Brilliant But Cancelled

12 Days of Classic Christmas Episodes to Watch This Season

by Aly Semigran December 9, 2013 6:15 am
12 Days of Classic Christmas Episodes to Watch This Season

Forget Lords-a-Leaping or the Maids-a-Milking or whatever the heck Colly birds are. Since the 12 days of Christmas have three solid days at best (Day 5 of those Golden Rings sounds like a pretty good deal) we decided to pick an episode of television to correspond with each day instead. After all, the Christmas-themed episodes of shows like 30 Rock, M.A.S.H., and The O.C. are truly the gifts that keep on giving. So, all together now, here are the 12 Days of classic Christmas episodes to watch this and every season.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 30 Rock: "Ludachristmas"
Since you can't have a proper Christmas episode without a Grinch, the reemergence of Colleen Donaghy (the great Elaine Stritch) makes this one of the funniest, if not one of the most gleefully naughty Christmas episodes ever. Colleen manages to get the all-too-cheerful Lemon family to crack when Liz finds out her parents took her brother Mitch (Andy Richter)-- who is perpetually stuck in 1985 due to his "Trauma Induced Nivea Aphasia" -- to see The Goonies instead of going to her football game. The breaking of the Lemons turns out to be a bonding moment for Colleen and her son Jack. Elsewhere, Kenneth tries (and ultimately fails) to teach the selfish TGS crew the true meaning, and in turn, cancels their beloved "Ludachristmas."

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… The X Files: "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas"
Instead of wrapping presents, Mulder and Scully spend their Christmas Eve investigating a haunted mansion inhabited by two ghosts named Lyda and Maurice (played by Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner, respectively). Of course, it's not the spooky haunted house that makes this episode memorable (it's certainly a lot scarier than the ghosts of Christmas past, though, particularly when you've got a pair of ghosts that took their lives in a love-fueled suicide pact) it's the surprisingly sentimental moment at the end of the episode when Mulder and Scully exchange gifts.

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… E.R.: "A Miracle Happens Here"
E.R. had a handful of really good Christmas episodes (including "I'll Be Home For Christmas", which marked the bittersweet final appearance of Eriq LaSalle's Dr. Benton), but this one sticks out the most. For an episode that had its fair share of heavy drama (including Dr. Greene dealing with his first Christmas as a divorcee) there was plenty of light cheerfulness, including Carol treating a patient who looked an awful lot like Santa. Plus, there's that scene where Carol can't remember the words to the "12 Days of Christmas" and her coworkers join in to help her. Well, sort of. Even they can't remember the order of the lyrics. (That damn song!)

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… The Office: "A Benihana Christmas"
Like E.R., The Office had a consistently good string of Christmas episodes. While "Christmas Party" and "Moroccan Christmas" are memorable (if not a little depressing), "A Benihana Christmas" was the best present Dunder-Mifflin ever gave viewers. From the dueling Christmas parties (Angela's lame Nutcracker-themed gathering vs. Karen and Pam's karaoke and booze-fueled shindig) to Michael mending his broken heart with Jim and Dwight at Benihana (or, as he calls it, "Asian Hooters"), this was way more delightful than having someone putting a dead goose on your desk.

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… The Wonder Years: "Christmas"
The only thing more sentimental than Christmas is The Wonder Years, so these two are a match made in sentimental Christmas episode heaven. While Kevin spends a good portion of the episode trying to come up with the perfect present for Winnie (of course) and nagging his father for a color television, the real heartwarming moment happens when the Arnold family gets stuck in an unexpected rain storm and share a laugh that brings them all together.

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Seinfeld: "The Strike"
Seinfeld added so much to the American culture and lexicon during its nine-year run, but perhaps none more impactful than Festivus, which made its debut in the episode "The Strike." As an alternative to the commercialism of Christmas, Frank Costanza created the Festivus holiday, which has its own set of traditions like the Festivus pole, shouting "It's a Festivus for the rest of us!", the "Airing of the Grievances," and the "Feats of Strength." The whole thing is a sitcom/Festivus miracle.

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… M.A.S.H.: "Death Takes a Holiday"
M.A.S.H. was always a show that made you think about the things that really mattered in life, but it felt all the more poignant in this particular episode. Among the storylines in this episode, which included a Christmas party, is the one that leaves the biggest impression is when Hawkeye, Honeycutt, Houlihan, and Father Mulcahy fight to keep a soldier alive to keep him from dying on Christmas Eve so that his family wouldn't have to associate the holiday with his death. It's as touching and thoughtful and sobering as Christmas episodes come.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Friends: "The One With the Holiday Armadillo"
Ross is desperate to teach Ben about his Jewish roots and get him as invested in Hanukkah as he is Christmas, but it all falls spectacularly to pieces when Chandler shows up dressed like Santa and Joey as a Jew-rescuing Superman. On a whim, Ross comes up with the "Holiday Armadillo", a creature that represents the Southwest states and celebrates pretty much all of the December holidays (including, apparently, the Easter Bunny's funeral). Hey, it's still less pathetic than when Ross dressed as doody on Halloween.

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… The Brady Bunch: "The Voice of Christmas"
In a set of problems only the Bradys could have, Carol gets laryngitis loses her voice just days before the Christmas concert at her church. And, in a turn of events that could only happen with the Bradys, Cindy asks Santa to give her mother back her voice so that she can sing in time for the pageant. (Spoiler alert: she does!) It's pretty corny and overly sentimental, but hey, so are the holidays.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me… The Mary Tyler Moore Show: " Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II"
For anyone who has gotten stuck having to work on Christmas and/or Christmas Eve, this one probably resonates the most. Mary gets roped into having to work on both days, and just when she thinks she's about to be robbed or murdered by a holiday intruder, it turns out to actually be her colleagues there to surprise her with some Christmas cheer.

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me…The O.C.: "The Best Chrismukkah Ever"
Just like Seinfeld did, The O.C. changed the holiday season forever with Seth Cohen's brilliant merging of Christmas and Hanukkah: Chrismukkah. While all of the Chrismukkah episodes were beloved (particularly by viewers who celebrated both religions and holidays and never previously had a name for it before), the first one in which we were introduced to this blessed holiday still remains the best one ever. Heck, it's right there in the title.

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Extras: "The Extra Special Finale"
Yes, the majority of this Christmas special/series finale is seriously depressing (the scenes in which the already-beaten down Maggie spends her holiday season in her tiny, sad apartment or at her degrading job will make you appreciate everything you have), but just like It's a Wonderful Life, the joyous ending (Andy, post-Big Brother exit redeems himself by stepping away from the spotlight and rekindles his friendship with Maggie) makes it all worthwhile.




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