Bing & Bowie make musical magic
The pairing of setuagenarian crooner Bing Crosby and glam-rock icon David Bowie in Bing's 1977 holiday special had all the makings of becoming one of television's most WTF moments - but instead brought us an iconic spin on a Christmas classic with Bing's honey-soaked baritone wrapping around "The Little Drummer Boy" as Bowie's "Peace on Earth" swirls around it in perfect harmony. Still a Christmas classic nearly 40 years later.
Kenneth's true meaning of Christmas on '30 Rock'
Sensing that the 'TGS' gang doesn't grasp the true meaning of Christmas, Kenneth axes the office Christmas party in order to share what he thinks will be inspirational but is actually just miserable. In fact, Kenneth's punishment-based view on Christmas results in a near-riot in the writers' room when the 'TGS' staffers decide to chop down the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
'The Simpsons' find Santa's Little Helper
The first-ever full-fledged 'Simpsons' episode is also a holiday classic, in which Homer's lack of a Christmas bonus and the cost of removing Bart's new tattoo have left Homer broke for the holidays, unable to afford presents for the family. Despondent, Bart and Homer go to the dog track in hopes of winning some money, but they come home with something far more valuable: the family dog, Santa's Little Helper. He may not have won the race, but he won a place in the Simpsons' hearts.
'Seinfeld' invents Festivus
"A Festivus for the rest of us!" Frank Costanza's declaration that he had created his own holiday (including such elements as an aluminum pole, airing of grievances and a "feats of strength" demonstration) resulted in a wacky tradition that lives on long after this classic 1997 episode - you can actually buy Festivus cards! Another classic 'Seinfeld' holiday moment comes from a 1992 episode in which everybody but Elaine notices that her annual Christmas card featured an unfortunate nip slip.
Charlie Brown's scrawny Christmas tree
© 1965 United Feature Syndicate/© 1965 United Features Syndicate
One of television's most beloved Christmas specials features so many iconic images - the 'Peanuts' dance party, Lucy lounging against Schroeder's piano, Linus delivering his still-relevant speech about the true meaning of Christmas - yet it's Charlie Brown's sad, scrawny little tree, practically collapsed by the weight of a single ornament, that has become the singular moment from this 1965 holiday classic.
'Friends' introduces the Holiday Armadillo
Leave it to 'Friends' to put a hilariously bizarre spin on the holidays in this Yuletide episode that finds Ross desperate to teach his young son about Hannukah when the kid gripes that a Santa-less Christmas is a total bummer. Ross decides the best way to save Christmas is to rent a Santa suit, but discovers it's too late in the season and there are none to be had; the only costume he can find is an armadillo, so he creates the persona of Santa's Tex-Mex pal, the Holiday Armadillo. To complicate matters, Chandler winds up showing up in a Santa suit - while Joey arrives costumed as Superman, resulting in a Christmas that looks more like Halloween.
'Community' turns mental illness into an animated holiday special
Only 'Community' would dare to turn a character's complete mental breakdown into a stop-motion Christmas special. That's exactly what happens in this episode when Abed apparently has some sort of psychotic break and retreats inside the safety of his own mind - where the members of the study group are characters in a 'Rudolph'-like Christmas adventure that's even more bizarre than it sounds.
'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and the worst Nativity scene ever
It's kind of a given that a Christmas-themed episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' would be politically incorrect, and that was certainly the case when hungry Larry gobbles up a cookie Nativity scene baked by his ultra-religious sister-in-law, resulting in the only holiday TV episode to include the line: "You ate baby Jesus!" To make things right, Larry hires a group of actors to be a human Nativity scene on his driveway, which naturally escalates into a fistfight when Larry comments that the woman playing the Virgin Mary is "hot"
'Arrested Development' and the annual banana-stand tradition
Michael is disheartened when George Michael can't join him for the annual holiday tradition of rebuilding the frozen banana stand, which is ritualistically destroyed by juvenile delinquents each Christmas, instead accompanying Ann to her family's Christmas party. Meanwhile at the office, Gob thinks he's going to get toasted at the Bluth Company Christmas party, but is instead roasted. In the end, the banana stand is rebuilt and everyone learns the Bluth-style true meaning of Christmas - to say nothing of the true (and very smutty) meaning of 1970s soft-rock hit "Afternoon Delight."
'South Park' introduces a fecal favourite
It certainly didn't seem like it at the time, but nearly 20 years after the debut of this irreverant 1997 episode of 'South Park', the cheery piece of excrement known as Mr. Hankey has become an alternative holiday favourite right alongside Rudolph and Frosty. In this season-one episode, a takeoff on 'A Charlie Brown Christmas', Jewish Kyle is depressed that he doesn't get to celebrate Christmas along with his gentile pals until Mr. Hankey shows up and makes him feel better. In a hilariously pointed subplot, the townsfolk become so obsessed with remaining politically correct and inoffensive that they go to ridiculous levels to ensure there's not a shred of religion in the town's Christmas celebrations.
A Christmastime happy ending for 'The Office'
Perhaps the funniest and most poignant episodes of Ricky Gervais's original U.K. 'The Office', this two-part Christmas special concluded the stories of the various cubicle-dwellers at Wernham Hogg, set several years after the events of the series. Not only do we see Tim and Dawn FINALLY get together, but David Brent actually manages to do something he's never done before: make his former employees laugh.
'It's Always Sunny' learns the truth about Christmas
In addition to a jaw-droppingly violent stop-motion parody of 'Rudolph', the 'Always Sunny' Christmas special brings Charlie and Mac to realize just how messed-up their treasured holiday traditions actually are; not only does Mac figure out that other children didn't break into their neighbour's house to claim their presents from under the tree, but Charlie realizes all those Santas who showed up each Christmas Eve were giving his mother more than just Christmas cheer.
'The O.C.' creates Chrismukkah
If 'Seinfeld' invented Festivus, then 'The O.C.' can lay claim to inventing 'Chrismukkah', a religion-spanning blend of Christmas and Hanukkah celebrated by Seth Cohen, his Jewish father and his Christian mother. Not just a great plotline, but also a pop-culture phenomenon that continues to be ironically celebrated by interfaith hipsters.
It's a Bundyful life on 'Married... With Children'
One of many send-ups of the Jimmy Stewart classic, this one boasts a secret weapon: wild-man comic Sam Kinison in a rare sitcom appearance, guest starring as the guardian angel who shows Al Bundy what the lives of his loved ones would be like had he never been born. The angel also shares another revelation: Al will buy the farm at age 60 due to all the ulcers caused by the stress of supporting his ungrateful family.
Sheldon hugs it out on 'The Big Bang Theory'
When Sheldon discovers a Christmas gift from Penny under the tree, he sees it not as a warm gesture but as an annoying social obligation that requires he buy her something in return. On Christmas morning, however, he receives the shock of his life when he opens the present and learns it's a Cheesecake Factory napkin signed by Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. When Penny apologizes for the fact that Nimoy wiped his mouth on the napkin, that only makes the present better since Sheldon now possesses Nimoy DNA - let the cloning begin! So overjoyed is he at his gift, Sheldon gives Penny an unexpected hug that even Sheldon didn't see coming.