The Simpsons is no longer just a TV series—it's a thread in the fabric of modern society, woven by the artisan hands of Matt Groening.
The show has outlasted social eras and political changes, seen film stars come and go, fortunes squandered, and has done it all with an assuredness that no other show can equally boast.
The adventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are as re-watchable as television gets, with the show never appearing to age with any significance. And that's just as true when it comes to the Christmas episodes for this festive time of year.
Here are some of the best Christmas episodes of The Simpsons over its multi-decade run, including the series' very first episode (which was itself a Christmas special of The Tracey Ullman Show).
7. "Tis the Fifteenth Season" (Season 15)
Few series do cultural mashups better than The Simpsons, and they proved it once again in "Tis the Fifteenth Season."
When Homer sells a baseball card for a fortune from Comic-Book Guy, he takes the family Christmas shopping. But in his selfishness, he spends most of that money buying himself an expensive astrolabe.
The family becomes angry at Homer and chastises him, compounded when he watches a parody of A Christmas Carol. Seeing himself as Scrooge, Homer opens up to Lisa, who shares her Buddhist beliefs—resulting in Homer going Grinch and stealing presents in Springfield.
The episode is a triumph in mixing up its two themes in A Christmas Carol and The Grinch, with Homer's How the Grinch Stole Christmas montage being the best part.
6. "She of Little Faith" (Season 13)
When Homer and Bart accidentally cause a great deal of damage to the church, Mr. Burns steps in to give the church funds to fix the damage—while also demanding to run it as a business.
Lisa becomes enraged when she attends her first sermon and disavows Christianity because of the incident. Lisa then searches for a new religion, finding Springfield's Buddhist temple and Richard Gere inside.
She declares herself a Buddhist, much to Marge's chagrin who attempts to bribe Lisa back to the Christian faith at Christmas, with Milhouse and Ralph dressing up as a pony.
After she runs away, Lisa speaks with Gere about the incident, but Gere tells her she can celebrate Christmas with her family and still be Buddhist.
In dealing with Lisa's faith and loss of Christianity, the episode makes itself one of the few that changes a character forever afterwards: Lisa remains a Buddhist going forward.
5. "Grift of the Magi" (Season 11)
After Springfield Elementary School closes after becoming the victim of mob intimidation over disability access, a toy company saves the school and replaces its teachers.
However, Bart and Lisa discover that the company is using the school as a focus group. The company tries to come up with ideas for new toys, leading to the invention of Funzo (a Furby-esque toy that all the children want) that destroys the competition.
They convince Homer of the toy's evil capabilities, and Homer steals all of the Funzo toys from the houses in Springfield while Bart and Lisa create a diversion. Homer, Bart, and Lisa burn the Funzo toys and—along with Gary Coleman—enjoy Christmas Day as a family.
4. "Skinner's Sense of Snow" (Season 12)
After heavy snowfall during the last school day of the year, the children end up trapped at school when Skinner refused to close it that morning.
Homer and Flanders set out to save them, using Flanders' car and roof portion as a makeshift plow. Meanwhile, Principal Skinner watches as the children become unruly, causing him to dust off his army uniform and methods to keep the children down.
But Homer and Ned encounter several problems that delay their arrival, resulting in Bart revolting against Skinner. The children follow and tie up Skinner. Eventually, Homer and Flanders accidentally knock over a salt silo, melting the snow and saving the children.
Homer and Flanders' car journey is the funniest part of the episode, as the pair engage in their usual dynamic where Flanders is too nice to stand up to Homer. The children trapped at school is a fun foil for Skinner, too.
3. "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" (Season 9)
After Homer poses as cashier on Christmas Eve to get toys for Bart and Lisa, the family settles down and waits for Christmas Day to arrive.
However, Bart wakes up early and opens presents before the rest of the family using his new remote-controlled firetruck in the living room. An accident leads to him burning down the tree and destroying the gifts.
In a panic, he buries the melted tree in the yard and claims a burglar took the presents. Moved by their plight, the town chips in and gives the family money to replace everything.
Later, Bart confesses what really happened. The local news crew shows up and the tree is uncovered, leading to the Simpsons being ostracized. The townspeople take items from the family's home rather than staying angry at the family, leaving them with nothing.
The episode is a slight parody of It's a Wonderful Life, with the typical Simpsons twists thrown in, which is why Miracle on Evergreen Terrace is so fun and wholesome.
2. "The Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" (Season 1)
The first-ever aired episode of The Simpsons was a Christmas special.
"The Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" follows Homer as Mr. Burns announces that all Christmas bonuses are cancelled for the year. Meanwhile, Bart has conned his way into getting a "Mother" tattoo, which Marge then spends the family's Christmas savings on getting removed.
Desperate for cash, Homer tries to earn some quick money before Christmas by becoming a mall Santa—which goes badly—before heading to the dog track with Barney and Bart to bet on a dog.
The dog loses, and Homer is left crestfallen. However, when the losing dog is abandoned, Homer and Bart adopt him and bring home the best Christmas present one could wish for: Santa's Little Helper.
The episode is a classic that showcases the kind of heart the show would prove to have in spades over the next three decades.
1. "Marge Be Not Proud" (Season 7)
Without a doubt, the best Christmas episode of The Simpsons to this day is "Marge Be Not Proud."
When Bart is detained for stealing from the Try-n-Save, he races home and changes the tape in the answering machine, leaving Homer and Marge none the wiser. But the next day, Marge announces that the family is heading to the Try-n-Save to have their family photo taken.
After trying to evade the security guard—who has banned Bart from the store—the guard catches up to Bart, ruining the photo.
Heartbroken by Bart's actions, Marge stops treating Bart like her little boy and distances herself from him, causing Bart to miss her motherly affection. So, Bart goes back to the store and has his photo taken for Marge, paying in full.
After thinking that Bart has stolen again, Marge finds the present and cries as she sees what he has done for her. She picks Bart up and hugs him close, demonstrating the series' capacity for gut-punching emotion and ability to warm the hearts of all who watch.