The best Christmas TV episodes and specials

A Very Murray Christmas best christmas specials

The year is nearly over and, while 2017 may not have featured the same rash of beloved celebrity deaths as 2016, it certainly gave us copious reasons to stress out. Whether your reasons are personal, professional, political, or otherwise, a year like this can make it hard to get that warm holiday feeling. Luckily, nothing cheers us up like festooning the hearth with colorful tchotchkes and embarking upon a good old-fashioned Christmas TV binge.

Many of us grew up on classic Christmas television specials, which tend to be warm, fuzzy affairs depicting traditional characters like Rudolph, Frosty, and old Saint Nick himself. We love those, but they’re (mostly) not available for free. Further, while we love the classics, we also love the special Christmas episodes of our favorite TV shows, which usually offer more creative — yet still festive — takes on the holiday. So, we’ve collected our favorite easy-to-stream episodes and the best Christmas specials in an insanely festive collection of the best Christmas TV out there.

Christmas TV episodes to stream

just about every sitcom worth its salt does a Christmas episode now and then. There’s no shortage to choose from, but we handpicked our favorites, all of which you can find on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, or Amazon Video. Honorable mention to the pilot episode of The Simpsons, which isn’t available to stream on any popular platform.

Note: If you’re eyeing the best traditional Christmas specials, skip to page two.

Bob’s Burgers — ‘Christmas in the Car’ (season 4, episode 8), 2013

bobs burgers movie casting news bob s christmas in the car

A modern Christmas favorite, Christmas in the Car sees the Belcher family on a last-minute pilgrimage for a replacement, replacement (yes we wrote that twice on purpose) Christmas tree, thanks to matriarch Linda’s penchant for trimming the tree on November 1. On the way home, however, the gang becomes entangled with a menacing truck driver who’s piloting a giant candy cane and is out for revenge. An homage to Duel, the frightening directorial debut from Steven Spielberg, this one has all the Christmas classics you need for a good time: Laughs, scares, Bobcat Goldthwait, and even Dutch Babies.

Watch it now on:

Hulu

South Park — ‘Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics’ (season 3, episode 15), 1999

You might think any Christmas episode from the South Park crew would be unrelentingly subversive — and you’d be right — but, as seen through the lens of Trey and Matt, this one is as traditional as it gets. A take on the holiday jingle specials of old, Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics is as Christmassy as it gets in this small Colorado town – it perfectly synthesizes all the best characters, while offering both traditional and original tunes. There are plenty of fantastic South Park Christmas specials to choose from (including the original Mr. Hankey episode), but if you want your uproarious laughs mixed with some merry music-making, this episode is the ticket.

Watch it now on:

Hulu

South Park — ‘Woodland Critter Christmas’ (season 8, episode 14), 2004

South Park has made so many instant-classic Christmas episodes, we couldn’t choose just one. While each of the eight gems has something fantastic to offer, Woodland Critter Christmas is arguably the most outrageous (and thusly, the most South Parkian). Told in rhyming narration in the vein of Sunday School stories and Little Golden Books for children, the episode explores the inner workings of one of the darkest minds in South Park, while telling a captivating story starring the “boy in the red poof-ball hat.”

Watch it now on:

Hulu

The Office — ‘Christmas Party’ (season 2, episode 10), 2005

best white elephant gift ideas christmas party  the office

Part of The Office’s genius is that it’s just enough like your own daily grind to be relatable, but weird and ridiculous enough to let you revel in it without feeling like you’re actually at work. Season 2’s Christmas Party rides that line beautifully, while also serving as the beginning of the American version’s departure from the equally brilliant British series from which it spawned. In this one, Michael Scott has ruined yet another holiday for his intrepid staff, alienating everyone after he turns Secret Santa into White Elephant on a whim. The show has plenty of great Christmas episodes, but this one is the best: “Is this enough to get 20 people plastered?” “Fifteen bottles of vodka? Yeah, that should do it.”

Watch it now on:

Netflix

30 Rock — ‘Ludachristmas’ (season 2, episode 9), 2007

What, you’ve never heard of the time-honored tradition of Ludachristmas (no, not that one)? Another non-traditional take on the season of joy, this episode from NBC’s classic SNL parody sees the staff of Liz Lemon’s variety show prepping for their yearly drunken extravaganza. But Kenneth the page’s insistence that they remember the “true” meaning of Christmas, namely faith and charity, nearly ruins it for everyone. Meanwhile, Jack’s crazy mother is determined to prove that Liz and her family’s seemingly perfect relationship is nothing more than veneer, which is just an attempt to make her own son feel better about how awful she is. If that’s not the spirit of Christmas, we don’t know what is.

Watch it now on:

Hulu

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — ‘A Very Sunny Christmas (season 6, episode 13), 2009

The gang’s all here! Any Christmas episode from Always Sunny — the show that makes Seinfeld’s characters look like Good Samaritans — is bound to be an all-out mess. But A Very Sunny Christmas is even more violent, sacrilegious, and outright offensive than you probably remember. It’s also possibly the funniest episode on this list. From Christmas hookers to maimed Santas to feats of brutal revenge, this one will have tears of laughter running down your face, even if you feel a little bad about it.

Watch it now on:

Hulu

Futurama — ‘Xmas Story’ (season 2, episode 8), 1999

Fall asleep for a millennium and everything changes, including Chris … ahem, Xmas. In one of the best episodes from Matt Groening’s wild sci-fi comedy, Christmas has transformed from a day of peace and love into a time of fear and horror, thanks to a maniacal Santa robot who short circuits, but still takes his job very seriously. Fry’s 20th century mind barely has time to process the new order before he’s running for his life from Santa’s bazooka. Can the gang escape from the big, red robot killer? Yes. But it’s still really funny watching them do it.

Watch it now on:

Hulu

Arrested Development — ‘Afternoon Delight’ (Season 2, episode 6), 2005

Yeah, like the guy in the $5,000 suit is gonna watch some stupid Christmas episode! C’mon!! Gob is in full form in this one, insulting and otherwise offending every office staff member he comes into contact with, as Michael hopelessly tries to raise morale by throwing an office Christmas party. The show that got caught up in the streaming revolution was never quite the same when it moved to Netflix for season 4 (and 5), but this episode is vintage AD, and its recurring karaoke hijinks make it nearly impossible not to laugh.

Watch it now on:

  Netflix Hulu

Peep Show — ‘Seasonal Beatings’ (season 7, episode 5), 2010

If you’ve been looking for the most awkward Christmas dinner ever (ding! ding! ding!), you’ve found it. A perfect introduction to the deliciously awkward splendor that is Peep Show, this episode sees the ever-uptight Mark and his bohemian roommate, Jez, hosting Mark’s family for Christmas dinner. On tap are Mark’s liberal and overly sexual mother, his conservative and borderline-abusive father, his girlfriend (whom his parents know nothing about), and his sister (whom Jez slept with and then tossed aside). The table is set, the pieces are all in place — now sit back and enjoy the mayhem of the funniest dinner party you’ve ever encountered. Next to this, Christmas with the in-laws is a piece of cake.

Watch it now on:

Amazon Hulu

Black Mirror — ‘White Christmas’ (season 2, episode 4), 2014

Don’t let the wine and potatoes or the musty kitchen laid out in this episode’s introduction fool you; Charlie Brooker has, to borrow from Pink Floyd, set the controls for the heart of the sun in this one. Jon Hamm’s utterly charming mannerisms are no match for the eerie adventure contained within, which explores the very essence of humanity itself in the form of a flashback over Christmas dinner. Leveraging the time-honored tradition of dramatic British Christmas specials, White Christmas takes everything up a notch (or 10) for an experience you’ll not soon forget. With season four on the way, this is a good way for fans to catch up.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

Community — ‘Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas’ (season 2, episode 11), 2010

Community Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas

Community was known for its inventive episode concepts, and Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas certainly falls under that category. In keeping with the show’s meta-tradition of breaking the fourth wall, Abed envisions the entire group in stop-motion animation (a classic Christmas trope, as evidenced by several of our selections below) as the group is teleported to icy Planet Abed by way of Christmas-nosis. Once there, the study group experiences several references to popular Christmas specials and works together to find the true meaning of Christmas.

Watch it now on:

Hulu

Saturday Night Live (season 24, episode 9), 1998

Schweddy Balls Saturday Night Live

Nearly 20 years later, “Schweddy Balls” remains one of the most iconic segments ever to grace the Saturday Night Live stage. Played by Alec Baldwin, Pete Schweddy is interviewed by the hosts of “The Delicious Dish,” as he shows off his family’s trademark holiday dish — balls made from cake, meat, and everything in between — which, of course, are sold in … sacks. The same episode is also home to one of the infamous “Bill Brasky” sketches, wherein Baldwin, Will Ferrell, and John Goodman reminisce on times spent with their extraordinary comrade.

Watch it now on:

NBC.com

Seinfeld — ‘The Strike’ (season 9, episode 10), 1997

Seinfeld The Strike

No, The Strike doesn’t directly deal with the Christmas holiday, but it’s certainly relevant here, having given rise to Festivus. While Elaine works to track down a coupon that she gave away (along with a fake phone number), Kramer learns all about Festivus, a holiday invented by George’s father that involves bizarre ceremonies and the placement of a bare aluminum pole in lieu of a tree. Meanwhile, Jerry grapples with the relative attractiveness of his latest girlfriend.

Watch it now on:

Hulu

Curb Your Enthusiasm — ‘Mary, Joseph, and Larry’ (season 3, episode 9), 2002

Curb Your Enthusiasm Mary Joseph & Larry

Is there anything more awkward (and hilarious) than Larry David trying not to screw things up? In the most festive episode of Curb, the Seinfeld mastermind finds himself in a holiday pickle on Christmas Eve after accidentally eating cookies that were baked specifically for a nativity scene by Cheryl’s ultra-religious sister. Larry enlists the members of a nearby church to try and salvage the nativity scene, but (as is tradition) things go terribly wrong, and Larry struggles to make peace.

Watch it now on:

Amazon HBO Now HBO Go

A Very Murray Christmas, 2015

A Very Murray Christmas

OK, technically this isn’t a TV episode, but … whatever. Some comedians are wont to gather their very famous friends together and film a funny little Christmas special, which is what Bill Murray did here. A Very Murray Christmas opens with Bill in his suite at New York City’s Carlyle Hotel as a snowstorm brews outside, threatening his planned special by forcing guests to cancel. Of course, the show goes on in a very meta manner, and lots (and lots) of big names show up to help things along. Chris Rock, Amy Poehler, George Clooney, Michael Cera, and Miley Cyrus are just a few of the stars that appear, with numerous cheesy musical numbers keeping things spirited.

Watch it now on:

Netflix

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