While Christmas movies may depict the holiday season as a magical time of year riddled with grand gestures and Christmas miracles, the reality tends to be quite the opposite. Fighting through crowds of people to buy presents for family members you rarely see, tense family dinners and endless traffic jams are way more realistic than the snow-filled wonderlands that often grace our screens. And then there’s TV, which tends to portray Christmas a bit more realistically. From getting arrested to inventing alternative holidays, here are a handful of holiday-themed episodes that will have you belly-laughing your way into the festive spirit.
Seinfeld – The Strike (Season 9, Episode 10)
While it may not arouse a particularly festive mood, the traditions of Festivus are pretty relatable. Celebrated on December 23, Festivus is a made-up holiday in which celebrations are had around an aluminium pole, rather than a Christmas tree, before guests partake in the traditional Airing of Grievances, in which everyone shares how they’ve been disappointed by one another over the past year before dining on meatloaf and spaghetti. What ensues is a painfully awkward evening which isn’t too far off most family affairs, give or take the Festivus pole. And let’s not forget how George creates a fake charity called The Human Fund rather than having to spend money on an actual gift. Pure genius.
The Simpsons – Marge Be Not Proud (Season 7, Episode 11)
After being caught shoplifting a video game, Bart is banned from the local Try-N-Save yet he manages to keep news of his crime a secret until Marge takes the family to the store the next day to have their family photo taken. Bart is booted from the store, ruining the photo and causing his family to learn of his shoplifting antics. Bart, in turn, is shunned from family activities while the rest of the Simpsons live out a perfect Christmas without him, until he makes it up to Marge by gifting her a portrait of himself replace the ruined photo. This storyline here is pretty heartwarming and shows that gifts are not the most important part of Christmas.
Scrubs – My Own Personal Jesus (Season 1, Episode 11)
As fresh interns at Sacred Heart, none of the Scrubs gang are quite feeling the Christmas spirit — except for Turk, who tries to rally the gang after experiencing a Christmas miracle in which his dead patient turned out to be alive. After a disheartening night on call in which he faces a barrage of sick and injured people, any enthusiasm for the holiday vanishes, until Elliot finds her missing, pregnant patient and restores his faith. As always, the episode is rife with Dr Cox rants and J.D. daydreams.
The Office – Christmas Party (Season 2, Episode 10)
Life at Dundermifflin isn’t exactly smooth-sailing at the best of times, so throw in some holiday stress and an office Secret Santa and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. After Michael gifts an iPod to Ryan and receives a homemade oven mitt from Phyllis in return, he introduces a Yankee Swap in which all gifts are fair game and everyone starts swapping presents to get their hands on something better. Jim, having put a lot of though into his gift for Pam, is bummed about all the swapping and the whole thing just becomes a giant PSA against doing a Secret Santa with your co-workers.
The OC – Best Chrismukkah Ever (Season 1, Episode 13)
“Drawing on the best that Christianity and Judaism have to offer”, Seth Cohen’s brain-child/superholiday, Chrismukkah, delivers the ultimate holiday entertainment, filled with all the usual OC drama. Marissa gets arrested for shoplifting then tries to drown her woes with booze while Seth obsesses over Summer and Anna, who try to one up each other with their gift-giving, and Ryan broods. But, when you’ve got Moses and Jesus on your side, there’s bound to be a Christmas miracle and by the end of the episode, Ryan learns to embrace his new family and Seth’s wacky holiday.