way to help one family deal with a deeper issue? Pass me a tissue.


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