It’s that time of year again. Christmas is coming soon; Elf is constantly playing on television; Hallmark has been showing Christmas movies since November. Though there are plenty of Christmas movies I enjoy, I haven’t felt a particularly strong desire to watch any. But I did remember another type of classic, that is sometimes Christmas themed: The Office. Seven seasons of The Office feature a Christmas episode, with Season 7’s being a two-parter. Some of them are better than others. Some of them are much better than others. So here they are, ranked in an objective, scientific manner, from worst to best.
“Christmas Wishes” Season 8 Episode 10
“So Dwight did take the bait. He used my credit card numbers to send a $200 dollar bouquet of flowers to my wife. From me.”
Here are our plotlines for this episode: Erin is jealous of Andy’s new girlfriend. Andy tries to balance having his girlfriend around with taking care of a very drunk Erin. Robert California is sad his wife is divorcing him. Jim and Dwight try to prank themselves in order to get the other’s Christmas bonus.
All of this is…fine. This episode is last purely because of how boring it is. Nothing interesting happens between Andy and Erin. Jim and Dwight give us a few funny moments, but nothing better than any other episode. Robert California’s potential for comedic ridiculousness is wasted; instead, he basically tells Erin to stop being sad, seems to be a creepazoid who will sleep with Erin, and then doesn’t and is just a nice guy. And don’t get me wrong, him not being a creepazoid is so much better than what we could have watched; but he was only even in this position to further Andy’s I-still-have-feelings-for-my-ex plotline, which is also a snoozefest.
Oh yeah, another plot point is that Darryl miscommunicated with his warehouse crush, causing her to be “overdressed” for the party and feel awkward and judged. Exciting. Maybe Darryl showing up in a tuxedo would have been cuter if Val wearing a dress felt like any kind of problem at all.
“Classy Christmas” Season 7: Episodes 11 & 12
“In the end, the greatest snowball isn’t a snowball at all: it’s fear. Merry Christmas.”
Boy is this episode cringy. It features the return of Holly Flax to the office, and while this is an important development in the show, the episode mostly just features Michael being a jealous jerk. Yes he’s heartbroken, but he spends most of his time complaining and ruining Holly’s Woody doll. By the end of the episode we see potential for Holly and Michael in the future, but the rest of the episode gives us no real reason to root for them. I sense a pattern emerging: spurned lovers don’t make for a good Christmas episode.
It also features one of my least favorite parts of the show: Jim and Dwight’s snowball fight. Yes, Jim has been pranking Dwight relentlessly for years, and it’s not often we see Dwight come out on top. But it’s just hard to watch the office rally against Jim when he’s literally covered in blood from the nosebleed Dwight gave him from snowball-induced trauma/a snowball-induced fall (especially after Dwight complained about a pebble being in Jim’s initial snowball). It keeps piling on as Jim lacrosse-launches a snowball at Dwight, missing him and breaking a window. Jim gets understandably reprimanded, but no one ever mentions Jim’s nosebleed or bloody shirt. Though the ending is deviously satisfying, the rest just feels like everyone is gaslighting Jim and, I guess, us as the audience too.
There is one glimmer of Christmas joy in this episode though. Pam spends the party self-conscious about her gift to Jim, a homemade comic book featuring Jim and things in a superhero setting. When they finally exchange presents, Pam is overjoyed with her expensive bracelet, making her feel even worse about the comic book. But Jim loves her take on the inside-joke gift, and is speechless in his talking head interview. It’s like The Gift of the Magi, if it were less about irony and giving and more about…getting your spouse a different type of Christmas gift? There’s a good comparison in there somewhere.
“Moroccan Christmas” Season 5 Episode 11
“Really, Andy? It’s Christmas, and you’re singing about nudity and France.”
The episode falls into the trap we’ve seen already of just being a little too boring. Granted, the premise is pretty original; the theme of a Moroccan Christmas is unique, and really the episode is about staging a well-intentioned but poorly-planned intervention. But that intervention takes up too much of the episode to be as humorless as it is to take up so much time in the episode. The next major chunk of screen time is used up by Phyllis blackmailing Angela, which is probably more enjoyable to watch in the context of the entire season, but drags on in an episode that’s already dragging. Our last big chunk of story features Dwight scalping parents for a huge profit from last-minute purchases of dolls, which, you probably guessed, also gives us basically nothing to enjoy, except for Toby paying $400 for Darryl’s doll, only for it to be black (which seems to veer a little bit towards being racist, but is at least helped by Darryl’s great faux-confused delivery of “Something wrong with the doll?”)
If it sounds like this episode isn’t much better than the last one, you’d be right; in my mind “Classy Christmas” and “Moroccan Christmas” are pretty close in quality. This episode is just a little more enjoyable to watch, and being half the length of “Classy Christmas” doesn’t hurt either.
I do have to give this episode credit for having one of my favorite Jim-pranks though: Dwight mocking that wrapping his desk wasn’t a big deal only to have it collapse beneath his briefcase as he falls over is such a good little twist with a bit of slapstick makes for a great cold open. It honestly only goes downhill from there.
“Dwight Christmas” Season 9 Episode 9
“I’m not understanding the confusion, am I the only one who wants to try hufflepuffs, and schnauserhosen, and meet this Glenpickle guy?”
Finally, we’ve reached the halfway point, the point where I have more positive things to say than not. I gave the last episode some sympathy points for its unique party theme, but now it’s time to throw that out the window for Dwight’s “authentic Pennsylvania-Dutch Christmas.” Sure, this episode has some fluff: I do not care about Erin and Plop (don’t remember his name, but I do remember that) watching Die Hard at all, and even less that Erin is upset with Andy. And though Toby droning on and on about the Scranton Strangler is pretty funny, it’s just there for filler. But the main plot, the true highlight of the episode, is more than enough to make up for that.
Now the plot does hinge on one of my least favorite parts of the season: Jim leaving the office to work at a sports marketing start-up. What this means is that an integral character is missing from our main setting, and you can feel that in this episode as Jim is being pulled away to Philadelphia. But though that’s lingering in the background, we still have so much fun with Dwight’s Christmas.
One of the greatest parts of the show is the trio of Jim, Pam, and Dwight, and their relationships all shine in this episode. Though Jim is definitely making fun of Dwight, he is also genuinely enthusiastic and excited for how eccentric his traditions are. Pam wants Jim to have a good day, so she campaigns for Dwight’s Christmas and spends the rest of the time celebrating with him. Dwight and Pam bond over their hurt feelings from Jim’s departure, and Jim ultimately returns to put his wife first and break the pig rib with Dwight in brotherly fashion. It’s a joyful and loving time, and it’s great to watch.
This episode also gives us a side-plot that’s actually fun to watch. Darryl, angry at Jim for “forgetting” to bring him to Philly, spends the party getting increasingly drunk from Dwight’s bowl of glühwein. Each scene with him is hilarious, culminating in a “confrontation” with Jim, where, after learning how wrong he was, he casually snaps, spins, and collapses straight into a table. Very impish, indeed.
“A Benihana Christmas” Season 3 Episode 10
“And if you’re interested in the way more fun party, all the info can be found here, on our more brightly-colored flyer.”
Let’s get the worse stuff out of the way: the actual Benihana part of “A Benihana Christmas” isn’t so great. Michael is once again left single and mourning his break-up with Carol. It’s very in character (both why Carol dumped him and his reaction), but as we’ve already seen, it’s not really in the Christmas spirit. There are some funny moments at Benihana, though Michael forgetting which Asian waitress is “his” mixes some cringe back in with the comedy.
The reason I ranked this episode so high is for the other main part of our story: Pam and Karen teaming up to take down the Party Planning Committee monster that is Angela. Karen spends most of her time on the show as the “other woman” in the relationship. This episode gives us just a taste of what a Pam-Karen friendship could have been, and what a taste it is. They join together to create a genuinely fun party for the office, and even get Angela to join in for the festivities. They make great partners in crime, and their interactions make up for the less stellar half of the episode.
“Secret Santa” Season 6 Episode 13
“Well, unless the missing piece is a gun, you don’t have a gun.”
This episode isn’t without its rough edges. Michael, in petulant child mode because he doesn’t get to be the office Santa, says some genuinely mean things, mean enough to fall into sexist and transphobic territory. But I think the reason it doesn’t completely drag the episode down is how not-into-it the rest of the office is, and how great the cast is in their performances. Jim wrangles Michael as much as possible, allowing Phyllis to shine as a genuinely good Santa. Pam tries to help Oscar with his warehouse crush. Andy tries to hide the fact that he’s sent Erin 30 birds for her “The Twelve Days of Christmas” present, which is pretty awkward for him, but does end with another best-moment-of-the-show in the twelve-drummers-drumming drum line finale. Really, all the presents that we see are pretty good. I think this episode works so well because, in spite of Michael’s horribleness, it’s just really enjoyable.
This episode is also the best Christmas episode so far to work as a standalone special. Yes, in the latter half there’s some stuff about the branch potentially, but ultimately not, closing. But mostly it’s presents and Santa wars.
“Christmas Party” Season 2 Episode 10
“Yankee Swap is like Machiavelli meets…Christmas.”
This episode is the quintessential Christmas episode of The Office. It has every classic Christmas moment from the show. Michael turns Secret Santa into Yankee Swap because he hates his homemade present from Phyllis (listen this is just gonna be a running theme too). Jim gets Pam the teapot filled with inside jokes (and a love letter he’ll give to her 7 seasons later). Michael keeps ruining the party by buying Ryan a video iPod. I know I haven’t really described this in a way that sounds appealing, but it’s really a pretty perfect episode of the show. This is my shortest write-up out of all the episodes, but I think it’s because it doesn’t have some of the other obvious problems of previous episodes. It’s also perfectly standalone if you did just want to watch a Christmas special. It’s bumpy in the middle, but ends with everyone getting nice gifts, and also pretty wasted.
So there it is, a definitive and completely correct ranking of all Christmas episodes of The Office. If you want to have some Christmas cheer, stick to the top half of the list and have a good time.