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These Are The Top Simpsons Holiday Episodes According To Fans

By this point in history, we're only a few years away from the 100th anniversary of the invention of television. And boy, have a lot of things changed since those unforgettable, gilded 1920s. For one thing, holiday specials of otherwise non-holiday-related television shows are practically a TV genre of their own. Likewise, having produced 688 episodes so far — that's more than the total runs of Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office put together — The Simpsons has evolved into something closer to its own genre.

When we think of holiday-specific Simpsons adventures, we immediately think of Halloween due to the wild success of the annual Treehouse of Horror episodes. But that doesn't mean The Simpsons forgets about Christmas! They even had a Christmas short on The Tracey Ullman Show before they had their own show. 

Sure, sometimes they'll rerun an old Christmas episode rather than write and produce a new one. But you can't say they haven't cranked out a big ol' pile of Christmas episodes over the years, because they've certainly done that. Here, we've got 15 of them ranked from worst to best, according to their IMDb user ratings.

Kill Gil, Volumes I & II

"Kill Gil, Volumes I & II," written by Jeff Westbrook, aired in December 2006. In it, the Simpsons take pity on Springfield's eternally down-on-his-luck businessman, Gil, and let him stay at their home for Christmas. Unfortunately, Marge is no good at saying "no," and Gil ends up crashing at 742 Evergreen Terrace for 11 months. They're a hilarious 11 months to be sure, but "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II" only manages a 6.1 on IMDb.

Let's give credit for one highly successful exchange in this holiday episode: "Why did you let that loser into our home?" Homer asks Marge, referring to Gil after his temporary residency in the Simpsons household begins. "I'll tell you why," she says. "Christian charity." And Homer goes, "Christian Charity?! What does a porn star have to do with this?" That, right there? That's an A+ gag in a C- episode.

White Christmas Blues

Thanks to climate change, it's much too hot for snow to fall throughout the vast majority of America ... with one improbable exception. As it turns out, pollution from Springfield's nuclear power plant combines with smoke from its perpetually burning tire yard and creates freak conditions allowing for snow. Ergo, an influx of tourists dash into town to experience a more seasonally traditional Christmas. 

It's a decent enough 20-some minutes of television. But what we really want to know is did Damon Lindelof lift aspects of "White Christmas Blues" while creating the second season of The Leftovers

"White Christmas Blues" involves a mob of randos from the rest of America rushing to Springfield due to a singular, somewhat mysterious phenomena. In a similar way, people flock to the town of Jarden, Texas, in The Leftovers. "White Christmas Blues" premiered about six months before The Leftovers' pilot dropped on HBO in 2014. So it's possible Lindelof owes a huge debt to director Steven Dean Moore and writer Mike B. Anderson. It's equally possible (and maybe more plausible) that Lindelof hasn't watched a new Simpsons episode since the '90s, and the slight resemblance is a coincidence.

The Fight Before Christmas

"The Fight Before Christmas" would go down as a pretty standard post-golden years Simpsons endeavor, were it not for the final of its four Christmas-themed Treehouse of Horror-esque segments. To wrap the episode up, The Simpsons switches up its format over to puppetry, and the fam, plus Moe, all turn into full-on felt-and-stuffing, all-singing, all-dancing Muppets. 

Having, at that point, been recently edited out of Sesame Street for dressing too much like Katy Perry circa 2010, Katy Perry stops by this 2010 holiday special to provide what we're pretty sure is the only live-action celebrity cameo in Simpsons history (or at least the only one we remember). 

As if that wasn't already bonkers enough, Perry also participates in the closest thing to an NC-17 joke that has ever been uttered in Simpsons history. Good job, Katy Perry. Way to own your spot in Simpsons history to the max. 

I Won't Be Home for Christmas

Penned by OG Simpsons writer and longtime showrunner Al Jean, "I Won't Be Home for Christmas" lacks anything that remotely resembles a rough edge. Marge is correctly enraged when Homer stays out too late on Christmas Eve. However, Homer only gets held up because Moe needs some company to help him through an extra-difficult spell of holiday-related loneliness. Once Marge hears this from Moe, all is forgiven, because Marge is not a psychopath. 

This season 26 episode makes plenty of gestures toward emphasizing the importance of family and togetherness and all that, but without any genuine conflict, the story glides through your brain without leaving much to remember it by. In one scene, Homer stumbles across Gil in a movie theater, which raises the question: Why is Gil in so many Simpsons holiday episodes? We're not even in the top ten yet, and he's already popped up twice. It seems bizarre that we're seeing a ton of Gil and not much of far more widely recognized and beloved characters like, let's say, Mr. Smithers, Barney, Patty & Selma, or Otto.

'Tis the 30th Season

Once again, Gil rears his below average-looking, one-joke head into a Simpsons Christmas special. Stop trying to make Gil happen, The Simpsons. It's not going to work.

In "'Tis the 30th Season," Marge rescues Gil from a trampling Black Friday department store dash and helps him secure a plush toy for his grandchild. Then Homer and the offspring decide to give Marge a break this year, and the fam heads to Florida. Again. The key difference is this time, Bart and Lisa can run around a motel in homage to The Florida Project, a terrific 2017 film that did not exist yet when "Kill the Alligator and Run" first aired 17 years earlier. 

"'Tis the 30th Season" marks yet another instance of Simpsons writers parodying the famous "horse head" scene in The Godfather, which they've done more than once before. Man, Simpsons writers sure do love The Godfather.

Simpsons Christmas Stories

This 2005 effort stands as the second anthology episode on this list ... or, if you count them in chronological order, the first. But we really need to put some emphasis on the second of the three stories, in which Grandpa explains why he very badly wants to kill Santa Claus. Season 17 probably isn't anyone's favorite batch of The Simpsons, but this is a truly standout eight minutes.

Without giving too much away, the middle portion of "Simpsons Christmas Stories" features the first and last(?) appearance of Great Uncle Cyrus Simpson, who lives on Tahiti with his 15 wives and presumably several Simpsons cousins and second cousins. It's also got the line "It's Christmas! I want to shoot something!" as well as Mr. Burns stealing Santa's sleigh and trying to kill Santa but, quite like Grandpa, ultimately failing miserably. Tremendous.  

The third story borrows a bunch of public-domain music from The Nutcracker Suite for the purposes of our amusement. The first segment is based on some obscure Bible story with which we are not familiar. 

'Tis The Fifteenth Season

It's a little strange that this one cracks the top ten and certainly odd that it sports a higher IMDb ranking than some better episodes. Homer demonstrates ample selfishness by buying an expensive gizmo for himself, severely limiting the rest of the family's Christmas budget. Then he watches a copyright infringement-safe version of Mr. Magoo in a cartoon that mimics A Christmas Carol and decides to be the most charitable person in town instead of a selfish oaf. This development enrages Ned Flanders, because being charitable is sort of his deal. 

Then Homer does the Grinch who stole Christmas by stealing everyone's presents because Lisa tells him everyone would be happier if society was a little less overwhelmingly materialistic. As a whole, "'Tis the Fifteenth Season" demonstrates how television writers can copy/paste pre-existing pop culture and tell everyone their intent was satire or homage, as opposed to simply admitting they had no new ideas.

"What you saw was A Christmas Carol," Lisa explains to Homer the morning after his Magoo-related revelation. "It was written by Charles Dickens 160 years ago." "TV writers have been milking that goat for years," says Bart. And that is what we call "lampshading."

She of Little Faith

Lisa converts to Buddhism, and we learn that Lenny and Carl have been Buddhists this entire time. It's a 13th-season shift in status quo the show occasionally remembers to honor in subsequent years.

This comes about when Mr. Burns pays for repairs at Reverend Lovejoy's church, with the caveat that Springfield's most frequently seen place of worship must become absolutely loaded with advertising. Grossed out by the feckless capitalism and trivialized spirituality, Lisa abandons Christianity for reasons totally unconnected to Christianity itself. Once again, The Simpsons stumbles into the paradox that has sunk other episodes: It wants to use religion for comedic purposes but runs up against a practicality mandated imperative to never, ever suggest that mainstream religion is funny. Luckily, "She of Little Faith" doesn't feel like much of a cop-out. 

During the episode's second half, Marge's campaign to lure Lisa back into Jesus' flock gets so manipulative that even Homer shoots her an incredulous glance, making this a rare Simpsons episode in which Homer plays the voice of reason to Marge's unhinged reactionary.

Grift of the Magi

Maybe it's unfair to expect this much consistency from on-screen events that occurred two years apart in real time. But we literally just wrote a blurb about a season 13 episode in which Mr. Burns invests in a Springfield institution and brings about catastrophic results. In the 11th season's "Grift of the Magi," Kid First Industries bails out Springfield Elementary, and quite like the case of "She of Little Faith," commercialization runs totally amok. 

Quite unlike "She of Little Faith," the celebrity cameo feels inspired and purposeful, in contrast to Richard Gere's route walk-on. It's hard to say how many members of the television-viewing public under 40 years old have ever seen Different Strokes. But if we're going to recognize Gary Coleman for anything in 2020, let us remember him as one of the all-time great one-off Simpsons characters, just like Frank Grimes and Stampy the Elephant.

The Way of the Dog

Hold on, does this really count as a Christmas episode? It aired for the first time in May 2020. Seems like maybe it belongs on a list of Simpsons season finales instead? 

Well, anyway, in "The Way of the Dog," Santa's Little Helper loses control of his unresolved emotional issues, which leads to getting a little bitey with Marge. A dog behaviorist voiced by Cate Blanchett figures out that SLH's problems are related to childhood trauma. So, the fam tracks down the racing dog trainer responsible for separating the Simpsons' immortal pooch from his apparently equally immortal mom. The episode ends with the Simpsons having evidently adopted SLH's mom, She Biscuit.

More dogs are always a good idea. But overall, this is an essentially bad episode that we suspect garnered its 7.4 IMDb rating due to users' cute animal-related emotions. And if you're going to leave a misleading Simpsons review on the internet, we suppose cute animals are one of the best possible reasons to do so. Plus, Dr. Hibbert provides a genuinely funny moment when he confesses that he's embarrassed to watch Euphoria on his own TV. If people see such a thing in his HBO viewing history, whatever will they think? 

Miracle on Evergreen Terrace

Bart accidentally melts the family's plastic Christmas tree, thus destroying all the presents underneath. So this is a little like that time he ruined Thanksgiving by knocking Lisa's table centerpiece display into the fireplace seven seasons earlier. But "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" has a little more confidence in its own noble goofiness and doesn't play out with the earnestness of season two's "Bart vs. Thanksgiving."

Bart blames the whole fiasco on an imaginary burglar, and after Homer learns the truth, he issues the following statement via the media: "Hello, jerk," he begins. "We may never find you, and everyone should probably stop looking. But one thing's for sure. You do exist." High-larious. 

The final three minutes, in which the rest of the town righteously loots 742 Evergreen Terrace, are handedly the funniest few of the 23 total. "If you're heading for the medicine cabinet, I've already been there," Krusty informs Otto as they cross paths on the stairs. So much for Bart's Adderall prescription. Hopefully he's due for a refill soon. Otherwise, he won't be finishing any homework assignments at all. 

Skinner's Sense of Snow

The Cirque Du Soleil segment that launches this episode inspires its share of chuckles, but overall, "Skinner's Sense of Snow's" 7.9 IMDB ranking might be attributable to the fact that it premiered during season 12, back when there was still hope that the show's dip in quality was only temporary. As a result, fans remember this one as a worthier entry than it actually is.

A blizzard traps Bart, Lisa, and several other young'uns at Springfield Elementary during the final day before winter break. Most of the gags revolve around Principal Skinner's futile attempt to maintain order. There are a few apparent lapses of in-story logic, and not necessarily the kind we can hand-wave off just because it's a cartoon. Lisa revels in anti-establishment chaos in a manner that clashes with the highly respectful attitude toward the education system she usually displays. Skinner spends much of the episode's second half stuck in a dodgeball bag that doesn't seem like it should be able to bind an adult human man. 

Speaking of Skinner's adulthood, this animated trifle aired in 2000 and states his age as 40. But in a flashback, it also depicts him as an adult soldier during the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975. We realize Bart would be around 40 if anyone in Springfield aged normally, but come on.

Holidays of Future Passed

Y'know what people love? The feels, man. The people wanna get all the feels, and The Simpsons brings all the feels and then some with season 23's holiday sojourn. We've got to wonder if that's why when it comes to Simpsons Christmas specials, IMDb rankers place this one below only undisputed all-time TV classics, even though most of it isn't especially funny. 

"Holidays of Future Passed" certainly resonates more closely with "Lisa's Substitute" than "Marge vs. the Monorail" in the respect that, unfortunately, the unique premise didn't inspire much in the way of memorable jokes. But we defy you to watch Bart confessing to Lisa that she's the person he always wished he could be without crumbling into a blubbering mess of sentimental goo. 

The episode also features ungrateful Simpsons grandkids, an army of horrible adult Ralph Wiggum clones that die as easily and hilariously as Rick and Morty's MeeSeeks, and an unusually optimistic vision of Homer as an old man. It would've made a satisfying series finale, but alas, we still must worry that The Simpsons will never end on a conclusive note and that Fox will continue cranking out new episodes until the lone surviving original cast member collapses from a fatal cardiac event midway through recording season 67.  

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

The series premiere of the longest-running scripted television show in the history of the medium almost feels too historic to be contextualized as one of several holiday-specific Simpsons episodes. But then again, it is very much a Simpsons holiday special, even if it might also be other things of equal or greater significance. 

It took The Simpsons until roughly eight episodes into season two to really figure itself out and rise to the immaculate level we associate with '90s Simpsons, but "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" certainly contains hints of the absurdity, heart, and irreverent self-awareness that was coming down the pipeline. Eh, maybe "hints" is putting it too lightly. Homer's stint as a mall Santa is very absurd. Bart dialogue like "If TV has taught me anything, it's that miracles always happen to poor kids at Christmas" is very irreverent and self-aware. And the family's decision to give Santa's Little Helper a forever home, even though he failed to win them a dime at the racing track, checks off the heart box, for sure.

Marge Be Not Proud

Ironically, the top-ranking Simpsons holiday episode isn't really about Christmas. To put it more precisely, it's not addressing boilerplate, generalized themes about family or togetherness. Instead, it's a definitive Bart episode, with Christmas functioning as a plot device. The eldest Simpson child gets busted shoplifting a video game, and Marge responds as if it's the worst thing he's ever done.

Sure, Bart caused an international incident as recently as the previous season, but in terms of the kind of non-fantastical mischief that a ten-year-old boy could commit in real life, ripping off the Try-N-Save is his greatest transgression. Bart puts actual effort into reestablishing the doting mother/son dynamic he rejects at the beginning of the episode when he claims that he's "not a little kid anymore," because while he's happy to play the part of his generation's Dennis the Menace, he doesn't want his mayhem to go too far and alienate his mom. 

Or, for that matter, his audience. "Marge Be Not Proud" established a rule The Simpsons has more or less followed since: Bart's shenanigans must remain either too cartoony for reality or too harmless for anyone to take seriously. Bart doesn't commit adult crime, and this is probably the way it should be. There are plenty of other television shows that explore the darker sides of juvenile delinquency. The Simpsons should just do its own thing.