While office holiday parties are often uncomfortable and not that fun, The Office Christmas episodes almost always delivered a very good time.
The classic NBC workplace mockumentary produced seven Christmas installments in all, and set a new bar for just how funny and heartfelt such episodes could be with the Season 2 gem “Christmas Party.” Minor spoiler: You’ll find that episode somewhere near the top of the heap in our countdown, but read on for a total recall of the monkeyshines the Scranton paper peddlers got up to while celebrating the ho-ho-holidays.
7. “Secret Santa,” Season 6 (Dec. 10, 2009)
Michael is being extra pissy in this episode, because Phyllis “uslurped” his job as the office Santa. That leads to him heckling Phyllis, insulting everyone, spilling secrets, and, in general, being the most annoying version of himself. That this episode came right after “Scott’s Tots” — in which we learn of Michael’s failed promise to send a whole class of third graders to college — makes us way less willing to be charmed by his shenanigans in “Secret Santa.” To be fair, though, he does eventually sit on Santa Phyllis’s lap and apologize… after he briefly ruins the holiday party by telling everyone they’re going to lose their jobs. Yeah, definitely not the jolliest of The Office Christmas episodes.
6. “Christmas Wishes,” Season 8 (Dec. 8, 2011)
Mindy Kaling wrote and Ed Helms directed this episode, in which Helms’s Andy Bernard, as the office Santa, decides to make all his co-workers’ holiday wishes come true. That doesn’t work out for everyone, but our wish for a side plot focused solely on Jim and Dwight’s prank wars does, because as much as we love Jim’s victories, we also secretly love it when Dwight pulls one over on Jim too. The true highlight is a montage of Dwight, Creed, Nate, and Gabe playing air guitar along with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while a gift exchange finds Meredith presenting Jim with a certificate for a vasectomy.
5. “Moroccan Christmas,” Season 5 (Dec. 11, 2008)
A gem from beginning to end, the episode features Phyllis’s first holiday soiree as head of the Party Planning Committee. It has a Moroccan theme, and alcohol, which leads to a drunken Meredith setting her hair on fire. Michael stages an intervention (“a surprise party for people with addictions”) and then sneaks her to rehab, but it’s monkey business as usual back at the office, where Dwight has bought up all the local supply of the season’s hottest toy — Princess Unicorn (“My horn can pierce the sky!”) — and is gouging desperate parents (including his co-workers) for $200 per doll. Meanwhile, Phyllis is giddy about ordering Angela around after finding out about Angela’s affair with Dwight in the Season 4 finale, until Angela gets fed up with the blackmail and calls Phyllis’s bluff. The result leads to a shock for everyone. Well, everyone but Angela’s cuckolded fiancé, Andy.
4. “Classy Christmas,” Season 7 (Dec. 9, 2010)
Rainn Wilson directed and Mindy Kaling wrote Steve Carell’s final Christmas episode, and they wrapped up Michael Scott’s office holidays history with a sweet story that hints at the eventual rekindling of his romance with Holly. Meanwhile, Darryl uses the annual office party to try to bond with his daughter, which also brings out the best in Michael and prompts Holly — who’s currently in a relationship with A.J. — to remember what she likes so much about Mr. Scott. Meanwhile, Jim makes the mistake of picking a snowball battle with Dwight, and Pam gives her hubby a very special gift, one that shows him what a superhero she thinks he is. Oh, and did we mention the montage of Dwight in wigs that mimic each of his co-workers?
3. “Dwight Christmas,” Season 9 (Dec. 6, 2012)
The series’ final Christmas installment shouldn’t have been this good. After all, Michael Scott was long gone, and The Office was sputtering along to a series finale that came about a season later than it should have. But “Dwight Christmas” was a throwback to the show’s early, quirky, but ultimately sweet holiday gems, complete with Dwight’s portrayal of the alt-Santa Belsnickel — who looked like the love child of Ted Nugent and Bigfoot; a Dwight-Jim hug; and a surprise hookup at the end for a Dunder Mifflin employee who had long suffered in the romance department. Best scene: a classic Dwight-Jim struggle in which Jim tries to prove Belsnickel’s “Impish or Admirable” game is just like Santa’s Naughty or Nice.
2. “A Benihana Christmas,” Season 3 (Dec. 14, 2006)
These are a few of our favorite things: Molten goose grease; a slice of Christmas Pam; Sandals Jamaica; “Orange is whorish”; James Blunt on a loop; the Committee to Plan Parties vs. the Party Planning Committee; the Committee to Determine the Validity of the Two Committees; dueling Christmas parties; nogasakes; “I miss the days when there was only one party I didn’t want to go to”; Creed singing; “Monkey, this is Possum”; Dwight singing Styx; Benihana waitresses; Michael’s rebound; Michael and Jim bonding; a Nutcracker Christmas; double fudge brownies; and Dwight’s CIA mission helicopter.
1. “Christmas Party,” Season 2 (Dec. 6, 2005)
The first one is the best, the episode that began The Office’s run as the king of TV Christmas episodes. It also introduced many viewers to “Yankee Swap,” Michael’s “Machiavelli-meets-Christmas” version of Secret Santa that he springs on his employees when he doesn’t like the homemade oven mitt Phyllis crafts for him. Otherwise, the office gift exchange is a pure delight, from Jim’s carefully — and, of course, lovingly — chosen present for Pam to the old shirt in a bag Jim gets from Creed’s closet. The exchange cleverly furthers the character development of the office staffers during what is still early in the series run, including Angela’s love of the babies-as-adults poster that creeps everyone else out, Dwight’s paintball lessons for Michael (his attempt to spend more time with his boss-friend), and Michael’s inappropriately expensive video iPod for his man crush, Ryan. “Christmas Party” is one of many episodes that sets us up to want to toss a giant lump of coal at Michael’s head, only to see him redeem himself — this time thanks to $166.41 worth of vodka for his staffers — as a lonely, well-intentioned guy who’s genuinely touched to be invited to join his co-workers at a bar after the office party winds down.
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