There’s no shortage of Christmas specials out there to choose from - even Lego Star Wars has jumped on board! But The Simpsons Christmas specials have always held a special place in the hearts of fans - and now they're all gathered in one place on their new home at Disney Plus.
In fact, the first-ever episode of The Simpsons to air was a Christmas special. In the 30 years of hilarity that followed, the holiday season has served as a backdrop to many of the best editions of The Simpsons.
We’ve put together a list of our top 10 favorite Simpsons Christmas specials, based on storyline, dialogue, and how often we ended up rolling on the floor laughing. Whether you’re looking for some cozy, toasty comedy before the 25th or want to renew your Christmas spirit all year round, these Simpsons holiday episodes will do the trick.
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1. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (Season 1, Episode 1)
The episode that started it all, setting the tone for many of the characters who would become a mainstay of cartoon comedy for years to come. Bart gets a tattoo, and Marge has to spend the family’s whole Christmas budget on getting it removed. To make matters worse, Burns cancels the nuclear plant employees’ Christmas bonus. Homer is thus forced to take a job as a mall Santa.
Spurred on by Bart, Homer decides to risk his meager winnings at the horse track, and has to face his family empty-handed...nearly. In the end, the family gets the best Christmas gift they could have hoped for. In comparison to later episodes, the drawings are crude and the audio is rough, but all the essential Simpsons elements are there.
2. Marge Be Not Proud (Season 7, Episode 11)
Many of the best Simpsons episodes come from experiences in the writers’ lives.
Marge Be Not Proud is another hilarious and quite touching Simpsons Christmas episode. Bart gets caught shoplifting and pays the ultimate price, losing the respect, trust - and love? - of his family.
While Mike Scully, the episode’s writer, doesn’t mention the parental fallout which undoubtedly ensued, he does tell us that getting caught after being pressured into shoplifting was “one of the most traumatic moments” of his life.
The episode has plenty of side-splitting moments, many of which are touched with poignance and feeling. Bart’s tragically pathetic loner snowman made out of “some snow left under the car” is an excellent example.
3. Miracle on Evergreen Terrace (Season 9, Episode 10)
It’s no coincidence that many of the Christmas specials on this list are from earlier seasons, when some of The Simpsons finest episodes were produced. Miracle on Evergreen Terrace, which originally aired in 1997, is one such gem.
In this episode, Bart’s attempts at getting a peek of his Christmas gifts before the rest of the family wakes up turn to disaster, reducing the tree, presents and all, to a bubbling puddle of plastics - which Bart quickly buries outside. When pressed for details, he sobbingly tells the family the truth: robbers came and stole Christmas (shocker). The whole town gets involved in the debacle, plus (the late great) Alex Trebek of Jeopardy fame.
4. Grift of the Magi (Season 11, Episode 9)
Perhaps one of the best-known Simpsons Christmas specials, no doubt thanks in part to a cameo by Gary Coleman. In the Grift of the Magi, Springfield Elementary finds itself in deep with the mob, at risk of closing. The day is saved by a toy company called Kid First Industries, which buys and privatizes the school.
The children’s classes take a bizarre commercial turn, turning the whole episode into a comedic critique of the commercialization of Christmas (a recurring theme among Simpsons Christmas specials). While the plot has been criticized by some as unoriginal, Coleman’s self-portrayal is universally praised.
5. Skinner’s Sense of Snow (Season 12, Episode 8)
Okay, while technically this isn’t a Simpsons Christmas episode, there’s plenty of snow, and it’s easily one of the funniest Simpsons episodes to date. When a blizzard hits Springfield, the few children who made it to Springfield Elementary, plus Principal Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie, end up getting trapped.
Despite Skinner’s attempts at maintaining military-like order, the children mutiny and hilarity quickly ensues. The episode has more than a few gems, mostly centered around the relatable and always-golden theme of cool kids versus lame adults.
The story was actually inspired by an episode in writer Tim Long’s boyhood in Canada in which local dads showed up on snowmobiles with food - to which the ending of the episode is a clear callback.
6. She of Little Faith (Season 13, Episode 6)
The Simpsons’ response to “Happy Holidays.” Lisa, disillusioned with the commercialization of Springfield’s church and in search of spiritual fulfillment, wanders the town looking for a new path to God (Him or Her, specifies Lisa). She eventually makes her way to the Springfield Buddhist Temple, where she finds hope for a new religion - much to her family’s dismay.
As Lisa finds out, the path to self-discovery is rarely easy, often ridiculed and criticized, but ultimately well worth it. This isn’t the first time Lisa has taken an unconventional direction - by this point she’s already been a vegetarian for six seasons - and we’re glad to see she’s kept her inquisitive and critical spirit. It’s an original Christmas special, but one that shows there’s room for all around the Simpsons’ Xmas tree.
7. Tis the 15th Season (Season 15, Episode 7)
Tis the 15th Season manages to combine a Scrooge-like Christmas revelation with a Grinchevious plan to steal Christmas, so hats off for sheer inventiveness.
After Homer comes into possession of a rare baseball card and trades it to Comic Book Guy for a small fortune (the contents of his cash register), the Simpsons decide to go Christmas shopping at the prestigious Springfield Heights Promenade. Homer promises the family a magnificent tree, but, ever true to character, spends the money on a talking astrolabe for himself.
Homer is shunned by his family, and, by way of a Mr. McGrew Christmas carol (a parody of Mr. Magoo), realizes how selfish he’s been. He endeavors to fix Christmas - competing with Ned Flanders for the title of nicest guy in town - but gets a little turned around by some well-meaning Buddhist advice from Lisa and ends up stealing Christmas instead.
8. Simpsons Christmas Stories (Season 17, Episode 9)
Told in a Treehouse of Horrors–style trilogy of stories, Simpsons Christmas Stories takes us back in time to the birth of Jesus, leaves us stranded on a desert island during WWII (thanks to Santa Claus), and explores the public domain and suicide.
Okay, so the last story gets a little dark for a few minutes, but everything up to and after Moe’s particularly somber Christmas tradition is good for a laugh. Homer’s version of the nativity has more than a few good riffs, and Abe’s tale of his unlikely betrayal by Santa is deliciously ridiculous.
9. Kill Gil, Volumes I & II (Season 18, Episode 9)
Gil is an oft-recurring character on the Simpsons who brings cringeworthy desperation, foundering, and general non-success to schadenfreudelicious new heights. Though he was originally planned as a single-episode character, the writers found Dan Castellaneta’s portrayal of Gil so funny that, according to showrunner Mike Scully, they “kept making up excuses in subsequent episodes to put him in".
In this Christmas episode, Gil is of course working as a mall Santa, and, in a no-good-deeds turn of events, gets fired for trying to hook Lisa up with a coveted and sold-out Malibu Stacy doll. Marge takes pity on Gil, invites him over for Christmas Eve dinner, and gives him a place to sleep for the night… and the next many, many nights, during which Marge grows ever less appreciative of their permanent houseguest.
10. I Won’t Be Home for Christmas (Season 26, Episode 9)
Homer makes every attempt to give Marge the Christmas she deserves, leaving work early to spend time with the family. But after suffering a car accident on his way home, he stops for a drink at Moe’s and ends up staying to comfort the famously depressed bartender. He loses track of time, and when he finally makes it home, Marge kicks him out. Homer is left to wander a brisk, deserted Springfield, while Marge becomes more and more depressed without her Homey.
You’ll have to watch to see how everything turns out, but, in true Simpsons Christmas style, Homer and Marge won’t spend long apart - although they learn some valuable lessons about family and trust along the way.