David Schwimmer as Ross Geller and Cole Sprouse as Ben in 'Friends'
The 13 Best TV Christmas Episodes To Get You In The Holiday Spirit

Merry watching.

by Kristen Perrone and Ani Bundel
Originally Published: 
Warner Bros. Television

The holiday season is hectic. Even for those who work from home, it’s challenging to find time just to chill before the holiday haze begins. As the countdown clock ticks away the minutes left to shop for presents, time in December is sacred. When you have an hour or two to spare, a dose of Christmas spirit to feel motivated for that party or caroling with the family is probably in order. In case you’re feeling like a bit of a Scrooge, here’s a list of the best TV Christmas episodes to improve your mood.

The holiday festivities are draining, so when you can’t muster a hearty “ho, ho, ho,” try switching on one of these options for a quick Christmas boost. Whether you want to watch an absurd take on a holiday tradition or a heartwarming scene of your favorite characters gathered around the fire, TV’s most well-known Christmas episodes are bound to put you in the right mood. And they are perfectly bite-sized for those who don't have time for a full 90-minute movie.

But with TV series spread out across so many streaming services, it might be hard to find your favorites. Here’s a rundown of some of the best holiday episodes of fan-favorite series and where to find them.


“The One With The Holiday Armadillo”

(Friends Season 7)

Friends did holiday episodes almost every year, but this is the one that consistently tops the list. When Ross gets to celebrate the holidays with his son (a young Cole Sprouse), he makes it his mission to teach Ben about his Jewish heritage. Ross's attempt to dress as Santa Claus and explain Hanukkah ends with him in an armadillo costume as he tries to convince Ben he's Santa's representative. Most importantly, the story makes us consider how other winter holidays deserve a prominent spot alongside Christmas.

All episodes of Friends are streaming on HBO Max.


“Christmas at Downton Abbey”

(Downton Abbey Season 2)

The Christmas special has been a staple in British television since the 1980s. It’s a badge of honor for shows to be rewarded with a Christmas episode, as a mark of just how popular the series has become. Downton Abbey landed its first special with Season 2, and though there were yearly installments to follow, the show never quite topped this snowy romantic hour that finally brought Mary and Matthew together after two seasons of drama.

All episodes of Downton Abbey are streaming on Peacock.


“Pink Christmas”

(Neo Yokio Season 1)

Not every anime series brings the holiday spirit, and Neo Yokio’s one and only Christmas special isn’t exactly ordinary. Series lead Kaz Kahn (voiced in English by Jaden Smith), an exorcist with a taste for earthly pleasures, finds himself juggling a Secret Santa competition while removing the demonic possession of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Even worse, his Aunt Angelique is on her way, and the holiday meal must be to her satisfaction.

All episodes of Neo Yokio are streaming on Netflix.


“How Lily Stole Christmas”

(How I Met Your Mother Season 2)

How I Met Your Mother did several holiday-set installments, but if you want an explicitly Christmas-themed HIMYM episode, Ted and Lily's fallout over an old voicemail is the way to go. After Ted calls Lily an unprintable word — a "grinch" in Future Ted's retelling to the tale to his kids — it prompts her to move all of the Christmas decorations out of their apartment. We all inevitably clash with someone this time of year, but "How Lily Stole Christmas" reminds us there are more critical things to consider.

All episodes of How I Met Your Mother are streaming on Hulu.


“Carol of the Bells”

(Ted Lasso Season 2)

This episode was a little controversial, since it is a Christmas special that landed in mid-August. However, the Love Actually-inspired parody of the traditional British holiday special was spot on. Revisited in December where it belongs, this story of Roy and Keeley’s search for a miracle while Ted and Rebecca help underprivileged children is a new holiday gem.

All episodes of Ted Lasso are streaming on Apple TV+.


“The Best Chrismukkah Ever”

(The O.C. Season 1)

TV is decidedly better at incorporating diverse backgrounds into its holiday coverage than it used to be, and it partially has this O.C. episode to thank for normalizing Hanukkah inclusion. Seth introduces his blended holiday tradition of Chrismukkah, meant to appease his Christian mother and Jewish father. The episode has its fair share of love triangles and poor decisions, but when you're a teenager, aren’t the holidays just something that happens in between all of your everyday angst over school and friends?

All episodes of The O.C. are streaming on HBO Max.


“Moroccan Christmas”

(The Office Season 5)

All of The Office's holiday episodes are enjoyable to some degree, but Season 5’s “Moroccan Christmas” captures its festive spirit best. In charge of the office Christmas party for the first time, Phyllis plans a Moroccan-themed soiree, while Dwight schemes to sell the year's most popular toy at a ridiculously high price. The episode also covers Angela's affair with Dwight, thereby making it perfectly acceptable for year-round viewing. I'm not the only one watching these Christmas episodes in July, right?

All episodes of The Office are streaming on Peacock.


“The Great Festive Baking Show: Derry Girls”

(The Great British Baking Show: Holidays Season 3)

Like its dramas and comedies, popular U.K. reality series also get holiday specials. Since moving to Channel 4, those holiday episodes have moved from masterclasses in baking to returning contestants and celebrity challenges. But the best of the batch was when the show invited the cast of Derry Girls. Can they bake? Not really. Do they have a whole lot of fun trying? You bet your arse they do, with holiday cheer to boot.

All episodes of The Great British Baking Show are streaming on Netflix, as are all episodes of Derry Girls.



(Black-ish Season 2)

Christmas is often commercialized, and watching Dre and Bow teach their kids how much creates a classic Black-ish moment. When Dre finally feels fed up with his family's gift requests, he decides to give each of the kids only one present that Christmas. Black-ish is sometimes reminiscent of the simple family sitcom that was everywhere in the 1990s, but while this plot may have been done dozens of times on TV, it feels entertainingly fresh in "Stuff."

All episodes of Black-ish are streaming on Hulu.


“A Very Glee Christmas”

(Glee Season 2)

Though Glee had many issues, its musical choices often set it apart from your typical teen dramedy. The Season 2 Christmas episode was a prime example, particularly earning praise for its duet of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" between Kurt and Blaine. Besides changing the delivery of an aging classic song for the better, "A Very Glee Christmas" also follows Artie's quest to maintain Brittany's belief in Santa Claus and Sue's Grinch-like interference in the school faculty's Secret Santa exchange.

All episodes of Glee are streaming on Amazon Prime.


“In Excelsis Deo”

(The West Wing Season 1)

Not everything about The West Wing has aged well, but the holiday-themed “In Excelsis Deo” still stirs up fuzzy feelings. Toby becomes invested in the passing of a homeless veteran when his body is found in a coat Toby donated, while CJ tries to push for more hate crime legislation. Have tissues ready for this episode’s closing scene set to a version of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

All episodes of The West Wing are streaming on HBO Max.


“Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas”

(Community Season 2)

Community adopted the Rankin/Bass stop-motion style of Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy for the Season 2 holiday special. Abed's Christmas-themed fantasy featured the entire study group in this classic animated format. As one of the most unique-looking holiday episodes to be found anywhere on TV, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" should be on your radar every year.

All episodes of Community are streaming on Netflix.


“The Bleakening: Parts 1 and 2”

(Bob’s Burgers Season 8)

Bob’s Burgers has been doing holiday-themed episodes since Season 3, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas installments. But the best one of the batch is also the most ambitious, a two-parter that initially aired back to back, forming the show’s first hour-long special. The plot is simple: Linda attempts to throw a holiday party at the restaurant. However, the results are anything but. Also, did I mention it’s a musical?

All episodes of Bob’s Burgers are streaming on Hulu.

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