Christmas is coming! It’s December and the countdown is officially on – only three weeks or so until we can all chow down on far too much turkey. One of the best things about Christmas is all the excellent television. Friends is one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, but it was surprisingly light on the festive cheer across its ten year run. This was probably partly due to the fact that two of the characters – Ross and Monica – were Jewish, and that the show tended to have a Thanksgiving episode most years. That’s not to say that Christmas didn’t play a significant role in the show – eight out of the ten seasons feature the holiday in some way, shape or form. Here is the definitive ranking of the Friends Christmas episodes (Ok, so it might not be definitive – let me know what your ranking would look like in the comments section!):
8 – THE ONE WITH ROSS’ STEP FORWARD
Season eight was a strange time for Friends, and this was partly due to Ross’ relationship with the eternally bland Mona. There was nothing particularly wrong with Mona, but the fact that she stayed with Ross for so long not only highlighted her poor judge of character but also led to some really lacklustre storylines attempting to incorporate her. This festive themed episode sees Ross freak out when Mona suggests they send out a holiday card together (obviously it was way too soon, what’s your deal Mona?), and a series of unfortunate Ross-like attempts to iron out the whole situation end up with him giving her a key to his apartment and then changing the locks. Classic Ross. The episode takes last place because it’s not very Christmassy and MONA SUCKS.
7 – THE ONE WITH PHEOBE’S DAD
This season two episode is the first time the show referenced Christmas. The holiday takes the backbench, but we see the gang shopping, holding a party and decorating the apartment, and there is an excellent scene at the end where Joey and Chandler give their gang the Christmas gifts they picked up at a small convenience store. Gifts include wiper blades, cans of soda and condoms – the things everyone is hoping to see in their stocking. This one ranks low due to Christmas not being at the forefront of the episode, but it’s background involvement raises some laughs.
6 – THE ONE WITH THE GIRL FROM PHOUGHKEEPSIE
Season four featured Ross and Rachel getting used to life after the end of their relationship, and this episode centres around Ross dating two girls and battling between convenience and actual attraction. It has very little to do with Christmas at all, but there is an amusing subplot where Phoebe tries to write a festive song dedicated to the gang. She runs into various rhyming stumbling blocks, particularly when dealing with Chandler and Rachel. The final product (which you can see at the end of this list) is the epitome of Phoebe’s kookily awful songwriting skills, and a bonafide Christmas classic.
5 – THE ONE WITH THE ROUTINE
This is a classic season six episode where we are reminded (as we quite often are) that Ross and Monica were massive geeks before they grew up to be David Schwimmer and Courtney Cox. The pair are invited to be extras at the filming of filler shots for Dick Clarke’s Rockin’ New Years Eve along with Joey and his dancer room-mate Janine (Elle Macpherson). Their increasingly desperate attempts to get on camera go overlooked, culminating in them dusting off an old dance routine which we are treated to viewing in it’s entirety. This is a scene that only gets better with age, with the increasingly dated but not yet quirky costumes of the late 90’s adding to the overall hilarity. This episode rates pretty high on the festive factor, with a subplot featuring Phoebe and Rachel attempting to find Monica’s christmas gifts for the group. Chandler is outraged, moreso when they discover and deride his gifts, but the girls wear him down and they set to finding the presents. This is a great episode which has just enough festive frolics.
4 – THE ONE WITH THE CHRISTMAS IN TULSA
This one drew to a close the strange storyline where Chandler had to split his time between Tulsa and New York in season nine. This episode sees Chandler being forced to spend Christmas in Tulsa, leading to him recalling happier festive times with the gang – allowing the perfect opportunity for a flashback episode. This one panders to the nostalgia that we all tend to get at Christmas time, and also serves to remind us of just how great Friends was.
3 – THE ONE WITH THE INAPPROPRIATE SISTER
Again, Christmas doesn’t play a massive part in the episode, but it makes its way into the top three due to the fact that the small subplot where it does feature is comedy gold. Phoebe has landed herself a role as a bell ringer/fundraiser and is given a prime location outside of Macy’s. Her spreading of festive cheer proves harder than she thought when people decide to instead utilise her collection bucket for pretty much anything other than donations (ashtray and urinal are some of the worst uses). We see her having to take desperate measures and revert to her ‘Street Phoebe’ persona, making us laugh along the way.
2 – THE ONE WHERE RACHEL QUITS
This season three episode has a great little Christmas subplot which sees Joey taking some temporary work selling Christmas trees. When Phoebe announces that she is against the concept of the festive trees, Joey takes her to workplace to calm her down, only for her to become further outraged at the fact that old trees are put in the chipper (“I bet that’s not as happy as it sounds”). Monica and Joey then go on to make her Christmas by decorating the former’s apartment with the dead trees, in spite of the fact that Monica is a massive clean freak (this shows the extent of her goodwill and sacrifice, obviously). It’s a really sweet festive moment, landing it the number two spot on this list.
1 – THE ONE WITH THE HOLIDAY ARMADILLO
Could it be any other episode? This gem from season seven is a pop culture favourite which sees Ross attempt to teach his son Ben about Jewish holiday Hanukkah, but finds it hard to compete with the man in the red suit. Ross then finds himself unable to find a Santa suit on short notice, leading to his hilarious ‘holiday armadillo’ improvisation. It’s already funny, but things get downright hysterical when Chandler shows up in a Santa suit, later followed by Joey in a Superman outfit, leading to one of Chandler’s finest lines:
“My favourite part was when Superman flew all the Jews out of Egypt”
So there you have it, the eight Christmas episodes of Friends ranked. Do you agree? What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments section!