Christmas Eve is only a week away, and if you haven’t gotten yourself into the spirit yet, it’s time to start — unless you don’t celebrate Christmas, in which case, carry on as you were. In the spirit of the season, we present you with a dozen days’ worth of 90s Christmas episodes, because if there’s a perfect cross-section of things we love, it’s 90s, tv, and holidays.
Enjoy a restrained viewing experience of an episode per day from now til the end of Christmas week, or spend a solid 6-12 hour block binging on holiday cheer. Extra-awesome: the episodes are ordered chronologically, so you can follow all of the wacky hair trends, silly fashions, and political references (this is probably the only Christmas post you’ll read this year that mentions the Clinton impeachment).
Family Matters – Have Yourself A Merry Winslow Christmas (1990)
Family Matters never shied away from showing you the weird love-hate, codependent, mocking relationship the grown-assed-adult Winslows had with the sad, outcast teenaged boy next door. In this episode, Steve ruins the Winslows’ Chrismas (of course!) but is invited over after Laura finds him alone in his basement, abandoned by his real family. Shouldn’t somebody call child protective?
Babysitters Club – Baby Sitters Special Christmas (1990)
Don’t they mean SUPER-Special Christmas? Come on, Ann M. Martin! Believe it or not, this is streaming on Netflix
Saved By The Bell – Home For Christmas (1991)
Everybody gets mall jobs and then they make friends with a homeless girl who we never see again. What’s not to love? (Teen homelessness).
The Cosby Show – Clair’s Place (1991)
Cliff builds a special room for Clair, the family decorates the tree, and there are cookies. Christmas is honestly just a backdrop for an entire episode built on the theme “MAMA JUST NEEDS SOME ‘ME TIME'”.
Rugrats – The Santa Experience (1992)
Hard to believe that mere infants at the time this episode aired are now of legal drinking age. As are Tommy and the gang, come to think of it. There’s just too much good stuff in this episode – a coveted Deluxe Cynthia toy, the adults getting thwarted when they try to dress as Santa, a Gift of the Magi situation between Phil and Lil, and a cozy getaway cabin.
Roseanne – White Trash Christmas (1993)
In the most Roseanne-y Christmas move ever, the family rebels against neighborhood decoration rules by decorating their house real trashy-like. Also, Fake Becky works at Fake Hooters.
The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air: ‘Twas The Night Before Christening (1993)
Sure, it isn’t the best Christmas episode ever, but it is the only one featuring Boyz II Men. Good news: they perform at Nicky’s christening. Bad news: That one guy doesn’t start the song by talking all low and deep, something like “Boy… today we dedicate you to God. But first, I dedicate my love… all of my love… and this song” and then they all start doing a dance with folding chairs. That’s how I’d have played it.
My So-Called Life – So-Called Angels (1994)
Some of the best Christmas episodes don’t as much warm your heart, so much as cut it open like a merry Yuletide knife. I mean, Angel Juliana Hatfield? Little Ricky with his little candles? Brian on the helpline? MSCL always tugs at my heartstrings (remember Rayanne with Sesame Street and the song about the car?), and this episode just proves why Claire Danes has been making us all ugly cry for 2 decades.
Full House – Arrest Ye Merry Gentlemen (1994)
This episode is from Full House’s golden age, and boy does it show. It has a Michelle-centric plot, a person stranded away from family before Christmas (Jesse gets arrested), a guest star who’s probably too good for this (Mickey Rooney), and my all-time favorite Christmas episode trope — the characters helping a crotchety old man reconnect with his family at Christmas.
Living Single – Let It Snow, Let It Snow Let it Snow… Dammit (1995)
The crew celebrates Christmas in a Canadian cabin, there’s a Mountie, Synclaire dyes his Santa suit pink, and we all learn the Real Meaning Of Christmas (TM).
Home Improvement – Twas The Flight Before Christmas (1995)
You know, tv had me believe that I’d be stuck in an airport during major holidays way more than I actually have. Bonus: this episode aired at the height of JTT mania, so you can watch this and try to remember what we were all thinking. This episode has such a truly witty and spectacular title that it was re-used by an episode of the Disney show Dog With A Blog (which sounds like an insult someone would use if they hate me and also think I’m ugly).
The Adventures Of Pete And Pete – O’ Christmas Pete (1996)
If anyone dares question why us millenials have been flocking to quirky independent comedies since our teen years, I’d point them to The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. Unlike the shiny neon Nickelodeon shows of today, Pete and Pete was decidedly offbeat. This Christmas episode shows what happens when a kid follows the universal desire to keep Christmas going as long as possible. Even as an adult, I still hate that 12/26 slump.
Seinfeld – The Strike (1997)
My family celebrates Festivus off-and-on. I hold my own in the Airing of Grievances, but the Feats Of Strength didn’t go so well as an 11-year-old girl with two giant older brothers.
Ally McBeal – Making Spirits Bright (1998)
Vonda Shepherd sings, there’s a Christmas party at the office, Billy defends a man who claimed to see a unicorn, and we find out that Young Ally also saw a unicorn, because she clearly has a lifetime history of hallucinations that she probably should have looked into at some point.
Saturday Night Live – Alec Baldwin (1998)
Fond, awkward family memories: my whole family – grandparents, siblings, aunts, etc – were all watching this episode when the Schweddy Balls sketch aired. We all tried to stifle our laughter – to no avail – while keeping my Grammy in our peripheral vision. She was super-proper and prayed the rosary every day. An all-around good episode, it also aired at the height of the Clinton impeachment scandal, and included a sketch where Molly Shannon plays a clown with weird feelings about a little girl who looks like a grown man, a Bill Brasky segment, and a Harlem Globetrotters Christmas cartoon.
Friends – The One With The Routine (1999)
You know, you should really watch all of the Friends Christmas eps, but I like ending our series with this one because it’s also a New Year ep. Favorite parts: the “AZ” and the routine, which I compulsively rewound with my friend Jenny to learn all of the steps when we were supposed to be watching her baby sister.