Christmas is such a unique time of year; no matter where we are, it’s hard to escape the craziness. Indeed, even the biggest Grinch could not turn the TV on without stumbling on some Christmas content. However, even for those of us who actually enjoy diving head first into the Christmas spirit, it can be hard to choose what to watch. Movies, ads, songs, TV programs and TV shows… all offer Christmas specials.
One thing that people love is when their favorite TV show follows the holidays with them. If some take it a bit too far (I am talking about you Glee), others bring just the right amount of holiday cheer, emotional twists and old-timey clichés. Endless kisses in the snow, family reunions, Christmas miracles and other changes of heart. It’s often the same, and yet we keep coming back for more.
I wanted to watch all the Christmas special episodes, but it turns out there are just too many. Instead, I decided to focus on some of the most famous and appreciated shows from the past two decades. As it is very subjective, you may disagree with me, so don’t hesitate to share your favorite Christmas special in the comments !
Lost: The Constant (Season 4 Episode 5)
I have to be honest: I never watched Lost. However, no matter the article, this episode was always praised as one of the best episodes of all time. It was then my duty to add it to this list.
This episode deals with time travel and memories of past Christmas. Desmond’s consciousness travels back to 1996 and experiences amnesia when coming back to his present self. The episode keeps coming back and forth and offering the viewers flashbacks, and Desmond’s breakup with Penny.
It may not scream Christmas but this episode is a must watch for all the Lost lovers.
How I Met Your Mother: False Positive (Season 6 Episode 12)
How I Met Your Mother is a show that divides the fans. Between some borderline jokes and comments, Ted’s whining and the end, the show is not aging finely. However, if you are a sucker for Marshall and Lily, then this episode is for you.
Season 6 is the season they are trying to get pregnant, while the rest of the gang are going through life changing events. In this episode, the couple believe they are pregnant. Both happy and terrified, they share the news with their friends, and everyone starts reevaluating the life they are living. From currency rotation specialist to diamond-suit, this fun episode underlines the fear and pressure to do better and to grow up when faced with life-changing news.
The Office (U.S): A Benihana Christmas (Season 3 Episodes 10 and 11)
The Office is one of those TV shows that you can only love or hate. Adapted from the BBC series, it became over the years a classic in the United States.
In this double episode, Michael is left by his girlfriend Carol. Andy tries to cheer him up by bringing him, along with Dwight and Jim, to a Benihana restaurant. At the same time, Angela is planning yet another party with an iron fist, and kicks Karen out of the planning committee. As a response, Pam and Karen organize a second party, 15 minutes before Angela’s, with alcohol and karaoke.
Now, if you already think that Michael is the worst person, this episode will only prove you right. But if you also love the Angela-Dwight couple, Karen and Pam friendship and Jim messing with Dwight, you will not be disappointed. Bonus points for Michael listening to the free 15 seconds of Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt. He doesn’t want to buy it, he just wants to taste it.
Black Mirror – White Christmas
If you think “cheer” and “warmth” when you hear “Christmas Special”, I have to tell you that this is not one of those. We would not expect less from the brain-breaking Black Mirror. Every episode is unique and meaningful, even heavy sometimes, which is why I have one rule: only one episode at a time – two episodes will send you hide and cry under your blanket.
In this episode, two men are locked up in a cabin for years without speaking. One opens up about why he was sent here as a punishment: he was involved in a murder and sex offense crime. The second man tells his own story, about being blocked by his then fiancée when she discovered she was pregnant. He explains that every year for Christmas he would hide outside of his ex’s house to see her and the child.
As the episode goes on, we discover that the cabin is not what we were thinking, nor is the story. The end leaves you heartbroken, and in my case a little sick and freaked out, happy that it is only science-fiction.
Downton Abbey: Christmas at Downton Abbey (Season 2 finale)
Downton Abbey is a historical drama set in the early 20th century. Picture a castle, domestic servants and historical costumes with crazy plots and twists.
In this episode, everyone gets ready for Christmas. Bates is convincted with murder, Daisy meets with Mr Mason, Rosamund thinks about getting married, Sybil writes from Ireland with great news, and someone proposes.
Who could have guessed that so much could happen at the same in the 20th century? If you keep an open mind, you will be able to set aside some questions you may have, and just enjoy the Christmas decorations.
The Big Bang Theory: The Santa Simulation (Season 6 Episode 11)
Last year, we said goodbye to our favorite fake scientists and biggest superheroe lovers. It is only after watching this episode again that I realized I actually miss the show. If, like me, you are missing Sheldon facts (but not fun), Amy’s strangeness, and Raj’s problems, this episode should give you the perfect dose of nerdiness you have been missing.
This episode is a classic, with all the main characters present (yes, even Stuart!). The boys are playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons where they have to save Santa, to Sheldon’s greatest joy. The girls are going out with Raj when he gets killed within minutes. While the girls are looking for a girl for Raj, Leonard is trying to bring the Christmas spirit to Sheldon with Christmas themed actions in the game.
With a lot of sarcasm from Howard, Stuart just happy to be there, Raj being insensitive and Sheldon doing things his way, it is a true Christmas gift for all the fans. Plus, Sheldon sings a Christmas song and plays the bells.
Modern Family: Stuck In A Moment (Season 10 Episode 10)
Another TV show that we had to say goodbye to. I don’t know about you, but I will miss the Dunphys and Pritchetts. So, sure, there are other great Christmas episodes throughout the show, but this one is special, because of how much everyone grew.
The family are all supposed to go to Jay and Gloria’s house to celebrate Christmas, but a banana spider arrives in the package from Columbia, and they have to host the party at Phil and Claire’s house. There, Haley and Dylan are looking for the best way to tell Claire they are expecting, while Alex is in bad shape from keeping the secret. Mitch and Cam are trying to know what Cal wants for Christmas because his parents are in prison.
The episode is filled with fun moments: Cal and Lily having to deal with Mitch and Cam; Mitch and Cam singing so many songs; Claire acting like a grinch and trying to get off hosting probation; Phil stealing Christmas for a house… it is a classic Modern Family episode that will give you all the feels. Plus, Dylan and Haley’s attempts to announce the good news are just adorable.
Gilmore Girls: The Bracebridge Dinner (Season 2 Episode 10)
When Netflix announced that there would be a Gilmore Girls Revival, joy spread around the internet. Now, after seeing it, I wish they hadn’t. No matter what, the first seasons of Gilmore Girls are filled with pop culture references, so many books that it became a challenge, and famous quotes (Oy with the poodles already!).
In this episode, Lorelei and Sookie organise a Bracebridge dinner for an enterprise in Chicago when they get snowed in. Instead of cancelling, they decide to invite Stars Hollow’s best and brightest to a giant slumber party. With horse sleigh rides, Jess and Rory moments, Richard and Emily fights and make up, and Rune, it is hard to resist the magic. It brings the best of Gilmore girls in one episode. Paris is a work addict, Jess and Luc are scared to eat Sookie’s food and Lorelei is the perfect hostess.
It is because of this kind of episode that I want to live in a place like Stars Hollow. Who wouldn’t? Year round festivals, Luke’s coffee and town meetings…what more can someone need?
Community: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (Season 2 Episode 11)
Community is a gem in the TV industry. There are few low points to the series (well, maybe the last season), it is well written, well played, and works as a whole. Even the secondary characters have rich backstories.
This episode is special in many ways, starting with the fact that it is entirely made of stop motion animated. It focuses on Abed, who is the one that sees everyone made of clay. To understand why Abed has this altered vision, the group embarques on a journey to Planet Abed to find the meaning of Christmas.
This is a true Christmas special, with readaptations of classic Christmas songs to fit with the characters’ journey. It is fun, sad, hopeful, and perfectly sums up what Christmas is all about: “it’s the craziest notion that the longest, coldest, darkest nights can be the warmest and brightest.” As always, we have Annie to thank for that.
Every Doctor Who Christmas Special
No one does Christmas Specials better than the Doctor Who team. No need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the science-fiction Christmas stories. With a change of Doctor, or companion, the mood of the show changes, so each season and each Christmas Special is different.
Most critics agree that the best is A Christmas Carol, an adaptation from Dicken classic novel. However, The Snowmen and The Husband of River Song are also must-watch. One introduces Clara, the impossible girl, while the second one says goodbye to River Song.
And if you couldn’t find the perfect episode for you, or that you wish to continue the Christmas madness, you can always go back to your own favorite TV shows.