21 Great TV Christmas Episodes to Watch This Year (and Where to Watch Them)
Christmas is a time for gifts, love, and... armadillos? On some of our favorite TV episodes, yes. Stream these classics now on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.
On Netflix: 'Friends' - 'The One With the Armadillo' (Season 7)
Years before Seth Cohen invented “Chrismukkah,” Ross tried to introduce son Ben to Hanukkah. But the only outfit he can find for the occasion is an Armadillo. Enter Ross as The Holiday Armadillo, who is here to explain the Festival of Lights. Why didn't this catch on? We also find out that Monica is really into Santa.
On Netflix: 'Cheers' - 'Christmas Cheers' (Season 6)
Sam desperately searches for a present for Rebecca when he realizes that everyone -- including the pretzel salesman, the beer distributor, the relief bartender, and the guy she fired after one day -- have gotten her something. And Norm and his fellow Santas help out a stranded guy named Kris Kringle. Could it be...?
On Hulu: 'The O.C' - 'The Best Chrismukkah Ever' (Season 1)
Not only is Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) mingling two holidays: Christmas and Hanukkah, he's juggling two girlfriends: Anna and Summer. We barely remember Anna now (sorry!), but we'll always give thanks for Chrismukkah and the "yamaclaus," festive headwear that's a cross between a yarmulke and a Santa hat.
On Hulu: 'Lost' - 'The Constant' (Season 4)
Desmond's phone call to Penny is no ordinary call home for the holiday: It's a miraculous message that he told her to wait for eight years ago. She doesn't believe him (who would?) but when the call comes, on Christmas Eve, no less, it's one of the greatest moments of the entire series. Not only has she been waiting for the call, she's been searching for him for the last 3 years. All the happy tears. (Note: If you plan to travel through time, make sure you've got an extremely tech-savvy guy like Sayid handy.)
On Amazon: 'Doctor Who' - 'A Christmas Carol' (Season 6)
Doctor Who Christmas specials are always a big deal, but when the show does Dickens, it's an instant classic. The Doctor (Matt Smith) must intervene in a Scrooge-like Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon)'s past so he'll be kind enough in the present to help save a space liner with more than 4000 people on it. Even the Muppets' “Christmas Carol” didn't have flying sharks in it!
On Netflix: 'The Office' - 'Christmas Party' (Season 2)
AKA the one where Michael Scott buys an iPod for the Secret Santa exchange and is furious when he ends up with Phyllis's homemade oven mitt.
On Hulu: 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' – 'Amends' (Season 3)
Next time you spy some dead Christmas trees when you go tree shopping, keep in mind it might be because the First Evil has set up shop under a Christmas tree lot. That comes in handy for Buffy when she defeats the ancient force that's been trying to drive Angel mad. After being tormented by visions of his past victims, including Jenny Calendar, Angel is ready to commit suicide by sunrise. But then, a miracle: The sun doesn't rise because it's snowing. In Sunnydale. Merry Christmas.
On Netflix: 'Supernatural' – 'A Very Supernatural Christmas' (Season 3)
It wouldn't be Christmas without Dean and Sam getting tied up and nearly killed, now would it? In this classic ep, they tangle with some pagan gods who like to keep the "X" in "Xmas" by yanking unsuspecting victims up the chimney. Meanwhile, Dean (who has sold his soul and has a date with some hellhounds) wants to celebrate his last Christmas, but Sam refuses. After killing their pagan captors, they finally celebrate Christmas, the Winchester way: In a chintzy hotel room with gifts from the nearest gas station: Dean gives Sam porn magazines and shaving cream, and Sam gives Dean oil for the Impala and a candy bar.
On Hulu: 'Futurama' – 'Xmas Story' (Season 2)
In the future, Fry is shocked to find that Christmas is now officially “Xmas” and all pine trees are extinct. Oh, and Santa's now an evil robot who thinks everyone is naughty – and deserves to die. For some reason, Dr. Zoidberg is the only one who is still on the nice list. Nice touch: A homeless robot with one leg named “Tinny Tim.” In the action-packed finale, Santa is defeated, Nibbler eats the Christmas dinner and everyone sings “Santa Claus is Gunning You Down.”
On Hulu: 'The Wonder Years' – 'Christmas' (Season 2)
In the show's first Christmas episode, Wayne lobbies for a color TV for Christmas (fat chance), while Kevin searches for the perfect present for Winnie after she surprises him with one. He walks dreamily to her house, imagining a romantic reception, but is shattered when the door is answered by an elderly housesitter: Winnie and her parents are spending the holidays away after the death of her brother.
On Hulu: 'Malcolm in the Middle' – 'Christmas' (Season 3)
When Lois catches the boys playing dodgeball with the ornaments, she announces that she's moving all the gifts and decorations to the locked garage. If they don't behave, Christmas is canceled! Reese thinks she's bluffing: Until she puts his stocking in the fire!
On Amazon/Hulu: 'Bones' – 'The Man in the Fallout Shelter' (Season 1)
The crew is forced to spend the holidays together at the Smithsonian after a body triggers a quarantine. It's not only a time to bond (Hodgins is all about antlers and eggnog, they make each other presents from what they have on hand!), but it's the first time we find out about Booth's son. And Bones is able to solve the riddle of the decades-old body and give his loved ones some very welcome news as a Christmas present.
On Hulu: '30 Rock' – 'Christmas Special' (Season 3)
While putting together a Christmas special that "makes 'It's a Wonderful Life' look like 'Pulp Fiction,'” Jack (Alec Baldwin) is shocked to learn that Mrs. Claus's enhanced role at Christmas – including hanging your stocking and tucking you in at night -- is something only his mom Colleen (Elaine Stritch) did. Reconciled, the two sit down to the piano and croon “The Christmas Song.” All is merry and bright, except for Mom adding “You're flat, Jack.”
On Hulu: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' – 'Yippie Kayak' (Season 3)
That hilarious "Die Hard" promo for the show's new season (on NBC) isn't the first time they've paid tribute to the Bruce Willis classic. But in "Yippee Kayak," it's Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) who gets to be McClane, white tank top and all. As the AV Club put it: "More Christmas episodes should deal with the three Fs: friendship, family, and flame throwers."
On Amazon/Hulu: 'Parks and Recreation' – 'Citizen Knope' (Season 4)
Lesley Knope gets everyone a perfect gift for Christmas, but is blown away when the staff teams up to craft a replica of the office from gingerbread and candy. Pure sweetness.
On Hulu: 'Blackish' – 'Black Santa/White Christmas' (Season 1)
Dre (Anthony Anderson) successfully lobbies to be the first black Santa at his company's office party. But what he doesn't realize is that he's the one who's supposed to supply the presents. Oops. Santa with no presents, black or white, is not a hit. Meanwhile, Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who's long resented her mother-in-law's taking over Christmas dinner, discovers the secret to those “perfect” meals.
On Amazon/Netflix/Hulu: 'The Twilight Zone' – 'The Meek' (Season 2)
Art Carney ("The Honeymooners") stars as a drunken Santa who wishes he'd "like to see the meek inherit the earth" after getting fired. And suddenly, his bag is full of just the right gift for everyone he meets. At the end of the night, he wishes he can do it again next year. Wish granted.
On Netflix: 'Black Mirror' – 'White Christmas' (Season 2)
This is "Black Mirror," after all, so their Christmas ep, starring Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall, is suitably messed-up and twisted. Bleaker than Scrooge's night with the Ghost of Things Yet to Come?
On Hulu: 'Married... with Children' – 'It's a Bundyful Life' (Season 4)
In this cynical send-up of "It's a Wonderful Life," Al (Ed O'Neill) socks away money in a Christmas club account, but when the bank closes early for a party, he can't get to his Christmas cash. After nearly electrocuting himself on the Christmas lights, an obnoxious guardian angel (who else but Sam Kinison) appears to show him what life would be like if he'd never been born. This double episode was shown as an hour in its original airing, then as "Part 1" and "Part 2" in reruns. It was the most-watched episode of the series, with 31.4 million people tuning in.
On Hulu: 'The X-Files' – 'How the Ghosts Stole Christmas' (Season 6)
Mulder (being Mulder) drags Scully out on Christmas Eve to investigate a supposedly haunted house. Sure enough, it's haunted by two devious ghosts (Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin) who put the two agents through the wringer before the night is over.
On Hulu: 'Happy Endings' – 'No-Ho-Ho' (Season 3)
Jane (Eliza Coupe) is outed as a Christmas baby. She had a fake ID made saying her birthday is in July because she hated having her birthday so close to Christmas. Friends and family plan to throw her a Christmas-free birthday on her actual birthday, but that's easier said than done. And we will never forget Alex grinding on Hip Hop Santa -- a doll that ends up getting (gasp!) thrown off the roof.