~^%&TOP ><HIFI .””The 10 best Christmas TV episodes of all time, from ‘The Office’ to ‘Downton Abbey’

5 min readDec 15, 2020

’Tis the season to sing carols, give presents and watch red-and-green-tinted episodes of TV.

Christmas movies get a lot of buzz during the holiday season, but many of your favorite TV series have made holly, jolly episodes worth revisiting as the weather turns colder, alongside Hallmark movie marathons and repeat viewings of “Love Actually” and “A Christmas Story.”

Classic sitcoms, teen supernatural dramas, historical dramas and more all have made Christmas episodes that bring cheer (or, depending on the drama, some despair). These are the 10 best Yuletide episodes, from “Friends” to “Downton Abbey.”

10. ‘Community’

Season 2 Episode 11: “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (2010)

If there is a series that could pull off an entire episode in stop-motion animation in the style of Christmas classics like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it’s “Community.” NBC’s oddball series showed its true colors in this episode, when Abed (Danny Pudi), coping with grief, imagines the world is a stop-motion winter wonderland. It’s weird, funny and profound, which describes most of the best episodes of “Community.”

9. ‘The O.C.’

Season 1 Episode 13: “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” (2003)

The annual “Chrismukkah” episode became a staple of the four seasons of Fox’s California soap, but the first is easily the best. “The greatest super-holiday known to man” is the most enduring contribution the show made to pop culture. But the seasonal spirit of this episode doesn’t overpower the juicy drama among Summer (Rachel Bilson), Anna (Samaire Armstrong) and Seth (Adam Brody).

8. ‘Downton Abbey’

“Christmas at Downton Abbey(2011)

The Brits are great at Christmas specials. After two seasons of will-they-won’t-they drama, only PBS’ ‘Downton Abbey’ could produce, our favorite couple finally got together properly, when Matthew (Dan Stevens) proposed to Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). The cheery, romantic episode is the stuff “Downton” fans’ dreams are made of, especially with all that snow.

More:Dolly Parton on her holiday movie musical, ‘Christmas on the Square’: ‘We need some joy’

7. ‘Friends’

Season 2, Episode 9: “The One with Phoebe’s Dad” (1995)


Ross (David Schwimmer) dressing up as the “Holiday Armadillo” in Season 7 is the more famous Christmas episode of NBC’s “Friends,” but this sweeter, less gimmicky installment has more holiday cheer. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) discovers that her father lives in upstate New York and tries to meet him, only to be too scared to knock on his door. Meanwhile, Monica (Courteney Cox) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) throwing a Christmas party with a broken radiator that makes it hot enough in the apartment for a tropical theme, and Joey (Matt Le Blanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) buying all their Christmas presents at a gas station.

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6. ‘The West Wing’

Season 1 Episode 10: “In Excelsis Deo” (1999)

Sometimes “Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin can imbue his series with over-the-top sentimentality and a preachy tone, but in the NBC White House drama’s first Christmas episode, he gets the tone right. In the episode, Toby (Richard Schiff) discovers that a homeless veteran died while wearing a coat Toby gave to charity, and it becomes his mission to give the man a proper funeral. When that funeral is intercut with a young boys’ choir singing “The Little Drummer Boy” as the staff lines up to watch, the tears will flow.

5. ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’

Season 3 Episode 10: “Amends” (1998)

Nothing says Christmas like the root of all evil in the world, right? The WB (and later UPN) supernatural series’ foray into the holiday season is, on the outside, the story of an all-powerful evil being torturing a vampire with a soul. But at its heart the episode tells a story about forgiveness, a common Christmas theme.

4. ‘Veronica Mars’

Season 1 Episode 10: “An Echolls’ Family Christmas” (2004)

If you need a little intrigue with your holiday cheer, look no further than Neptune, California, where you can’t get through a Christmas party without someone getting stabbed. That’s right, the first “Mars” Christmas episode has all the best elements of the UPN series: Veronica (Kirsten Bell) and Logan (Jason Dohring) hate-flirting; class issues; movie stars; hero Keith (Enrico Colantoni); Veronica cleverly solving the mystery; and the violence, because Neptune isn’t really a cheery town.

3. ‘Seinfeld’

Season 9 Episode 10: “The Strike” (1997)

Christmas? What Christmas? It’s a “Festivus for the rest of us!” So says Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) in this iconic episode of the NBC sitcom. The rest of the story, about Kramer’s (Michael Richards) long strike from his job, can be forgotten once the infamous Festivus Pole comes out, but it’s one of the funnier “Seinfeld” installments, invented holiday or not.

2. ‘The Office’

Season 2 Episode 10: “Christmas Party” (2005)

For much of NBC’s “The Office,” Michael Scott (Steve Carell) wasn’t so much a bad person as he was a well-meaning (if selfish) idiot. This is demonstrated perfectly in the Season 2 Christmas episode, which (like all the series’ best episodes) pits Michael’s irrationality against the group. Upset with his handmade gift in the office Secret Santa exchange, Michael forces everyone into a Yankee Swap (White Elephant or Dirty Santa to some) so he can get a better gift, which sets off the whole office dynamic.

1. ‘Roswell’

Season 2 Episode 10: “A Roswell Christmas Carol” (2000)

The canceled-too-soon WB and UPN series about teenage aliens (featuring a young Katherine Heigl) delivered an exceptional Christmas episode during its short life. The show’s alien hero, Max (Jason Behr), chooses not to use his healing powers to save a man hit by a car, fearing it might expose him to the world. He then gets his own ghost of Christmas present as he’s haunted by the man he couldn’t save. This unique and heartbreaking take on “A Christmas Carol” is lightened by cheerier (and funnier) Christmas antics from Isabel (Heigl) and Michael (Brendan Fehr).