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All The Simpsons Christmas episodes, ranked

Thirty-four years ago this month, The Simpsons began with a Christmas special. Most TV shows would have bowed out gracefully by now, but The Simpsons goes on and on, perhaps to outlive us all.

There have been some great Simpsons Christmas stories over the past three decades, but also some really terrible holiday tales. For this list of all The Simpsons Christmas episodes, we tried to focus only on the episodes where Christmas is a focal point. That’s why episodes like Skinner’s Sense of Snow didn’t make the cut. Some of these episodes represent the very best that the show has to offer, while others bring out the worst aspects of the series’ long years of decline. But for the Christmas episodes that are great, it was all worth it.

16. Manger Things

Homer spends Christmas alone on The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios

Season 32, Episode 16

About the only thing clever in this episode is the title’s play on Stranger Things. This is actually the 700th episode of the series, which, in theory, would have been a good spot for a Christmas episode to bookend the show. This is a Christmas story, but it’s one with too many similarities to the stories that had already been done before.

When Homer embarrasses Marge at his power plant holiday party, she kicks him out of the house and he mooches off the Flanders family for a while. Everything is pretty uninspired at this point in the show’s life span, but this could have been fun to watch if it was even the slightest bit funny. Instead, it’s another example that The Simpsons just isn’t the show that it used to be, and it hasn’t been for a very long time.

15. Bobby, It’s Cold Outside

Bart reunites with Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 31, Episode 10

This show really has to try hard to waste a guest appearance by Kelsey Grammer as Bart’s nemesis, Sideshow Bob. But this Christmas episode does exactly that by bringing Bob back to Springfield to play Santa Claus at a mall. Bob is also forced to prove that he isn’t the one stealing presents from Springfield’s residents, which leads everyone to the same person who is behind almost all of the town’s problems: Mr. Burns.

There’s some very uninspired storytelling in this episode. The only thing that it really has going for it is that it’s not the worst Simpsons Christmas episode.

14. Kill Gil, Volumes I & II

Gil gets fired from his job as a mall Santa on The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 18, Episode 9

Bizarrely, this episode of The Simpsons plays more like a Family Guy story, complete with Homer’s feud with the Grinch-like Grumple, which seems to echo Peter’s ongoing fight with the giant chicken on the rival show. This episode also makes the grave tactical error of centering a story around Springfield’s resident sad sack, Gil Gunderson.

Some would argue that Gil is better in small doses. But the real truth is that Gil’s a poor man’s substitute for the late Phil Hartman’s Simpsons characters. Having Gil move in with the Simpsons for any length of time was excruciating to watch, even if they took him in as an act of Christmas charity. Gil simply won’t leave, and Marge is too much of a pushover to ask him to. That’s pathetic, but it’s not funny.

13. She Of Little Faith

Homer and Bart try to tempt Lisa with a gift pony.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 13, Episode 6

Lisa episodes are the most preachy of all Simpsons stories, and generally, they’re not very funny. Remember the time when an entire episode was built around Lisa’s decision to become a vegetarian? This is like that, except Lisa becomes a Buddhist.

The only real laughs in the episode come when the family tries to bribe Lisa back to Christianity during Christmas with the promise of the pony that she’s always wanted. The reveal of the “pony” is the highlight of the episode. The rest of the episode is like finding coal in your stocking.

12. ‘Tis the 30th Season

The Simpsons family have a Christmas dinner at Moe's bar.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 30, Episode 10

Episodes like this one really make The Simpsons seem like it’s run out of steam. This is as much a Black Friday episode as it is a Christmas story, as the family’s efforts to get a new high-definition TV are thwarted. To cheer up Marge, the family pretends to be happy during their holiday trip to a fifth-rate Disneyland knockoff.

Most of the jokes are pretty pedestrian and barely chuckle-worthy. What saves this episode from the trash heap is that the family actually does get a great Christmas moment at the end during dinner at Moe’s Tavern. The show needs more scenes like that.

11. The Nightmare After Krustmas

Krusty the Clown and his daughter spend Christmas with The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 28, Episode 10

There was a time when The Simpsons could pull off Krusty the Clown-centric episodes, but it wasn’t season 28. This is the episode where Krusty’s shtick about being an unfunny clown gets even less funny when he converts to Christianity and he loses what’s left of his sense of humor. The writers of the episode seem to think that they’re saying something profound about religion, but it’s the death of comedy as performed.

At least there are some fun scenes of Maggie facing off with the Elf on the Shelf parody, Gnome in Your Home. This episode could have used more of that, and less Krusty.

10. Simpsons Christmas Stories

Marge, Homer, and Bart recreate the Nativity on The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 17, Episode 9

The Simpsons has had so many great Halloween anthologies that a Christmas anthology was overdue by season 17. Unfortunately, this one was undercooked, with lackluster jokes and an unimaginative Simpsons take on the Nativity.

When The Simpsons isn’t funny, it can be a real chore to watch. And there’s not enough laughter in this one to make it rank any higher.

9. White Christmas Blues

The Simpsons share their home at Christmas.
20th Century Studios

Season 25, Episode 8

Airbnb wasn’t quite as big in 2013 as it is today, but it would have been fitting for this episode in which the Simpsons family temporarily takes on boarders because Springfield is the only city in the country to get snow on Christmas. Having so many other people around was Marge’s idea, and she’s the first one who gets pushed to her limits by their presence.

This is a very middle-of-the road episode that has some redemptive value when the Simpsons’ guests serenade Marge with Christmas carols and when Lisa realizes that she’s been giving gifts for the wrong reason. But as a Christmas story, this is nothing special.

8. The Fight Before Christmas

Katy Perry and the Simpsons.
20th Century Studios

Season 22, Episode 8

The Fight Before Christmas was another Christmas anthology episode, but this one had better segments than Simpsons Christmas Stories. The show’s final segment, a sequence with the Simpsons characters portrayed as live-action puppets, memorably features Katy Perry guest-starring as herself.

Perry brings a lot of joy to that segment, as well as one of the raciest jokes in Simpsons’ history when Moe’s lips go to an unexpected place on her body.

7. Grift of the Magi

Lisa and Bart with an evil toy.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 11, Episode 9

This episode really takes the long way around to get to the point. It’s pretty convoluted, with an injury to Bart leading to a series of events where the local mob pretends to make the school wheelchair accessible, and then bankrupts Springfield Elementary as a  result. Kid First Industries then takes over the school and uses it as a testing ground for the company’s next big toy, Funzos.

What’s notable about this episode is that the late Gary Coleman guest stars as himself, a security guard for Kid First who ultimately sides with Bart and Lisa when the Funzos turn out to be an evil plot. The Coleman scenes are the only time that this episode actually feels fun. Without him, it would have been a lot further down on the list.

6. Marge Be Not Proud

The Simpsons shun Bart.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 7, Episode 11

Believe it or not, this was only the second time that The Simpsons even attempted a Christmas story. And as almost always happens, Bart ruins the holiday festivities. The key difference this time is that Bart is caught shoplifting a video game, and Marge’s disappointment in him is so profound that she shuns Bart and keeps him at an emotional distance.

That hurts Bart far more than any other punishment could. And when he can’t get the love he needs from his mother, Bart tries to get it from Milhouse’s mom. The climax for the episode is also an inspired moment as Bart is forced to lie to Marge about loving her lackluster Christmas gift, because if he had shown anything other than gratitude, it could have jeopardized their reconciliation.

5. ‘Tis The Fifteenth Season

Homer and Santa's Little Helper do The Grinch.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 15, Episode 7

This is an episode that gets to parody both A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Homer, after once again screwing up Christmas for the family through his selfishness, has a Dickens-like epiphany abut Christmas and a desire to change for the better. However, Homer’s newfound reputation for being the nicest guy in town rankles the current champion, Ned Flanders.

As part of Homer’s misguided idea that everyone would be happier if they went without Christmas presents, he pulls a Grinch and steals them all before Ned helps him out of the jam that he created. The hilarious parodies of the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials are just the frosting on this holiday cupcake.

4. Holidays Of Future Passed

The future Simpsons enjoy Christmas together.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 23, Episode 9

Imagine if the Simpsons family aged in real time. Keeping the characters frozen in time is a luxury only animation can take. But the show has occasionally shown us what the future of the Simpsons could look like. In Holidays of Future Passed, Bart and Lisa are parents, with Maggie soon to follow. This episode also gave Bart and Lisa a rare opportunity to reflect on their lives and bond over their shared difficulties with parenting.

It also helps that this is one of the funnier late-stage Simpsons episodes, as the future world it envisions isn’t quite the one that we live in now.

3. I Won’t Be Home for Christmas

Marge gets mad at Homer on The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 26, Episode 9

This episode tends to be underrated among Simpsons fans, and the plot is a little thin. But the concept of Marge kicking Homer out on Christmas has some real heft to it as opposed to the similar story in Manger Things a few seasons later. Marge is angry with Homer because he came home too late on Christmas Eve and missed spending time with his family. Homer actually had a legitimate reason to do so, beyond his fender bender on the way home. After dropping in on Moe’s Tavern, Homer felt compelled to stay longer when Moe told him how depressed he was. What Moe didn’t tell Homer was that the clocks were intentionally set incorrectly so Homer would stay longer.

There’s some real pathos about Homer’s lonely Christmas without his family, as well as a glimpse of other Springfield residents who have no family to call their own. Modern Simpsons doesn’t always have those human moments, so it was a refreshing touch here.

2. Miracle On Evergreen Terrace

Bart tries to put out the fire on the Christmas tree in The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 9, Episode 10

Bart ruins Christmas again when he accidentally burns down the family Christmas tree and all of the presents along with it. He compounds his crime by hiding the evidence and blaming a burglar. The town of Springfield really comes through for the Simpsons in their hour of need, only to ruthlessly turn on them once Bart confesses the truth.

The best parts of this episode feature the entire family as social outcasts in Springfield. But since this show rarely follows any continuity at all, it takes a shortcut to getting things back to normal that leaves the Simpsons even worse off than they were before.

1. Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire

The closing scene from the very first episode of The Simpsons.
20th Century Studios TV

Season 1, Episode 1

This wasn’t originally supposed to be the first episode of The Simpsons, but Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire ended up premiering in December 1989 a month before the full weekly series began. The family’s personalities are so unformed here compared to what they became later in the show, but the storytelling also feels more real. At Christmastime, Homer’s finances are taxed to their limit, and he takes a second job as a mall Santa in the hope of saving his family’s Christmas.

Part of this mess was Bart’s fault for getting a tattoo, –and an expensive tattoo removal. But Bart really appreciates his dad in this episode, and there are terrific bonding moments between them as they make one last bet to salvage Christmas. The bet fails, but Homer and Bart take in an abandoned greyhound, Santa’s Little Helper, who turns out to be the gift that everyone in the family actually wanted. It’s not just the best Simpsons Christmas episode — it’s one of the best episodes that the show has ever produced.

Watch The Simpsons on Disney+.

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