Read more of our holiday stories here!
If you’re feeling lonely this holiday season because of the COVID restrictions, here’s a good way of bringing that festive feeling without actually seeing people or stepping foot outside. How about curling up with a cozy Christmas episode? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of shows out there? No fear, we’ve got you!
Here are our top 25 picks for Christmas episodes from everyone’s favorite TV shows.
1. Friends: “The One With the Holiday Armadillo” (Season 7, Episode 10)
Ross tries to replace Ben’s obsession with Christmas jingles and Santa with some knowledge about Hanukkah. The result? A Chrismukkah featuring Ross as the Holiday Armadillo, Chandler as Santa Claus, and Joey as Superman. Rachel calls this hilarious mix the “Easter Bunny’s funeral”.
2. Modern Family: “Undeck the Halls” (Season 1, Episode 10)
While Phil and Claire threaten to cancel Christmas and tear down their home Christmas tree to discipline their children, the Pritchetts argue over American and Colombian Christmas customs. But all ends well with a family feast, as Jay says: “This was the year the word ‘tradition’ got a lot bigger for me”. Watch if you’re in the mood for a major Modern Family throwback!
3. Gilmore Girls: “Forgiveness and Stuff” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Ah, Gilmore Girls. The whimsical snow-covered Stars Hollow is as magical as fictional Christmas sets can be. Throw in the town’s performance of the nativity scene, Christmas jingles, and fairy lights and you got yourself a wholesome Christmas episode. But what is Christmas without some family drama? Lorelai’s tension with her family peaks and is resolved by forgiveness, in true holiday spirit.
4. How I Met Your Mother: “Symphony of Illumination” (Season 7, Episode 12)
This personal favorite flips the title of the show on its head and gives us an episode of “How I Met Your Father” narrated from Robin’s point of view. In this exceptionally profound Christmas special, Robin panics through a pregnancy scare and is pulled in different directions: maternal instincts, her career, her individuality, and her independence. Recommended for the twist at the end!
5. Hitchcock special: “Back for Christmas”
Who says Christmas specials can only be about good cheer? If you enjoyed Psycho or The Birds, watch this nail-biting suspense in Hitchcock’s signature thriller style. His story of a Christmas gone so very wrong will leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s a Wonderful Life is not the only black and white vintage Christmas throwback you can watch over the holidays!
6. Gossip Girl: “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Season 2, Episode 12)
While the show’s Thanksgiving episodes are more memorable, this Christmas episode is certainly up in the ranks. There’s no Christmas like Christmas in the Big Apple, and Gossip Girl shows us how to celebrate it pure Upper East Side style. Thinking of holiday presents on a budget? Take some tips from Dan and Serena who seek out personalized presents under $50. If not, consider it a catalog for holiday looks. After all, nobody does fashion better than Gossip Girl.
7. Cheers: “Christmas Cheers” (Season 6, Episode 12)
Searching for something refreshingly nostalgic? Check out this episode from Cheers, the Friends of the 80s. In this Christmas special, the entire ensemble cast makes an appearance. We catch the characters in their habitual bar where everybody knows their name. Rebecca makes the bartenders work long hours, but hey! At least they have It’s a Wonderful Life playing on the bar TV to cheer them up.
8. Everybody Hates Chris: “Everybody Hates Christmas” (Season 1, Episode 11)
This rare Black spin on sitcoms was way ahead of its time. Airing in 2005, this Christmas special addresses the intersections of class and racism. Chris wants a walkman (millennials, you know what I’m talking about!) but can’t afford it. His sister Tonya comes to face the reality that Santa isn’t real. It is one big reality check, sugar-coated with humor and childhood innocence. I feel if this episode had come out this year, it would have gotten the attention it deserved.
9. Downton Abbey: “Christmas at Downton Abbey” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Americans aren’t the only ones obsessed with Christmas. The BBC production Downton Abbey’s second season finale is proof of that. Weaving together loose strands of subplots, the episode is like a Pinterest palette of vintage Christmas inspiration. Touted as “retro festive wallpaper”, the episode is truly eye candy culminating in the ultimate romantic moment (SPOILER ALERT!) – Matthew’s snow globe inspired proposal to Mary is a sight to behold!
10. Seinfeld: “The Strike” (Season 9, Episode 10)
This episode begins in Hanukkah, is set in the Christmas season but demands a holiday for the secular and invented, “Festivus”. In true, cynical Seinfeld fashion, the witty humor and abundance of inside jokes make the mundane 23rd of December a day of importance through Frank Costanza’s slogan of “Festivus for the rest of us!”
11. The Simpsons: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (Season 1, Episode 1)
An ultimate throwback dating back to Season 1, Episode 1, with Homer as Santa and the rather broke Simpson family singing “Rudolph-the red-nosed reindeer”, might be THE animated Christmas special you need to see! The Simpson family does not give presents to each other, they play pranks on each other. And Bart removing Homer’s beard is the kind of slapstick I’m in for!
12. Friends: “The One Where Rachel Quits” (Season 3, Episode 10)
Rachel quits her job at Central Perk as a waitress. Meanwhile, in true Christmas spirit, Ross helps a Brown Bird sell boxes of festive cookies to help send her to space camp. Phoebe’s conscience about wasted conifer trees will make you question the environmental hazards of Christmas decoration altogether!
13. The Office: “Christmas Party” (Season 2, Episode 10)
This episode has almost unanimously been voted the internet’s favorite out of all the Christmas episodes of The Office, a show which has given us gem after gem of memeable content. This is an iconic episode too, featuring the legendary teapot that Jim gifted Pam during the gift exchange, which Michael hijacked, as Michael would.
14. New Girl: “The 23rd” (Season 1, Episode 9)
I will stand by this opinion for eons, Nick Miller and Jessica Day’s arc on New Girl is one of the best on TV, ever. This episode is a prime example of how much they cared for each other, without even dating (I won’t give any more spoilers). It also features significant developments with Schmidt and Cece, as well as Jess and her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Winston just does his thing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
15. Schitt’s Creek: “Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose” (Season 4, Episode 13)
Every episode of Schitt’s Creek just gets better and better, but this one hits you in all the feels. Johnny Rose, the benevolent father of the Rose family, wants to have Christmas together this year, after reminiscing about the grand parties they used to have when they were rich. His family members are less than enthused, however, and Johnny has to come to terms with letting go of his extravagant past. Like all its other season finales, this episode is packed with hilarious one-liners, delightful Moira-isms, and just all-round wholesomeness – a perfect package for Christmas!
16. Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Christmas” (Season 1, Episode 11)
In this episode of everybody’s favorite cop show, Captain Holt gets death threats and assigns a delighted Jake Peralta to protect him. Jake loves his new role and uses it to lord over Captain Holt while he can, but he soon realizes the gravity of the situation. Throw in Charles worrying about missing his flight, and Amy trying to get Rosa to smile for a Christmas card, and you have yourself a merry Nine-Nine Christmas.
17. Glee: “Extraordinary Merry Christmas” (Season 3, Episode 9)
You know a Glee episode is going to be amazing when it opens with a Mercedes solo, as Whitney Houston, singing the classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. It’s a triple treat! Christmas is synonymous with Christmas music, and this episode is filled to the brim with classics like “Let It Snow”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Blue Christmas”. The Glee kids are faced with choosing between having a Christmas special aired on PBS, or serving food for the homeless. Because the club disagrees on which one to do, we get to see both situations – a delightfully corny Christmas special in the style of Star Wars and Judy Garland, as well as heartwarming scenes at the homeless shelter. Klaine fans get plenty of material to swoon about too!
18. Community: “Regional Holiday Music” (Season 3, Episode 10)
This is a controversial choice to put on this list, because everyone knows the definitive one out of all the Community Christmas episodes (and possibly television as a whole) is “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”, where the episode is shot in stop motion animation and deals with profoundly bittersweet themes. However, “Regional Holiday Music” is the very antithesis of the Glee episode mentioned just earlier on the list, so I felt it was fitting. This was not the first or last time show creator Dan Harmon has poked fun at Glee, and in this episode, the study group is lured into Glee Club one by one by the increasingly manic Glee Club director (Taran Killam). Complete with classic Community running gags and warm Christmas spirit, this episode is a must-watch (after Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas, of course).
19. Arrested Development: “Afternoon Delight” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Ah, Arrested Development. What a gem of a show. In this gag-filled episode, Michael and Maeby begin to spend time together after feeling ignored by their respective family members. Meanwhile Gob discovers that his attitude has been annoying his employees, and that they would not be toasting him at the Christmas party like he had expected. Lucille misses Buster. There’s not much one can describe about Arrested Development episodes in words, so I’m just going to let you watch it.
20. Fresh Off The Boat: “The Real Santa” (Season 2, Episode 10)
In typical fashion, Jessica Huang wants to ‘fix’ Santa for her son Evan. Why? He doesn’t have an advanced degree, he’s only a toymaker or a glorified delivery man, and either way he’s labor, not management. When she finally blurts out that Santa is Chinese, the show then asks the question, why can’t Santa be Chinese? Fresh Off the Boat has always created light-hearted but refreshing conversations about race, and this episode is no different.
21. 30 Rock: “Ludachristmas” (Season 2, Episode 9)
30 Rock has proven on several occasions to be one of those rare shows that do absurd comedy exceedingly well. In “Ludachristmas”, the 30 Rock gang is planning their annual Christmas party, but Tracy (like in real life) has been ordered to abstain from alcohol, which he finds difficult. We also have a delightfully spiraling meeting between Liz Lemon’s family and Jack Donaghy’s mom, and you’re sure to be in stitches by the end of the episode!
22. Superstore: “Christmas Eve” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Superstore has been touted by many as the spiritual (albeit not equal) successor to that pinnacle of workplace comedy, The Office. Set in a big box store similar to the likes of Walmart, Superstore is a very underrated show providing hilarious jokes along with timely addressal of socio-political issues. In this episode, Mateo is not too excited about the prospect of Christmas, and Glenn sets out to prove him wrong. Meanwhile, Amy wants to show everyone that she’s more than the stuffy person they think she is, and Sandra gets a Christmas miracle. The whole episode ending not quite how one would expect, but definitely in line with the wacky core of the show.
23. Veep: “Camp David” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Anyone who knows Selina Meyer would know she would be the last person to get sentimental about holidays. Which is why, when she suggests a family getaway to the presidential retreat of Camp David, you know she has her personal agenda in mind. A Chinese diplomatic envoy, tough negotiations and colorful hijinks ensue in this hilarious episode also featuring the ever-welcome Minna Hakkinen.
24. The Middle: “Christmas Tree” (Season 5, Episode 9)
The Middle has always been about finding the joy in the ordinary and the usually crappy moments in life, and what better time for these themes than 2020? In this episode, Frankie is disappointed, for the umpteenth time, in Mike’s usual lack of outward affection for her. Brick has begun questioning the Bible on Christmas, which horrifies Sue, who recruits Reverend Tim Tom to help out. Meanwhile, Axl makes a new friend. In the end, it all ties together for a Hecking lovely Christmas.
25. Blackadder: “Blackadder’s Christmas Carol” (Special)
To many, the show Blackadder represents the very pinnacle of British humor (aside from Monty Python, of course). It brought together Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, and Tony Robinson, with frequent cameos from other British greats. Loaded with sarcasm, elaborate insults, and its trademark wit, Blackadder’s Christmas special is a parody of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It opens with Ebenezer Blackadder, the nicest man in England, being visited by the Spirit of Christmas (Robbie Coltrane a.k.a Rubeus Hagrid), and seeing how successful his life might have been if only he had been meaner to everyone around him.
BONUS – 26. Mr. Bean: “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean” (Season 1, Episode 7)
More Atkinson! His most loved character remains the iconic Mr. Bean. Atkinson has the rare ability to make you laugh without uttering a single word, and the Christmas episode (available on YouTube) is no different. However bad your day might be going, a good dose of Mr. Bean’s antics would definitely cheer you right up, from his new and improved version of the Nativity scene to his newfound choir conducting skills. Gather around with the whole family for a good dose of nostalgia and light-hearted fun!
BONUS – 27. Dash and Lily – the entirety of Season 1
Seriously, this show is for everyone. No matter if you love or hate Christmas. You should watch it, because it will warm your heart.
Here you have it! Everything you need to indulge in for a seasonal delight. Watching Christmas specials of your favorite shows can now be your new essential holiday tradition. These episodes will have you feeling all kinds of things- from holiday nostalgia to uninhibited laughter. Lucky for you, we selected the ones with the widest of cheers, the loudest of laughter, and the warmest of sentiments!