12 days of cherished 'Saturday Night Live' Christmas and holiday sketches

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The holiday season holds many different meanings to me, not least of which the time of year I unbox all my favorite bits of seasonal pop culture ephemera — the songs, films and sketches that have been sitting on my mental shelves for the last 11 months.

Among my strongest pop-culture obsessions is "Saturday Night Live," and the venerable sketch-comedy institution has produced so many Christmas and Hanukkah classics. With the holidays approaching, I will be watching (and re-watching) the following clips in waves of laughter and warmth.

Your list no doubt would look different — after all, as my friend and colleague James Owen often says, you either find something funny or you don't — but the following represent my 12 days of Christmas sketches (loosely ranked).

1. "I Wish It Was Christmas Today"

Goofy and repetitive and not always even in tune, this Christmas ditty from Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan somehow still cheers my heart with its vestiges of boyish holiday enthusiasm.

2. "The Hanukkah Song"

There are few more purely inspired — or iconic — "SNL" holiday celebrations than Adam Sandler's holiday tune unpacking Hanukkah's glories (and its creator's absurd sense of humor).

3. "D*** in a Box"

Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake are "wise enough to know / when a gift needs giving" — even if that gift can't be printed in a family newspaper — in this holiday music video that doubles as a pitch-perfect sendup of late 1980s/early '90s R&B.

4. "NPR's Delicious Dish"

Smartly poking fun at the "NPR voice" until it becomes something far more sophomoric — and memorable — radio hosts Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon interview holiday baker Alec Baldwin about his very particular delicacies.

5. "Steve Martin's Holiday Wish"

"SNL" often works best when it bends sentiment toward the genuinely subversive. In this wonderfully twisted monologue, Martin pushes past what we say we want for the world at Christmas to what we actually crave.

6. "It's a Wonderful Life: The Lost Ending"

In this "lost" footage introduced by none other than William Shatner, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) and Co. exact a not-so-Capraesque revenge on old Mr. Potter (Jon Lovitz).

7. "Santa's My Boyfriend"

Three of the great performers "SNL" ever housed — Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig and Amy Poehler — go full-on girl group, touting the benefits of being Mistress Claus in this flirty and fabulous musical number.

8. "Mark Jensen's Family Christmas"

An obvious, one-joke sketch like this — a holiday variety show host sings atop a platform that's rotating too fast — shouldn't work. But "SNL" great Will Ferrell sells every panicked pitch through the hurled crescendo.

9. John Malkovich reads "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"

One of our great actors plays on his strange-bird reputation by reading the Christmas classic to a gaggle of children and tossing in asides about beastly Santa figures, holiday suicide rates and offering this proverb: "Now you know what they say about hopes? They’re what we cling to when reality has left us nothing else."

10. "Debbie Downer: Christmas Eve with Santa Claus"

Rachel Dratch's signature character bums out Santa (Jack Black) with talk of carbon monoxide poisoning and sweatshop toy builders.

11. "Calculator Christmas Gift"

In another one-note offering that soars against the odds, two precocious kids (Fred Armisen, Malkovich) wring every laugh from pronouncing the word "calculator" in an undefined East Coast accent.

12. "Santa Baby"

Ryan Gosling and Vanessa Bayer land killer performances in this pretaped sketch about a pinky-promising, lap-straddling couple who go "Pulp Fiction" medieval at the promise of Santa's appearance at a Christmas party.

Honorable mention holiday sketches

  • "Christmastime for the Jews," an animated musical number featuring the luminous Darlene Love

  • "Renaldo and Alexi," a sketch about two doormen at holiday time that never made it to air, but lives online and features some of the greatest "breaking" ever courtesy of Armisen and Bill Hader

  • "St. Joseph's Christmas Mass Spectacular" answers the question "What if we sold Christmas mass like a monster truck rally?"

  • "December to Remember Car Commercial" brings the weight of a thousand Christmas commercials down on Beck Bennett's father figure, whose wife (Heidi Gardner) isn't enthused about the "major purchase" sitting in her driveway

  • One of the all-time great "SNL" two-handers, "Consumer Probe" might not immediately register Christmas, but features skeezy salesman Dan Aykroyd pedaling holiday "toys" that might land your kids in the hospital while consumer reporter Candace Bergen remains nonplussed

  • In "Lonely Christmas," a well-meaning Billie Eilish invites her elderly neighbor (Kate McKinnon) to Christmas dinner, prompting an increasingly disturbing series of revelations

Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at adanielsen@columbiatribune.com or by calling 573-815-1731. He's on Twitter/X @aarikdanielsen.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Danielsen: 12 days of cherished 'SNL' Christmas and holiday sketches