Just as the ’90s loved velvet, chunky sweaters, and all-around winter wear, the ’90s also loved holiday-themed TV episodes. Seriously, though — there a lot of ’em. Have we seen every single one? Of course not. How could we watch all that TV when we had hungry Tamagotchis to raise? (Just kidding-ish). So, we’re not here to subject you to a bold “best ’90s holiday episodes in existence” list. Instead, we’re going to take a trip down memory/Santa Claus lane to name ten ’90s-tastic holiday episodes that still resonate with us after all these years. Oh, and you know what else the ’90s loved? Old Navy, of course! Don’t forget — our pals at Old Navy are giving away a whopping $10,000 to the creator of the best holiday display, and $2500 to two runners up. So, between now and December 9th, submit a photo of your over-the-top decorations here and let Internet voters work their magic. Feel free to take some holiday display tips from the following ’90s TV specials. Christmas garbage trees à la Pete and Pete, anyone?
Seinfeld – “The Strike”
The 1997 Seinfeld episode, “The Strike,” is responsible for Festivus, and for that we are forever grateful. For the few who are unfamiliar, December 23rd is a Festivus for the rest of us. Every year since this monumental episode, families worldwide have erected their aluminum Festivus poles, gathered around their Festivus feasts, and shared the reasons why they are disappointed in one another. This customary “Airing of Grievances” is followed by the “Feats of Strength” — Festivus can only end once the head of the household has been wrestled and pinned to the floor, naturally.
Full House – “Our Very First Christmas Show”
Out of all the Full House holiday episodes over the years, this one stands out the most. Why? Well — the Tanner family gets stranded at an airport for Christmas. Jesse gives a heart-felt speech about the true meaning of Christmas — “It’s about a feeling. It’s about people. It’s about us forgetting about our problems and reaching out to help other people. Christmas doesn’t have to happen in one certain place. It happens in our hearts. So if you think about it, we could have Christmas anywhere” — and then the family’s wrapped presents appear on the airport luggage conveyor belt. How cool would that be?
My So-Called Life – “My So-Called Angels”
Here we have our token devastating holiday special — the “My So-Called Angels” episode of My So-Called Life. At this point in the series, Rickie Vasquez had provided nothing but friendly, bubbly relief. The first scene of “My So-Called Angels,” however, reveals a bruised Rickie spitting blood onto the snow. We soon realize that Rickie’s father had beaten and kicked him out of his home, and Rickie has no place to stay. Throw in a ghost girl who froze to death? This one was a doozie.
The Simpsons – “Marge Be Not Proud”
Everyone has a favorite holiday episode of The Simpsons, and since most can agree that the 1989 pilot, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” is a classic, we’re going to spice things up a bit and throw the ever-so-heartwarming “Marge Be Not Proud” into our mix. Bart shoplifts a video game (after Nelson tells him “shoplifting is a victimless crime, like punching someone in the dark,” naturally), and Marge worries that it’s her own fault for mothering him too much. Bart sees how much he hurt Marge and is ashamed of what he’s done, turns into sweetheart to win back her love, and the whole episode ends up tugging at our heart strings.
The Adventures of Pete and Pete – “O’ Christmas Pete”
In the 1996 holiday episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Little Pete tries to prolong the post-Christmas holiday spirit by doing the unthinkable — keeping his family’s tree after December 26th. The garbage man refuses to pick up Pete’s street’s trash until his family dumps the tree, and an epic rivalry ensues. Eventually, Little Pete organizes a boxing match against Santa, the garbage man wins, and the town’s Christmas spirit is seemingly destroyed. That is — until everyone on Pete’s street turns their garbage mounds into festive garbage Christmas trees and, as usual, Little Pete prevails.
Dinosaurs – “Refrigerator Day”
Here we have a bizarre holiday episode of courtesy of Dinosaurs. In lieu of a real holiday — they are dinosaurs after all — the Sinclair family would partake in the fridge-related equivalents of Christmas traditions — giving food-related gifts, watching pageant reenactments of the first Fridge Day, decorating, singing carols about refrigerators. They called it “Refrigerator Day,” and it was good.
Boy Meets World – “A Very Topanga Christmas”
Who could forget that time Topanga spent her first Christmas with the Matthews family? Cory grows frustrated with the odd Christmas traditions that Topanga imposes on his own, and we’re launched into A Christmas Carol with a Boy Meets World twist. Mr. Feeny shows up as “The Ghost of Christmas Future,” takes Cory to see his future without Topanga (which is as the overweight, miserable roommate of a bald Eric), and Cory soon realizes that he can’t risk life without her. In related news — Girl Meets World is happening, so Cory obviously didn’t end up living with Eric after all.
Family Matters – “Have Yourself a Merry Winslow Christmas”
After Steve breaks Laura’s old-fashioned Christmas ornament and the Urkel family abandons him for the holidays, we find Steve spending Christmas Eve alone and depressed in his basement. Despite Laura’s hatred for her nerdy neighbor, she invites Steve to spend Christmas with the Winslows. That’s what the holidays are all about, right? Being nice to your geeky future husband?
Saved by the Bell – “A Home for Christmas”
Homeless babes of the ’90s — have no fear. If Zack Morris finds you the least bit attractive, he will let you and your dad live in his home in exchange for the occasional cheek-kiss. That just about wraps up “A Home for Christmas.”
Pinky and the Brain – “A Pinky and the Brain Christmas”
We’ll wrap up our list with the excellent 1995 Pinky and the Brain holiday episode, “A Pinky and the Brain Christmas.” Brain builds a robot replica of himself and calls it “Noodle Noggin” — a doll that can brainwash humans and aid in Brain’s plan to rule the world. In order to place a Noodle Noggin in every human’s home, Pinky and Brain travel to the North Pole to pose as elves and trick Santa’s workshop into building billions of Noodle Noggins. Right after Santa finishes delivering every Noodle Noggin on Christmas Eve, Brain reads a letter that Pinky had written to Santa — a letter about how much he loves his best friend, Brain. Brain begins to cry, discards his plans of Noodle Noggin-fueled domination, and instead uses the dolls to broadcast his Christmas well-wishes to the world. Pretty inspiring, huh?