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Merry Christmas in Gotham
So you're checking your DVR for all those recorded reruns of this show; maybe there's a somewhat more humorous episode where the villains play poker, but you'd say this show's pretty dark, right? So what do they do when Christmas rolls around with all that holiday cheer? The Producers, heck, maybe even the people who typically write the show don't want you to air yet another dark episode with a Downer Ending, or even a Bittersweet Ending, it's Christmas! And thus this trope happens.

Merry Christmas in Gotham is when the tone of a Darker and Edgier series becomes Lighter and Softer, usually due to Executive Meddling resulting in a holiday episode. This can cause serious Mood Whiplash. The result is usually a strange Aesop-y episode in a series featuring at least some Gray morality of some sort. Whether or not this Mood Whiplash throws the episode into Narm territory is your call.

Note: This trope does not apply only to Christmas episodes, but to holiday episodes of all sorts. It does not include episodes that have nothing to do with holidays — that's just plain-jane Lighter and Softer taking effect.

Compare Mood Whiplash and Lighter and Softer. Contrast An Ass Kicking Christmas and Soapland Christmas.

Ending Trope: Spoilers Unmarked.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • The Big O's Christmas special starts out grim as usual. We have a blind girl whose caretaker brother is a garbageman by day, and musician by night. They are starving, barely able to afford food at all. Then a mad scientist leaves a biological weapon in the boy's tip jar and it turns out the "weapon" is a massive self-growing Christmas tree made to teach people to love nature and each other. While the tree grows, everyone hears the boy's music and he is discovered. It's implied that they'll never need to worry about money ever again. D'awww.

Comic Books
  • There's a Punisher story where Frank is about to snipe a druglord, when suddenly there's a little girl pulling on his coat telling him she's lost her dad. Frank stares at her and puts the gun away. When they find her dad, he starts to thank him before recognizing his chest emblem and starting to panic. Frank tells him to calm down, that he should really teach his daughter not to talk to strangers, and then leaves.
  • An issue of The Incredible Hulk dealt with Rhino and Hulk teaming up to be Mall Santa and Helper.
    Daughter: This is my best Christmas ever!
    "Santa": Mine too, Ginny. Or at least — the best in a long, long time.
  • Though it is the Trope Namer, Batman-centered Christmas stories have a mixed record when it comes to this:
    • The hilarious Superman/Batman Elseworld crossover Yes Tyrone, There Is a Santa Claus [1].
    • Batman Black & White, "A Slaying Song Tonight": A hitman plans to get near his target by taking the place of a Mall Santa hired to put in an appearance for the target's daughter. Batman figures it out in the nick of time and stops the hitman just before he reaches the house — then puts the costume on and does the Santa appearance himself.
    • Paul Dini's "Slayride" (Detective Comics #826) averts this entirely; it's Gotham, it's Christmas Eve, and the Joker's loose. And he's got Robin for a hostage. Murder and mayhem ensue.
    • Batman #219, "The Silent Night of the Batman," written by Mike Friedrich and illustrated by Neal Adams, is, however, a leading candidate to be Trope Codifier.
  • Hitman #22: The Santa Contract. Tommy and Nat hunt down a radioactive killer loose in Gotham on Christmas eve. He's wearing a Santa suit and the whole issue is narrated In The Style Of Twas The Night Before Christmas.
    Children were hanging up seasonal wreaths, and Batman was kicking out seasonal teeth...

Film
  • The World War I incident listed below in 'Real Life' inspired the film Joyeux NoŽl.

Live-Action TV
  • In the middle of the Doctor Who serial The Daleks' Master Plan, the Doctor and companions interrupt their saving the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire from the Daleks for a Christmas Episode (the only missing Doctor Who episode confirmed by The BBC to have no spare copies hidden in private collectors' hands or a foreign TV station).
  • Eureka has an episode like this.
  • Warehouse 13 has Lighter and Softer Christmas episodes revolving around Christmas in some way.
  • Scrubs doubly subverts this one: The episode "My Own Personal Jesus" has Turk, initially so optimistic about Christmas that he comes into work with Rudolph antlers on, being ground down and losing his faith as seasonal alcohol-related injuries and attempted suicides clog up the hospital. Just when it seems like Turk is ready to give up surgery, though, a star leads him to a missing girl who ran away from the hospital, and he helps her give birth beneath a Christmas tree, and the episode ends on a prolonged Golden Moment played straighter than usual and with an unusually strong religious message for the show.

Videogames

  • Batman: Arkham Origins averts this trope hard. It's Christmas Eve night. Batman has a 50 million bounty placed on his head. Eight deadly assassins, crooked cops and most of the escapees from Blackgate prison all want to collect. Dozens of dead innocents, Batman's first meeting with the Joker and millions in property damage later, it's a pretty miserable Christmas for Gotham City.

Western Animation
  • Batman: The Animated Series has the episode "A Bullet for Bullock", where Batman is asked for help by, of all people, Harvey Bullock, and the Aesop is that you should always be helping people, even if they don't like you.
    • The New Batman Adventures had an actual Christmas episode... with Harley and Ivy kidnapping and mind controlling Bruce Wayne, the Joker trying to set off a bomb at New Years, and Clayface turning into multiple pickpockets to steal from holiday shoppers, leading to the line "shoot the Santa!" So instead of going Lighter and Softer they went Denser and Wackier.
    • BTAS also had an actual Christmas special, in which the Joker escapes from Arkham and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleason, and Harvey Bullock as bait to lure Batman in and force him to open a booby-trapped "present"... that hits him in the face with a pie.
  • Danny Phantom features an all-round Christmas Spectacular as Danny teams up with his enemies to fight someone who is trying to spoil the event. Unusually for a children's show, Danny loathes Christmas, but with good reason.
  • In an episode of ReBoot, Big Bad Megabyte goes to great lengths to infiltrate Enzo's birthday party, with no more heinous goal than to play electric guitar, put on a rocking show (including a duet with Bob), and leave.
  • Kim Possible: Ron tries to take on Drakken by himself so Kim can have a nice Christmas with her family. Ron and Drakken bond over an old TV show, whose theme they sing together. The story ends with a truce for holiday celebration. Now, Kim Possible isn't exactly dark and edgy to begin with, but this episode is considerably Lighter and Softer than usual.
  • Subverted with the Christmas episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The series is usually pretty whacky, but it takes on a darker edge with the murder of Batman's parents occurring on Christmas Day because he threw a tantrum over not getting a toy he wanted—Thomas and Martha only took him to the movies in an attempt to cheer him up, and he was still a brat about it right up until their deaths. May also be a Mid-Season Twist.
  • The Flash's subplot in the Justice League Christmas Episode "Comfort and Joy" turns into this when the toy he was bringing to an orphanage gets wrecked in a battle with the Ultra-Humanite. The villain knocks Flash out... and then fixes the toy (modified to tell the story of The Nutcracker instead of its usual rude noises and hip-hop), helps the Flash deliver it, and allows himself to be taken to jail.

Real Life
  • During World War I, a Christmas truce broke out. A Christmas tree was erected in the middle of the battlefield and the Entente and Central Powers forces gathered together to sing Christmas carols. There was music, dancing, hot drinks, and a few friendly games of soccer shared. For one day there were no soldiers, just young men celebrating Christmas. However, the soldiers were under orders to shoot enemy soldiers who tried starting this, and not everyone disobeyed. Even in places where this did happen, some people took the opportunity of taking a closer look at enemy trenches then they usually could.
  • In the days of czarist Russia, on Easter Eve, at midnight, a child killer escaped from prison. The sentry on duty raised his rifle to shoot the criminal, but then the church bell rang in Easter, the sentry's eyes welled with tears of Easter joy, he hadn't the heart to kill the fugitive and he threw his rifle to the ground.

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