Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Ho, Ho, Ho! You’ll Love These 10 Classic Holiday Sitcom Episodes

​Some are hilarious. Some are heartwarming. All are guaranteed 30-minute mood boosters, from 'The Andy Griffith Show' to 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'

spinner image Matthew Perry is dressed as Santa Claus, David Schwimmer is dressed as the Holiday Armadillo with Courteney Cox standing between them
(Left to right) Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette and David Schwimmer in "Friends."
Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images

’Tis the season for holiday sitcom episodes, and much like the real family gatherings and office parties and Yuletide shenanigans that inspire them, they run the gamut from sweet and Santa-like (The Andy Griffith Show) to sour and Scrooge-y (Seinfeld). From heartwarming to hilarious, these 10 episodes will get you in the spirit, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Festivus. And they’re all streaming now.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

spinner image Elinor Donahue and Andy Griffith are nearby a Christmas tree in an episode titled Christmas Story on The Andy Griffith Show
Elinor Donahue as Ellie Walker (left) and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show."
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

The Andy Griffith Show, “The Christmas Story” (1960)

The plot: When the town Grinch, store owner Ben Weaver (Will Wright), demands that Andy (Andy Griffith) jail Mayberry’s resident moonshiner, Sam Muggins (Sam Edwards), the good-hearted sheriff hatches a plan to let everyone still have a great Christmas: He decides to also lock up Sam’s wife and daughters, and he moves the office holiday party into the clink, complete with a trimmed tree and a holiday feast, to allow them all to celebrate in style. Weaver is so moved by the fun he sees happening inside the jail that he tries to get himself arrested so he can join in on the festivities. ​

Heartwarming or hilarious?: The definition of heartwarming. ​

Where to watch: “The Christmas Story” on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube

The Dick Van Dyke Show, “The Alan Brady Show Presents” (1963)

The plot: In this song-and-dance-filled special episode, Alan Brady (Carl Reiner) hands over the reins of his holiday special to his writing staff and their family members in a bid to give the show more heart. Rob (Dick Van Dyke, 95) and Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) duet as two street-corner Santas, Sally (Rose Marie) vamps it up with the song “Santa Send a Fella,” Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) plays the cello, and little Ritchie (Larry Mathews, 66) warbles “The Little Drummer Boy.” But perhaps the most memorable number is the finale, in which Rob, Laura, Buddy and Sally perform “I Am a Fine Musician” dressed as tin soldiers — before the entire cast breaks the fourth wall to sing The Dick Van Dyke Show theme song a cappella. ​

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Hilarious and hum-alongable. ​

Where to watch: The Alan Brady Show Presents” on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Hulu, Tubi

​​Don’t miss this: The Best Christmas TV Specials to Watch With Your Grandkids

spinner image A scene from from the episode Guess Who's Coming to Christmas on Happy Days
ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Happy Days, “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas” (1974)

The plot: With his leather jacket and copious catchphrases, Fonzie (Henry Winkler, 76) seemed to have it all. But in this surprisingly poignant Happy Days episode, we learn that he’s unfortunately missing something important: a family to spend the holidays with. To protect his pride, he tells the gang he’s visiting a cousin in Waukesha, but when the Cunninghams learn about his situation, Howard (Tom Bosley) and Richie (Ron Howard, 67) invite him over under the guise of fixing their robotic Santa Claus and then convince him to stick around. You’ll practically melt when you see the lovable greaser read “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” ​

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Heartbreaking, then heartwarming. “I remember being moved by the story that a guy with all this bravado was by himself,” Winkler later told, “and left with a canned meal and a tree the size of two ballpoint pens.”

Where to watch: “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas” on Amazon Prime, Paramount+

The Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (1989)

The plot: With 33 seasons and counting, America’s favorite yellow family has celebrated many memorable Christmases, but none can match the importance of the sitcom’s very first episode. After Bart (Nancy Cartwright, 64) gets a tattoo, Marge (Julie Kavner, 71) spends the family’s gift budget to get it removed, and Homer (Dan Castellaneta, 64) is forced to take a job as a mall Santa. When he doesn’t make enough cash to buy presents, he drowns his sorrows at the dog track, but he stumbles upon a gift for his family that proves priceless: Santa’s Little Helper, the greyhound who finishes in last place. He’s been an important part of the family ever since.

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Much more heartwarming and hopeful than early critics — ahem, Barbara Bush — gave it credit for.

Where to watch: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” on Amazon Prime, Disney+, Google Play, YouTube

Don’t miss this: How Well Do You Know Your Christmas Carols?​

See more Health & Wellness offers >

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Deck the Halls” (1990)

The plot: It’s Will’s (Will Smith, 53) first Christmas in Bel-Air, and when he finds out that his cousin Ashley (Tatyana Ali) has never experienced a big family Christmas, he decides to festoon the mansion with all the tacky decorations he can find, from oversized candy canes to blow-up snowmen to every color of garland under the sun. It doesn’t sit well with the Banks’ posh neighbors, including Evander Holyfield, 59, who cameos as himself. In a very ’90s quote, Will tells Ashley, “There is no Milli Vanilli, but there definitely is a Santa Claus!”​

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Hilarious and Holy-filled.

Where to watch: “Deck the Halls” on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, HBO Max, YouTube

Rugrats, “A Rugrats Chanukah” (1996)

The plot: Should you, a grownup, really spend your precious time watching an episode of a ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon about talking babies? The short answer: Definitely! For starters, the episode offers a surprisingly accurate account of the Hanukkah story and the rise of the “Maccababies,” with fun tidbits about holiday traditions. Did you know, for instance, that Jews eat latkes and doughnuts as a nod to the miracle of the oil during the first Hanukkah? Keep your ears peeled for some fun voiceover cameos, including Fyvush Finkel as Grandpa Boris’ synagogue rival Shlomo and Ron Leibman as the rabbi.

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Hilarious, with tons of great sight gags, including a pop-up-book version of the Torah scroll in the babies’ retelling. ​

Where to watch: “A Rugrats Chanukah” on Amazon Prime, Paramount+, YouTube

Seinfeld, “The Strike” (1997)

The plot: You might have thought that this final-season episode birthed the holiday of Festivus, but it actually predates the sitcom by about three decades. Writer Dan O’Keefe’s father, Daniel Sr., came up with the celebration as early as 1966! In the Seinfeld-iverse, the inventor is Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller), who envisioned the Dec. 23 holiday “for the rest of us” as a noncommercial alternative to Christmas, replacing the decorated tree with a naked aluminum pole and roping his family into activities like the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength.

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Hilarious — and very quotable. ​

Where to watch: “The Strike” on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Netflix, YouTube

Don’t miss this: Lifetime Is Releasing 35 New Movies This Holiday Season — Here Are the Ones Not to Miss

Friends, “The One With the Holiday Armadillo” (2000)

The plot: Friends really made a feast out of its Thanksgiving offerings, but that doesn’t mean the NBC hit didn’t churn out some must-see winter holiday episodes as well. In this Season 7 outing, Ross (David Schwimmer, 55) sets out to teach his son, Ben (Cole Sprouse), about Hanukkah, but when Ben expresses concern that Santa won’t pay him a visit, Ross decides to rent a red suit and play St. Nick himself. The only problem? They’re sold out across New York. Instead, all he can find is a giant armadillo costume, and he introduces himself as “Santa’s representative for all the Southern states — and Mexico!” When Ross tells Ben he’s part Jewish, Monica quips, “Because armadillos also wandered in the desert?”​

Heartwarming or hilarious?: A bit of both. Ross is always at his most charming when he’s being a great dad. ​

Where to watch: “The One With the Holiday Armadillo” on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, HBO Max, YouTube

The Office, “Christmas Party” (2005)

The plot: Like so many of the best episodes of The Office, this Season 2 entry starts with a mundane premise and spins it into ever-more-frenzied chaos. The employees of Dunder Mifflin are tasked with buying a $20 Secret Santa gift, and our crew has varying levels of success. Jim (John Krasinski), of course, nails the assignment, getting Pam (Jenna Fischer) a teapot filled with mementos and a personal letter. But when Michael (Steve Carell, 59) is disappointed by the homemade oven mitt from Phyllis (Phyllis Smith, 70), he blows up the rules of the game and turns it into a no-holds-barred Yankee swap, with nearly everyone competing for the rule-breaking $400 iPod Michael bought Ryan (B.J. Novak). ​

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Hilarious, but the budding romance of Pam and Jim brings the requisite awwws.

Where to watch: “Christmas Party” on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Peacock

Community, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (2010)

The plot: This cult NBC sitcom usually operates on a pretty high level of sarcasm, but it takes a hefty dose of sincerity to pull off an episode like this one, a loving ode to and gentle spoof of retro Rankin/Bass stop-motion-animated holiday specials. As the big day approaches, Abed (Danny Pudi) wakes up to discover that the other members of his study group have been transformed into Claymation figures, and he sets out to discover the true meaning of the holiday, with the help of the Christmas Wizard, aka psychology professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver). ​​“The meaning of Christmas,” Abed later realizes, “is the idea that Christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want.”​

Heartwarming or hilarious?: Hilarious, but it will definitely make you miss watching those vintage holiday specials. ​

Where to watch: “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube

Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?