Christmas is upon us! We only have a few weeks left of the year now, and it’s time to brush up on holiday classics. While we all have our favorite Christmas movie, sometimes there’s not enough time. Watching a movie is a two-hour commitment you might not be able to fulfill in the very social December. So, why not try our list of the best Christmas episodes for some quick bites of the holiday spirit?
Without further ado and in no particular order, let’s get to it!
The Best Christmas Episodes Out There
“Symphony of Illumination”, How I Met Your Mother
Let’s get this out there: How I Met Your Mother has one of the worst finales in recent TV history. It was messy, rushed, ignored character growth and it felt like a slap in the face. That said, it’s also a show plagued by gems – including “Symphony of Illumination.”
This twist on the show’s usual formula follows Robin (Cobie Smulders) telling her future children how she met their father. This episode is as beautiful as it is devastating, showcasing some of the most true-to-life drama in the whole show. It’s also full of sweet Christmas warmth, friendship, and family.
“Afternoon Delight,” Arrested Development
During the Bluth Company’s annual Christmas party, things get as ridiculous as one would expect from the family. In this token of fun family time, Michael (Patrick Bateman) and niece Maeby (Alia Shawkat) end up bonding. And the way the bond is by sharing some karaoke time with a very inappropriate song. Hilarity ensues.
“The One with the Holiday Armadillo”, Friends
Ross (David Schwimmer) has his son Ben (Cole Sprouse) over for Christmas and wants to show him more about Jewish culture. He fails to get a Santa costume and dresses up as a part-Jewish Holiday Armadillo. Meanwhile, Chandler (Matthew Perry) dresses up as Santa and Joey (Matt LeBlanc), as Superman.
One of the reasons this makes my list of the best Christmas episodes is that it happens to include one of my favorite lines in the whole show. Monica (Courteney Cox) asks Chandler if it’s okay that she finds the Santa outfit sexy. Chandler then proceeds to ask whether her dad ever dressed up as Santa, and when she says he didn’t, he merrily responds “then it’s okay!”
“The Strike,” Seinfeld
There’s no list of the best Christmas episodes without mentioning this, the most powerful of them all.
This gem of the final Seinfeld season is where we found out Kramer had been on a strike throughout the whole show. It also gave us its own holiday: Festivus. For more than 20 years, this traumatic time from George’s (Jason Alexander) childhood has brought joy to many others. Pro tip: watch this on December 23!
“Christmas at Downton Abbey,” Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey is basically a very tortuous and uptight soap opera, with very few moments of joy. Most of the joy from this show actually occurs in this episode. After two seasons of an excruciatingly dramatic will-they-won’t-they between Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew (Dan Stevens), it finally happens. Matthew proposes to Mary in a beautiful snowy Christmas.
Of course, their corny happiness was short-lived and tragedy quickly ensued, but this scene is a trip to Feeladelphia. Definitely one of the best Christmas episodes out there, particularly for hopeless romantics!
“White Christmas,” Black Mirror
Nothing says Christmas like dystopian tales of a dark and gloomy future! This is one of the most critically acclaimed Black Mirror episodes, starring Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall. The creepiness revolves around two stories: one of a Christmas party gone wrong and the other of a tragic Christmas Eve.
Perhaps what sets Black-ish apart from every other current show is its willingness to be straightforward about heavier stories. Here, Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Pops (Laurence Fishburne) face off on Christmas values. Dre remembers his flat childhood Christmases with a bucket of fried chicken for dinner and wants to focus on giving his children a better time. Meanwhile, Pops is pretty convinced his methods worked way back in the day.
While the premise sounds silly, the final discussion is a beautiful conversation of festivities in hard times. It’s the kind of dramedy that makes Black-ish great.
“My Mom, Greg’s Mom, And Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves,” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Those who crave their fiction to be as stressful as the real-life holidays should add this beauty to their playlist. Here, we see the holidays through the eyes of a couple of neurotic grownups who can barely handle their families.
The biggest highlight is the first appearance of Tovah Feldshuh as Naomi, mother to protagonist Rebecca (Rachel Bloom). Her first two minutes on the show are a Jewish folk rendition of an overbearing mother. The “California Christmastime” song is also pretty great!
Read more about holiday favorites at our Christmas section!