Christmas episodes are a time-honored tradition that allows us to celebrate the holidays with the characters we’ve grown to love. However, they also provide an opportunity to use the darker underpinnings of a season marked by family disputes, heartache, and tensions rising to the surface to add drama and tie up loose ends in the storylines.
But don’t worry: Christmas episodes usually conclude with the group coming together as one, ready to tackle another year of turmoil. We’ve gathered a list of some of the greatest, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the festive spirit.
TV Shows to Watch for Christmas
The Andy Griffith Show – “The Christmas Story” (1960)
Because it was so wonderful, this program just required one Christmas episode every season. Will Wright, the proprietor of a terrible department shop, wants a local guy imprisoned.
Andy (Andy Griffith) intends to illustrate a point by imprisoning the entire family. When the old guy witnesses Andy and the gang celebrating Christmas at the jail, he becomes enthralled. In addition, we get to see Barney Fife (Don Knotts) dressed as Santa.
Watch The Andy Griffith Show on Amazon Prime
Friends, “The One With the Holiday Armadillo” (Season 7, Episode 10)
Friends celebrated much more than Thanksgiving! You’re stronger than we are if you can make it through the Hanukkah lesson from the Holiday Armadillo (a.k.a. David Schwimmer’s Ross) all the way to the arrival of Superman (Matt LeBlanc’s Joey) without breaking down in tears.
Watch Friends Season 7 Episode 10 on HBO Max
“Ludachristmas,” 30 Rock season 2
30 Rock has a few Christmas episodes, but “Ludachristmas” is one of the most pleasant and realistic. In it, Jack’s mother meets the Lemon family and dislikes them right away because of their happiness, so she sets out to prove that they aren’t quite so wonderful.
She orchestrates a family squabble that delights both her and Jack. Tracy has also been dishonest since he has been drinking despite wearing an ankle monitor that is supposed to keep him from doing so.
The real fun begins, however, when Kenneth cancels the cast and writers’ Ludachristmas party in order to teach them the true meaning of Christmas, and they knock down the massive Christmas tree outside 30 Rock. What was the episode’s message? Everyone’s family is broken in some manner.
Watch 30 rock season 2 “Ludachristmas” on Amazon Prime
“Christmas Party,” The Office
The Office was always a terrific choice for a Christmas episode, but their very first is probably their greatest. In the episode, Michael believes that the iPod he purchased Ryan the temp (despite the $20 present restriction) is far superior to the oven mitt he received from Phyllis.
As a result, he turns the celebrations into a Yankee Swap, ruining almost everyone’s Christmas. Jim and Pam also had a near-miss in the episode, as he decides not to confess his emotions for her at the last possible opportunity.
Watch The Office, “Christmas Party” on Amazon Prime
Happy Days, “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas”
Fonzie (Henry Winkler) is well-known to viewers as a rugged, leather jacket-wearing ladies’ guy. However, as he spends the holidays away from his family, this episode reveals a different side of him.
Thankfully, he has Richie (Ron Howard) as a buddy, since as soon as he learns of Fonzie’s intentions, he is invited to the Cunninghams’ Christmas party. It’s an episode about familial bonds, even if the family isn’t your own blood.
Watch Happy Days, “Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas” on Paramount+
Ted Lasso, “Carol of the Bells” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Ted Lasso bravely released its season 2 Christmas episode in the middle of July, but the divisive episode is packed with enough innocent seasonal sweetness (including a couple of Love Actually allusions) to persuade anyone it’s chilly outside.
Watch Ted Lasso Season 2 Episode 4 on Apple TV
“The Real Santa,” Fresh Off the Boat season 2
While Jessica enjoys the holidays, she can’t seem to let well enough alone and believes that Santa might use some help. In an attempt to persuade Evan that Santa Claus is a Chinese guy and a scientist, she convinces him that he should ask Santa physics questions.
Jessica, terrified, searches for a suitable Santa. Finally, Jessica disguises herself as Lo Bn Santa to deliver their gifts, telling Evan that Santa is, after all, Chinese, and a woman because “you believe a male is compassionate enough to give presents to everyone in the world?”
It’s a hilarious, fresh spin on an old narrative that finishes with a heartwarming glimpse into how far Jessica will go for her children.
Watch “The Real Santa”, Fresh Off The Boat Season 2 on Hulu
The Simpsons – “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (1989)
This episode marked the beginning of the entire “Simpsons” dynasty, and it’s unusual for any series to begin with a Christmas special. Homer (Dan Castellaneta) chooses to become a department store Santa because he does not receive a holiday bonus. He places a wager on a dog named Santa’s Little Helper, who later becomes the family’s pet.
Watch The Simpsons – “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (1989) on Apple TV
“An Echolls Family Christmas,” Veronica Mars
The first Christmas episode of Veronica Mars is jaded and world-weary. While her father investigates a stalker who is threatening Aaron Echolls, the episode focuses mostly on Veronica’s investigation of a poker game in which someone stole all of the money.
The episode has an extremely gratifying conclusion, but it also has the show’s trademark banter. “An Echolls Family Christmas” features a surprising ending, yet it fits the show’s dark, noir-adjacent setting.
Watch Veronica Mars, Episode “An Echolls Family Christmas” on Hulu
David Letterman – Annual Christmas Episodes (1986-2014)
David Letterman would always welcome Darlene Love for the Christmas episode on both his NBC and CBS late-night shows for over 30 years. Every time she sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” she made a great holiday memory.
Watch David Letterman’s Final Christmas Episode on Youtube
Grey’s Anatomy, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”
Yes, even your favorite medical drama gets into the holiday mood. Rewind to season 2 for a program that isn’t exactly about the holidays… but is holiday-themed.
Watch Grey’s Anatomy Season 2 Episode 12 on Apple TV
Doctor Who, “A Christmas Carol”
This sci-fi retelling of the classic Charles Dickens story was the first Doctor Who Christmas special to star Matt Smith, aka the Eleventh Doctor.
Watch Doctor Who, “A Christmas Carol” on Amazon Prime
Cheers, “Christmas Cheers”
The entire crew has arrived! Rebecca begs all of the Cheers bartenders to remain and work on Christmas Eve, and Sam ends up scrounging out a very last-minute gift for her.
Watch Cheers, “Christmas Cheers” on Paramount+
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