5 Festive TV Episodes to Watch During the Holidays

With Christmas only a few days away, it’s the perfect time to get into the festive spirit with some holiday-themed TV episodes! Many shows have attempted holiday-centric episodes, and for good reason. The holiday season can be a time of great joy and celebration! Oftentimes, though, it can also be a time of heightened emotions and stress levels, making it ripe with material: take dysfunctional family parties, gift exchange anxiety, maybe throw in some excessive drinking, and you’ve got a holiday episode that’s guaranteed to entertain. Here, I’ve compiled a list of 5 great episodes that are perfect for getting into the holiday spirit! 

New Girl, “The 23rd” (S1, E9) 

“Santa’s dead. I killed him.”

This was New Girl’s first Christmas episode, and it’s by far the best in the series. The main event of the episode involves the gang going to Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) annual office party, where his boss requires him to dress up as “sexy Santa” which leaves him feeling uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) is having relationship troubles with her delightfully awkward boyfriend Paul Genzlinger (Justin Long), which puts a damper on the holiday for the usually Christmas-obsessed Jess. This episode also gifts us some flirting between Jess and Nick (Jake Johnson), early signs of the fan-favorite pairing that would come later on. After Jess and Paul break up, Nick skips his flight to Chicago just so he can cheer up Jess. Even though it’s the middle of the night, the gang takes Jess to Candy Cane Lane, the street with her favorite Christmas lights. They run up and down the street yelling until the homeowners eventually turn on their lights (which would piss me off if I lived there, but it makes for a fun ending!) This episode is a great showcase for all of the characters and their relationships, giving them both funny and heartwarming moments with each other. It’s a perfect Christmas Eve Eve watch! 

How to watch New Girl: Stream on Hulu


The Office, “Christmas Party” (S2, E10)

“Happy Birthday, Jesus. Sorry your party’s so lame.” 

This Christmas episode is some of The Office at its best. Just as the title suggests, it’s time for the office Christmas party! The Dunder Mifflin employees have decided to do a Secret Santa gift exchange. Jim (John Krasinski) is especially excited about this because he’s found the perfect gift for Pam (Jenna Fischer) — a blue teapot filled with items that represent their memories and inside jokes, as well as a letter that might finally reveal his true feelings for her… But things don’t go according to plan. Michael (Steve Carrell), who’s upset when no one appreciates the gift he bought (an iPod, which went way over the spending limit), announces that they’ll be doing “Yankee Swap” instead. Hilarious chaos ensues, and everyone’s gifts end up in the wrong hands. Well, almost everyone. Luckily, Angela (Angela Kinsey) gets to keep the gift she wanted — a poster of babies dressed as adults! With everyone’s moods now soured, Michael decides to liven up the party by buying 15 bottles of vodka (he makes the liquor store clerk assure him that this will be enough to get 20 people drunk). Now supplied with alcohol, the Dunder Mifflin crew starts to let loose! Kelly (Mindy Kaling) kisses Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Angela screams while smashing ornaments, and Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) makes some cheeky photocopies. Honestly, there are too many brilliant parts of this episode to include them all here, so you’ll just have to check it out for yourself! 

How to watch The Office: Stream on Peacock


The O.C., “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” (S1, E13)

“Oy, humbug.” 

This is a more dramatic addition to this list, but don’t worry, it’s still plenty entertaining. This is the episode that introduced us to one of The O.C.’s most famous traditions: Chrismukkah! This blend of Christmas and Hanukkah is Seth Cohen’s (Adam Brody) solution to his multi-faith household. Seth tries to get Ryan (Ben McKenzie) into the Chrismukkah spirit, but all of Ryan’s holiday memories consist of watching his mom get drunk and getting beat up by his mom’s boyfriends. Because of this, the Cohens promise Ryan a nice holiday. But complicating the holidays further for Ryan is his girlfriend Marissa (Mischa Barton), whose parents’ recent separation has caused her to spiral into some bad behavior like shoplifting and excessive drinking. This episode also gives us a lot of love triangle drama between Seth, Summer (Rachel Bilson), and Anna (Samaire Armstrong), which I’m personally not a fan of (team Seth & Summer all the way)! But at least we get the iconic scene where Summer dresses as Wonder Woman in an attempt to win over comic-obsessed Seth. 

The O.C. was always great at mixing fun events with melodrama, and what better occasion for that mixture than a holiday party? At a Christmas party thrown by Seth’s grandfather, Marissa gets drunk and tries to drive herself home, but Ryan insists on driving instead. They get pulled over by the cops, which is bad news for Ryan who’s currently on probation. Luckily, they get off with a warning, but the ordeal reinforces Ryan’s attitudes about the holidays (“There’s drinking, crying, cops. Well, it must be Christmas.”) But Seth has a different perspective, calling it a “Chrismukkah miracle.” Well, that’s one way to look at it! If you’re looking for a Christmas episode that will provide both tension and comfort, this is the one for you.

*I’m only including one episode of The O.C. on this list, but I have to give an honorable mention to the show’s New Year’s Eve episode (“The Countdown”). It features a slow-motion countdown to midnight scene where Ryan rushes to find Marissa before she rings in the new year with someone else, and it’s so dramatic (in the best way possible) and satisfying!

How to watch The O.C.: Stream on Max


Arrested Development, “Afternoon Delight” (S2, E6)

“I got you, brother!”

It’s time for the Bluth Company’s annual Christmas party! Gob Bluth (Will Arnett), the company’s temporary CEO, is excited because the boss always gets toasted by the employees at the Christmas party. However, the employees don’t like Gob because he’s constantly boasting about his expensive suits, so it ends up being more of a roast, causing an insulted Gob to fire everyone. Meanwhile, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is upset because he feels like his son George Michael (Michael Cera) is pulling away from him. Similarly, Maeby (Alia Shawkat) is feeling neglected by her mother Lindsay (Portia de Rossi). Michael and Maeby bond over this, leading them to sing some karaoke together at the Christmas party. But the song they end up singing is “Afternoon Delight,” which contains sexual innuendo that they weren’t aware of, leading to an awkward and abrupt ending to their performance. When the Bluths end up having a second Christmas party, George Michael and his Aunt Lindsay make the same karaoke mistake! This episode includes some really funny bits: Gob’s obsession with his suits, Tobias’s (David Cross) attempts to get into the Blue Man Group, and Buster’s (Tony Hale) claw machine skills. But the end of the episode is when things really go off the rails: Lucille (Jessica Walters) gets high and hits Tobias with her car. Then Gob, dressed in a banana suit, gets trapped in the family’s banana stand, so Buster rescues him by picking him up with a crane truck before accidentally dropping him out of mid-air. It’s not the most festive episode on this list, but it’s definitely the silliest! Check it out if you want a good laugh this holiday season! 

How to watch Arrested Development: Stream on Netflix


The Bear, “Fishes” (S2, E6) 

“That’s the eighth fish, bro.” 

This right here is the most stressful episode of television I’ve ever seen. The Berzatto family is preparing for Christmas dinner, where they will eat the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. But this isn’t a jolly holiday gathering. No, it’s a dysfunctional mess of screaming, crying, and drinking. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent as the matriarch of the family, Donna, whose drinking and erratic behavior causes stress for everyone at the party. Siblings Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), Michael (Jon Bernthal), and Sugar (Abby Elliott) try to manage their mother’s moods while also dealing with the personalities of their other guests. A cast of very famous guest stars — including Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, and John Mulaney, to name a few — give incredibly strong performances as the extended family members. Toward the end of the episode, Odenkirk and Bernthal are electric in a scene that involves thrown forks, and (without spoiling too much) I’ll just say that the final scene comes in with a crash, leaving the episode on a jaw-dropping and disturbing note. Not exactly the cheeriest holiday episode! It’s more likely to give you flashbacks to bad family gatherings than it is to fill you with the holiday spirit. But it does provide important context that helps us understand Carmy and his siblings a bit more. All in all, it’s an hour of captivating performances and next-level storytelling. It’s one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen, holiday-themed or otherwise. 

How to watch The Bear: Stream on Hulu


Did your favorite holiday episode make the list? These are only a few of the great holiday-centric episodes out there to discover. No matter what you watch, or what you celebrate, have a happy holiday!