It's the most wonderful time of year, right? Not if you happened to be watching TV during Christmas in the 80s. Sure, the holidays are stressful for everyone, but some mysterious melancholy made otherwise rational and talented TV writers go absolutely insane back in the day.

Pop a candy cane and a Xanax, and recover some repressed memories of the most traumatic holiday specials you wish you never saw.


1. Growing Pains, 'A Christmas Story' (1985)

The classic heartwarming holiday episode where Ben finds a homeless girl dumpster diving, so he takes her home, she tells everyone her name is Nancy Reagan, and The Seavers wake up the next morning to find that she's robbed them blind and stolen all of their presents. The last shot is of her in a phone booth calling her dad and crying and having a nervous breakdown. Merry Christmas, no one.




2. ALF's Christmas Special (1987)

Check it: ALF delivers a baby in an elevator, gets stuck in the trunk of a car, and winds up at a cabin in the woods with an old black man who is giving away all his worldly possessions so he can jump off a bridge. Oh, and ALF meets a girl in the hospital who is dying of cancer, and then she dies. No surprise ALF was written by a heroin addict.




3. A Chipmunk Christmas (1981)

Maybe the sarcastic sweatshirted rodents learn the true meaning of Christmas, but does that really require a boy to die of Cholera? Spoiler alert: the kid recovers from the deadly intestinal pandemic in time to join Alvin and the Chipmunks on stage by the time the credits roll, but really...cholera?




4. The Village People in 'Can't Stop the Christmas Music -- On Ice!' (1980)*

The Village People mobilize to save Christmas after Santa Claus (Paul Lynde) cops a serious hernia. What follows is a series of musical sequences - on ice! At one point, Bruce Jenner is drafted into the spectacle as Santa, which involves the most uncomfortably long chest-shaving and oiling sequence in the history of television.

*So terrible that all evidence of its existence has been destroyed.



5. The Adventures of Candy Claus (1987)

To quote the 'Santa Claus' episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, "If seasonal depression has a soundtrack, this is it." Candy Claus might be the worst Christmas special of all time. It's creepy as hell, very poorly executed and really grim. There's no way this special didn't disrupt the normal development of any child who was unfortunate enough to have seen it.




6. Silver Spoons, 'The Best Christmas Ever' (1985)

Joey Lawrence plays a homeless kid who tries to steal Rick's presents, so Rick follows him to the CAVE (!!?) the kid lives in with his family on the Strattons' property. But instead of calling the cops or giving them money, Rick waits for them to leave and then tricks out their cave with a tree and X-mas decorations. So bizarre, it's almost good.




7. Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Naturally, Chewbacca and Han Solo visit Chewie's home planet to celebrate the wacky Wookie equivalent of Christmas, "Life Day." Not even Jefferson Starship and Bea Arthur can save this interplanetary fiasco.The special's across-the-board suckitude remains as seared into our memories as Carrie Fisher's coked-out rendition of the Christmas carol 'Life Day,' which was based off the original Star Wars theme.




8. Pee Wee's Christmas (1988)

Okay, so Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special is actually great. Every other holiday show take notes. It's everything a Christmas special should be: it teaches a lesson about the "true meaning" of Christmas, it's FILLED with celebrity cameos (Oprah! Cher! Little Richard, Grace Jones? KD Lang?); and it's funny, weird, sweet, and full of stop-motion.


Special thanks to Ken Reid.

Hillary Buckholtz is editor of the nostalgia website I'm Remembering!


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