If you were a child of the 1990s, the holiday season meant buying glittery, lotion-based gifts at Bath & Body Works and Limited Too. It also meant actually enjoying candy canes, eggnog not giving you indigestion and – best of all – watching holiday episodes of your favorite shows, some age-appropriate and some, well, not.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit nine of the most quintessential holiday television episodes of the 1990s:
1. Rugrats, ‘The Santa Experience’
Nothing screams “THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE AND EVERYTHING IS JOYOUS” louder than a Rugrats episode. The cartoon’s take on Christmas is particularly spectacular – and turns scandalous when Angelica yanks off a mall Santa’s beard and shouts, “Santa Claus is a fake!” The whole gang – Tommy, Chuckie, Lil, Phil, Didi, Betty, Chas, Stu, – go to a mountain house. Then Santa shows up, proving to children everywhere that Santa is real after all.
2. Rugrats, ‘A Rugrats Chanukah’
While the show’s take on Christmas is a staple in the holiday television canon, there is no Rugrats episode more iconic than “A Rugrats Chanukah,” which tells the story of the Jewish holiday through the lil’ eyes of the baby protagonists, who act out the characters in their collective dream sequence.
3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, ‘Deck the Halls’
We’re taking it all the way back to 1990, to the heartwarming 15th episode of Fresh Prince‘s first season. Will realizes that Ashley has never had a real Christmas, so he decks the inside and outside of the mansion in sparkling, flashing Christmas decorations, much to the neighborhood’s curmudgeon-y chagrin. (Highlight? Ashley: “Will, everybody knows there’s no Santa Claus.” Will: “Wait a minute – there is no Milli Vanilli … but there DEFINITELY is a Santa Claus!”)
4. Seinfeld, ‘The Strike’
The 166th episode of Seinfeld was the origin of “Festivus,” the best fake holiday that real people really celebrate. George, in an attempt to not get Christmas gifts for his coworker, insists he doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but rather celebrates Festivus (“for the rest of us.”). To prove the holiday is real, he invites his boss over to a dinner at his parents’ house. Spoiler alert: there are hilarious consequences.
5. Saturday Night Live with Alec Baldwin (1998)
Two words: Schweddy Balls.
6. The Ren & Stimpy Show, ‘Son of Stimpy’
Originally titled “Stimpy’s First Fart,” the premise of the episode is simple (and characteristically grotesque): Stimpy farts and is convinced he’s given birth. After losing his son “Stinky,” Stimpy eventually finds him and brings his over to Ren’s place for Christmas. Touching?
7. My So-Called Life, ‘So-Called Angels’
Angsty Claire Danes = our favorite Claire Danes.
8. Dawson’s Creek, ‘Merry Mayhem’
Dawson brings Natasha and Todd back to Capeside with him for Christmas, and he just, like, cannot get over the fact that he saw Natasha and Max together. Everyone gets drunk at Christmas dinner, and Audrey, whose drinking has gotten out of control, crashes Pacey’s car. Dramz.com.
9. Friends, ‘The One with the Routine’
All you need to know/remember about this magical episode is that Monica and Ross resurrect their dance routine from high school. That’s right: a brother-sister dance routine. From high school. (We instantly feel more secure about our adolescent experiences.)
Looking for even more small-screen yuletide cheer? Check out this list of celebs you probably forgot starred in made-for-TV holiday movies.