Get Lit: Great Holiday TV Episodes to Get You in That Holiday Spirit

As finals loom over us and we bury our heads in textbooks and Microsoft Word it’s easy to forget that the winter holidays are just around the corner. Luckily, TV shows are always there to help you get into that warm, winter feeling. In all the years of television there are a probably a thousand different holiday episodes across a bunch of different shows, so I’ve created a little list of some of my favorites in no particular order.

Friends, The One With the Holiday Armadillo

As a Jewish individual, I was so freaking happy to finally see a holiday special that paid attention to something other than Christmas. In this episode from season seven, Ross is determined to teach his young son, Ben, about his Jewish heritage since he feels like Ben is only exposed to Christmas at his mom’s house. However, the idea of no Santa is definitely no fun for little Ben and so Ross comes up with a good substitute: the Holiday Armadillo. Donning a full body armadillo costume, Ross explains the story of Hanukkah to Ben only to have Chandler come in as Santa and accidentally ruin the father/son bonding moment (and at the same time revealing that Monica has a bit of a Santa fetish). All in all, this episode is just fun and light just like any episode of Friends. It allows for a lot of great moments between the characters and it gives a shout out to those audience members who may not celebrate Christmas.

Courtesy of: The Edge

The West Wing, In Excelsis Deo

Throughout its seven seasons, The West Wing had so many good holiday episodes, but my favorite for the series (when it comes to winter holiday themed episodes) remains the original season 1 episode, “In Excelsis Deo.” In this episode, President Bartlet sneaks out of the White House to do some Christmas shopping, while Toby deals with the sudden grief and anger over a homeless Korean War veteran who dies on the street wearing a jacket Toby had once donated to charity. CJ is dealing with the dealings of a hate crime against an LGBT+ teen, while Josh and Sam try to get some information from Sam’s escort friend about a Republican who paid her for her services. Being only the tenth episode in the show’s first season, the audience learns a lot more about all the major characters in a much deeper sense than we had gotten to see them before. Despite some of the heavier topics within the episode, by the time the end credits start to roll you’re left with a warm feeling in your chest and a good sense of what the holiday season is really about.

Courtesy of: Getty Images

Doctor Who, The Runaway Bride

I have to admit, I’m not really a Doctor Who watcher anymore, but the earlier seasons of the show have a special place in my heart. It was hard to choose which Christmas special is really my favorite, but I ultimately chose the special that fell between season two and season three, “The Runaway Bride.” In this episode, the Tenth Doctor is stunned to find a stranger—who happens to be a woman named Donna in her wedding dress—randomly appear in his spaceship (called the TARDIS). The two embark on a nutty and hysterical journey to try and get Donna back to her wedding and eventually discover that Donna is at the center of an alien ploy destroy the Earth. It’s got all the campy elements of a standard Doctor Who episode mixed with all the holiday fun and I honestly cannot think of a better combination.

Courtesy of: BBC America

Will & Grace, Lows in the Mid-Eighties Part 1 & 2

This would not be a good holiday episode list without Will & Grace on here. This is probably the least holiday-ish of all the episodes on this list, but it is definitely one of—if not the most—fun. Airing during season 3, this two-part Thanksgiving event sends us back to the mid-eighties where Will & Grace are in college, they are dating because Will is still in the closet, Jack is a high schooler, and Karen is navigating four different marriage proposals in one night. You get to learn the history we’ve always heard about with Will and Grace’s short-lived college relationship, and we finally see how Will came out and how it affected the friendship. I love this episode because when Will does come out it is not necessarily the happiest of moments for the two of them. There is genuine anger from Grace—who thought they were going to get married—and it was nice to see a realistic (and ultimately happy) portrayal of a coming out story. 

Courtesy of: NBC

While I know I only scratched the surface on holiday episodes, these are a great start to the holiday season and will definitely help you get into that holiday spirit.