TV

The 25 Best Holiday TV Episodes If Movies Just Aren’t Your Thing

Holiday movies get all the hype during the yuletide season but this year, if Lifetime rom-coms and feel-good Hallmark flicks just aren’t doing it for you, why not tune into the best Christmas-themed episodes of some truly great TV shows. There’s more variety here than on your average Christmas binge roundup — we’re talking supernatural haunting and workplace parties and animated adventure mysteries — but they all have one thing in common. They’ll get you in the holiday spirit, no matter what level of Christmas cheer you’re operating at this year.

Here are 25 of the best holiday-themed TV episodes you can stream right now.

NBC

The Office “Moroccan Christmas”
Season 5, Episode 11

Office Christmas parties are historically boring affairs but in season five’s “Moroccan Christmas,” Phyllis spices up the annual snooze-fest by introducing the group to a different culture. Of course, Angela — who lost her role as party planning president — wholly disapproves of the whole thing which makes Phyllis’s small victory even sweeter to watch. The episode also sees Dwight price gouging parents in the market for unicorn princess dolls and the office staging an intervention after Meredith gets so sloshed that she sets herself on fire. The whole fiasco makes you long for the bland, booze-free celebrations of your own workplace. Maybe.

Fox

Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Captain Latvia”
Season 4, Episode 10

Besides having the diggity-dopest tree lighting ceremony out of any show on this list, Brooklyn Nine-Nine really squeezed every bit of holiday drama they could for this Christmas episode. Two plots diverge on this holiday path as Jake and Charles hunt package-thieving Russian mobsters in their search for a Latvian action figure while the rest of the squad schemes up increasingly unethical ways to stick it to the MTA’s official caroling group during their annual singing competition. Despite the expected slapstick antics, this episode holds some tender, uncharacteristically sweet moments that speak to the bigger theme of togetherness, which is what the holiday is really about. That, and watching Terry Crews being smushed to death by a 30-foot rogue inflatable.

NBC

Superstore “Christmas Eve”
Season 3, Episode 7

Superstore has gifted us some memorable Christmas episodes over the years but its Season 3 showing feels worthy of another watch. Not only do certain characters act against type, getting white-girl-wasted on the clock and stealing store scooters to stalk their ex-husband and his new girlfriend — meet Craymie, everyone — the festive happenings in-store manage to nail that mix of relatability and absurdist humor the show has become known for. Jonah dresses as a disgruntled Keebler elf and bickers with Garret over their tense roommate situation, Glenn tries to convince a skeptical Mateo that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, Dina threatens to drop-kick baby Jesus … it’s all here, and it’s all funny.

FX

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia “It’s A Very Sunny Christmas”
Season 6, Episode 13

Yes, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia incorporated stop-motion animation in this Christmas episode a year before Community did it, but weirdly enough, that’s not the highlight of this episode. No, that honor goes to Charlie’s blood-soaked, Santa-assaulting epiphany that his mom may have been a prostitute and the revolving door of Kris Kringles that visited his house every year — along with a few bare a**ed elves — weren’t there to stuff his stocking after all. Well that, and the surprisingly sweet ending which sees the gang move past their seasonal trauma of old to usher in a new Christmas tradition.

Netflix

BoJack Horseman “BoJack Horseman Christmas Special: Sabrina’s Christmas Wish”

It shouldn’t be surprising that BoJack, a washed-up celebrity horse drowning his childhood trauma in booze, pills, and fame-chasing, doesn’t enjoy the holiday season. But his stoner friend Todd (Aaron Paul) does his best to get him in the spirit by busting out an old Christmas episode of his hit sitcom, Horsin’ Around. Most of the episode takes place within this meta-verse, as BoJack’s character tries to make the yuletide special for his adopted kids, especially Sabrina, who believes Santa can bring her dead parents back. It’s a rare episode that devotes itself (almost) entirely to the kind of warm, sentimental storytelling this show would otherwise bury under mental breakdowns and substance abuse and absurdist adventures.

Fox

Bob’s Burgers “The Bleakening Parts 1 & 2”
Season 8, Episodes 6 & 7

This episode has it all. An opening musical number. A Krampus-style monster called the Bleaken who steals Christmas cheer (and ornaments). A mystery, Ebeneezer Bleu-ge Burgers, and an underground warehouse rave for the gays.

NBC

This Is Us “Last Christmas”
Season 1, Episode 10

We’ll just get the emotional spoiler out of the way first: Yes, you will bawl your eyes out while watching this seasonal installment of NBC’s emotional torture device we call This Is Us. But there are parts you will genuinely enjoy, parts that don’t require you to come armed with a box of Kleenex and a pint of Haagen-Dazs. We learn about William’s romantic past, we’re treated to a hilarious recap of the nativity scene’s key characters, we get a Pearson family potluck filled with drama, and of course, a nice, juicy cliffhanger. There’s really a lot to be thankful for here.

CBS

Seinfeld “The Strike”
Season 9, Episode 10

Seinfeld has been credited with a lot over the years when it comes to comedy on TV but we don’t praise the show enough for its introduction of that most sacred of holidays, Festivus. Look, Christmas is fine and all, Hannukah has its merits, but until you celebrate the season by gathering friends, family members, and creepy bookies to air your collective grievances and donate to fake charities and wrestle each other in a “feats of strength” competition, you just aren’t doing the yuletide right.

NBC

Community “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”
Season 2, Episode 11

Community channels the nostalgia and stop-motion animation of classic Rankin-Bass Christmas specials for this seasonal episode that, despite plenty of pop culture nods and the show’s trademark humor, is kind of depressing. In the best possible way. We dive into Abed’s complicated family dynamics — his parents’ separation, his mother’s abandonment — and we do so through a fantastical alternate reality that sees the group traveling to the North Pole like a marauding gang of misfit toys, trying to rescue Abed from his loneliness during a time of year when loneliness is something we all feel more pointedly. It’s a truly inventive take on the expected Christmas bottle episode, one worth watching even if you’re not a fan.

CW

Supernatural “A Very Supernatural Christmas”
Season 3, Episode 8

Supernatural is a show about two bickering brothers who spend their days hunting demons, vampires, and other creatures that go bump in the night. So, of course, the show’s Christmas episode is going to have a bit more paranormal than, well, normal. Still, the show manages to weave those warm, fuzzy themes we’ve come to expect from holiday episodes with a larger plot that includes evil Santas, pagan gods, motel decorating, and Dean’s impending trip to Hell that feels in tune with the rest of the season. Look, some people like their holidays with a bit of murder and ritual sacrifice. We’re not here to judge.

Netflix

Arrested Development “Afternoon Delight”
Season 2, Episode 6

The Bluth’s Christmas celebrations go about as well as you’d expect in this episode. Sure, we get to witness the full glory of the banana suit and watch as G.O.B. is craned out of the wreckage of the family’s produce stand and dropped into the ocean, but there’s also some misunderstandings involving Blue Man Group rehearsals and Michael serenading his niece with a little “Afternoon Delight” at the office Christmas party that are hilariously uncomfortable to watch. Do it anyway.

NBC

30 Rock “Ludachristmas”
Season 2, Episode 9

After honoring Seinfeld’s Festivus (and before paying tribute to The O.C.’s “Chrismukkah”) we simply must celebrate another fake holiday we sorely wish could be canon in real life. We’re talking about 30 Rock’s “Ludachristmas,” a seasonal tradition where the staff of 30 Rock gets uproariously drunk, don inappropriate Christmas sweaters, use a stripper as a human charcuterie board, and blast that underrated classic from the Fred Claus 2 soundtrack.

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The O.C. “Best Chrismukkah Ever”
Season 1, Episode 13

The time has arrived to pay our respects to the only holiday-themed episode of a sun-soaked teen drama about hormonal high-school elites our generation is legally allowed to recognize. We’re talking about The O.C.’s Chrismukkah celebration. Now, granted there have been a few festive installments of this show and they’re all worth a watch, but the show’s first season is the one that introduced us all to this new holiday “sweeping the nation” and for that, it gets the glory of appearing on this list. You want a candy cane and a menorah? Well, you can have it here. The episode fused the best parts of both holidays, turned Seth Cohen into its official mascot, and brought the gang together for a fancy holiday party filled with soap opera cat-fights and steamy hookups. It was a true Chrismukkah miracle.

WB
Fox

Veronica Mars “An Echolls Family Christmas”
Season 1, Episode 10

Veronica Mars was the plucky teen detective show that was ahead of its time in many ways, and that extends to its Christmas episode. Following the separate investigations of both Mars family members, this outing sees Veronica learning a bit too much about her classmates during a round of poker while her father, Keith, hunts a stalker. There are some great quips and one-liners here and overall, the episode holds onto the show’s patented nihilistic tone while injecting just enough Christmas cheer to warrant a spot on this list.

NBC

Scrubs “My Own Personal Jesus”
Season 1, Episode 11

There’s a lot going on in this Christmas episode, but then again, Scrubs is a show that got a thrill from spinning too many plates. It really does no use to lay out the plot, you have to experience the controlled chaos yourself, but we can confirm that the Grinch, Turk impersonating a Baptist minister, and a nativity scene pop up at various points.

WB

Buffy The Vampire Slayer “Amends”
Season 3, Episode 10

Buffy’s plans of “Tree. Nog. Roast Beast.” are interrupted when her ex-lover, Angel, comes to her for help after he starts experiencing torturous visions of people he’s killed. He’s being tormented by something called “The First Evil,” and it takes the whole Scooby-Gang to help cure him, a pretty miraculous feat considering the grudges Xander and especially Giles are holding. Sure, the follow-up episode to this holiday treat sports the funnier lines, but “Amends” trades in themes of forgiveness and togetherness and found family that makes it a heartwarming watch — despite a botched vampire suicide attempt.

Netflix

Black Mirror “White Christmas”

We can’t, in good conscience, recommend this episode to anyone wanting to bask in the warm, artificial glow of obligatory Christmas-themed television. Black Mirror’s holiday special is just as f*cked up as the rest of the show, a flag it proudly waves using Jon Hamm’s remorseless manipulator to wreak havoc on his own life and the lives of others. Technology is clearly the monster here but those who wield it also hold the blame and the show finds a truly disturbing way to ruin a holiday musical classic. But hey, if you’re into that sort of thing, have at it.

NBC

The Office “Christmas Party”
Season 2, Episode 10

Everyone knows the office gift-giving tradition of Secret Santa is not to be messed with. Bad things happen when we disrupt the seasonal status-quo. Michael discovers that when he shakes things up by forcing the employees to play a game of Yankee Swap (or White Elephant, or Nasty Christmas, whatever you prefer) instead of just giving gifts they’d spent time buying or crafting for specific people in the office. That means Jim’s thoughtful gift to Pam — a teapot filled with homages to inside jokes between the pair — ends up going to Dwight for him to repurpose as a Neti Pot. It also means that everyone resorts to fighting over Michael’s gift to Ryan, a brand new iPod.

NBC

Friends “The One With The Holiday Armadillo”
Season 7, Episode 10

There are other, and perhaps better, holiday episodes of this long-running beloved sitcom, but any show that commits so fully to introducing a new religious mascot must be recognized. When Ross tries to teach Ben about the traditions of Hannukah, the only suit he can rent at the last minute is that of an armadillo. This leads him on a journey to crafting an extraordinary tale of Santa’s Tex-Mex loving helper, and eventually, the rest of the gang gets involved by donning their own Kris Kringle and Superman get-ups.

Fox

New Girl “Santa”
Season 2, Episode 11

Again, New Girl is one of those comedies that always managed to get its Christmas episode right but there’s something about “Santa” that earns it a special place in our heart. Maybe it’s Nick’s uncomfortable public sexcapade with Olivia Munn’s hard-partying stripper or the relatable awkwardness of running into your ex at a Christmas party or the final holiday musical number that wakes up the entire pediatric ward at the hospital. Or maybe it’s just because Winston gets roped into pretending to be Jess’s lover before getting to stage a faux breakup for the ages.

ABC

Happy Endings “No-Ho-Ho”
Season 3, Episode 7

Happy Endings is the only show on this list brave enough to confront a long unspoken truth: Sharing your birthday with baby Jesus f*cking sucks. Luckily for Jane, she’s got a group of well-meaning friends who try their best to ignore the festivities so that she can hog the spotlight for once. Unfortunately, they’re all obsessed with Christmas in their own uniquely-weird ways so the whole episode just proves to be a sweet, but meaningless gesture. Baby Jesus wins this battle.

ABC

Lost “The Constant”
Season 4, Episode 8

Did you know Lost had a Christmas episode? Sure, it’s buried under the nail-biting phone call fans had been waiting seasons for, and some poignant flashbacks that helped to shore up the at-time confusing mythology of the show, but it’s there. If you look closely — as closely as you can while being hurried through melting timelines and emotionally-wrought flashbacks and long-winded expositions about time continuums, you might even see some holiday decor and a well-lit Christmas tree. It’s enough for us.

Pop TV

Schitt’s Creek “Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose”
Season 4, Episode 13

Fans had to wait four seasons for a real Christmas episode from this loveable Canadian comedy but it didn’t disappoint. Not only are we treated to the rare flashback of the Rose clan, in all their glitz and glory, we also see how they’ve grown from those shallow holiday parties of old in the present. Their motel gathering is nothing to sneer at, perfecting the right balance of sentimental and silly to win us over and prove that despite losing their mansions and soirees and Moira’s “dearest friend, Paul Shaffer’s” musical talents, they’re better off this Christmas than they ever have been.

Netflix

Orange Is the New Black “Can’t Fix Crazy”
Season 1, Episode 13

Leave it to Jenji Kohan’s prison dramedy to end its groundbreaking first season with a wild cliffhanger involving drug-running operations and grease fires and surprisingly joyful Christmas plays and Pennsatucky wielding a cross-like some strung-out dollar-store angel tree-topper. This is the most bonkers holiday episode on the list, but it does find an inventive use for a classic holiday tune.

Netflix

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina “A Midwinter’s Tale”
Season 1, Episode 11

For a Christmas episode that refuses to acknowledge any of the traditional elements of the season — there’s even a moratorium on the word “Christmas” — the witches of Salem sure know how to throw a holiday party. Of course, theirs is one filled with seances gone wrong and child-napping demons and lighting yule logs to prevent monsters from shimmying down their chimney, but hey, we recognize all forms of holiday cheer here. Bright Solstice, witches.

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