Soapland Christmas
aka: Grim Christmas Episode

"Oh, did you have to? 'No turning back'? That's almost as bad as 'nothing could possibly go wrong' or 'this is going to be the best Christmas Walford's ever had'."

In Soap Operas, Christmas is a time of death, divorce, infidelity and violence. In British soaps especially, at least one person will end up dying, getting knocked down, or crying all alone on the happiest day of the year and almost always with a carol or jolly song over these images just to hammer it home. Maybe somebody's house will go down in flames. Maybe somebody's Genre Blind enough to actually get married. That's the Spirit of Christmas for you.

Villains die. Heroes die! Whole families die! In general, Foils, Keets and other comic relief characters can rest well knowing that they're not likely to die and will get to celebrate Christmas as it should be, but there's still a chance of them getting traumatised in time for Christmas dinner.

On the other hand, having to be hospitable to relatives you secretly hate, graciously receiving presents you neither need nor want, and the certain knowledge you'll eating dried-up leftover turkey until Easter won't seem quite so bad by the closing credits.

A subtrope of Crappy Holidays, and Sister Trope to Twisted Christmas (which can overlap for particularly grim examples). See also Did I Mention It's Christmas? and Do They Know It's Christmas Time?.

And, no, this has nothing to do with Christmas in Japan. You perv.


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    Coronation Street 
  • 1986: Martin Platt and Jenny Bradley get into a car accident. They both recover, but they cover up what happened because Jenny was driving underage to the end of the road when the accident happened.
    • Hilda Odgen lampshades this trope:"There's always summat goes wrong Christmas and New Year, isn't there?"
  • 2004: Steve McDonald breaks up with his wife, Karen, after she led him to believe that he killed the daughter he had with Tracy Barlow (for backstory, Karen had suffered a miscarriage just one week earlier and with her long-running feud with Tracy, she wanted her to know what it's like to lose a child.) What made Steve so angry to the point of divorcing her is that she had no consideration for his own feelings and his belief that he lost both his children in a matter of days.
  • 2005: Mike Baldwin is in the final stages of his Alzheimer's Disease and is found by his grandson, Jaime, crying in the rain on a random person's doorstep as he was unable to find his way home.
  • 2008: On Christmas Eve, Tony Gordon strangles Jed Stone at Underworld after he tries to blackmail him about Liam Connor's murder. He shoves the body in to a box while the staff have their Christmas Party. He comes on Christmas Day to find that he was just unconscious and offers him the best bribe of all (a free flat in Wigan!) to keep his silence.
  • 2009: Secret lovers Kevin and Molly prepare to run away from their prospective partners Sally and Tyrone. The plan is quickly aborted when Sally reveals that she has cancer and Kevin backtracks to support his wife in this difficult time.
  • 2010: Twice. For the programme's 50th anniversary special shortly before Christmas, Molly informs Tyrone that her baby isn't his and that she's been living a lie, Charlotte attacks John with a hammer and is killed by her own weapon, a gas explosion destroys a section of the bridge and buries various people, and a tram dives off the bridge and takes half the Street with it. All in one night.
    • For the actual Christmas storyline, the main drama was about the return of Tracy Barlow after being in prison for murder.
  • 2012: Nick Tilsley's wedding falls apart when Leanne starts to drift towards old flame Peter Barlow. Also, David and Kylie Platt's relationship is on the rocks, which leads to Nick and Kylie getting drunk and having a one night stand. Kylie ends up pregnant and things get worse from there.

    Doctor Who 
  • "The Christmas Invasion" (2005, set in 2006): The Tenth Doctor's first adventure had him spending most of the day going through regenerative sickness, almost being killed by a Christmas tree, and then had his triumphant moment getting rid of the aliens spoiled by Torchwood shooting the alien ship down. And he has a huge falling out with his friend Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, which ends with him getting her sacked, destroying "Britain's Golden Age".
  • "The Runaway Bride" (2006, set in 2007): He had to face an ancient menace called the Racnoss whose offspring wished to gorge on life across the cosmos. Their web-shaped ship was mistaken for a giant decorative Christmas star by Londoners until it started zapping the city with bolts of electricity. This adventure immediately follows the loss of one of the Doctor's dearest companions and features an especially dark moment for him in which he kills a ton of alien babies and almost lets himself die along with them. Oh, and the Thames is drained.
  • "Voyage of the Damned" (2007, set in 2008): He vows to save everyone on the Starship Titanic and fails — in part because the good characters consider saving him a higher priority. Among the casualties is the woman he'd wanted for his next companion. At least he managed to keep that ship from crashing into the Earth. Beautifully lampshaded as everyone in London knows nasty things have been happening for the past two Christmases, so, this year, practically nobody's in central London for the nasty things to happen.
  • "The Next Doctor" (2008, set in 1851): The Cybermen escaped from the void and ended up in a past era, which the Doctor happens to be visiting. On the other hand that meant GIANT CYBERMAN ROBOT RAMPAGING THOUGH TOKY— ER, VICTORIAN LONDON!
  • "The End of Time" (Christmas 2009/New Year's Day 2010, set Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Boxing Day 2009): The Master comes back from the dead-ish and transforms every single human being but two into copies of himself while the Time Lords hatch a plan to escape from the Time War. Both villainous sides eventually fail, and the Doctor's regeneration isn't even directly caused by either of them.
    Joshua Naismith: Ladies and gentlemen! It seems help is at hand! Christmas is cancelled.
  • "A Christmas Carol" (Christmas 2010, set some time in the 44th century): Christmas was brought by a galaxy-class cruise liner crashing with Rory and Amy aboard, and the Doctor having to find a way to save them and everyone else aboard. Along the way he was able to save the soul of the old man Kazran who controls the planet's upper atmosphere, but through some very morally grey use of time-travel, and Kazran was forced to see the love of his life die.
  • "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" (Christmas 2011, set in World War II and the year 5345) has the Doctor — alone without Amy or Rory, who believe him dead — meet up with a woman who's husband has just be killed, and she hasn't informed her two children yet. And then the four find themselves in a forest of sentient trees about to be wiped out with no chance of escape. Subverted, since Everyone Lives - the widow saves the trees, taking their souls through the time vortex to live amongst the stars, and in the process accidently saves her husband's life. She then convinces the Doctor to go to Amy and Rory, reveal he is alive, and he joins the pair for Christmas dinner. Seriously, the end of this episode is pure Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • "The Snowmen" (Christmas 2012, set in 1892): This episode is set immediately after the loss of two of the Doctor's dearest companions, and so the Doctor is too broken to initially do anything about living killer snow and their bitter human accomplice threatening to wipe out mankind. By the time he is convinced to get over it, his prospective new companion Clara falls to her death... but not before uttering the exact same Famous Last Words as Oswin Oswald the Dalek; that, and finding out that her full name was Clara Oswin Oswald after the facts, makes him realize there's something truly odd about Clara that has to be investigated.
  • "The Time of the Doctor" (Christmas 2013, set in 2013 and millenia into the future in Trenzalore) was the Eleventh Doctor's "regeneration" episode, so it was bound to turn on the waterworks, without even the threat of the Time War re-erupting, the Doctor's despair at having Gallifrey so close and yet unreachable in a parallel pocket dimension, and Clara's simmering emotions for the Doctor surfacing.
  • "Last Christmas" (Christmas 2014, set in 2014) deal with the very depressing fallout between the Doctor and Clara due to the events of the Season 8 finale, but was nonetheless a successful attempt to bring them back together as partners by Santa Claus, even if there was a Red Herring.note 
  • "The Husbands of River Song" (Christmas 2015, set in the year 5343) aired after the final departure of Clara Oswald, which left the Twelfth Doctor in trauma, heartbroken and even with a dose of limited amnesia—which is then subverted gloriously by being a quite-merry romp with River Song, at least until it was established that this pretty much leads into her foregone death in her debut story, "Silence in the Library" / "Forest of the Dead", capping off on a Bittersweet Ending.

  • Christmas Day 1986: Dennis "Dirty Den" Watts hands divorce papers to his shocked wife, Angie. About 30.15 million people watched. The population of the United Kingdom at the time was about 57 million. The Trope Maker episode.
  • 1998: Grant gets arrested for attempted murder. His wife then gets run over during the New Year's Day special.
  • 2001: Trevor abuses Little Mo, forcing her face first into a pot of boiling gravy. He'd also raped her a couple episodes prior to that. The New Year's Eve special sees her bludgeon him with an iron.
  • 2002: Jamie Mitchell gets injured after being run-over by a joy-riding Martin. While he initially recovers just enough to declare his everlasting love to Sonia, put a ring on her finger, and kiss, he quickly and dramatically decompensates when Sonia's lips are still on his. All interposed with scenes of another couple's marriage. Manly Mitchell tears follow.
  • 2005: Averted this year. Alfie Moon leaves to travel the world, still having failed to reconcile with his estranged wife Kat. However, when a depressed and drunken Kat staggered out of the pub that evening, Alfie was waiting to take her with him. This was followed by the rest of the square's residents coming out for a merry Christmas Day snowball fight. Of course a week later, Dennis Rickman was stabbed to death moments before he and pregnant wife Sharon were due to leave Walford to start a new life.
  • 2006: Pauline Fowler fell out with her son and daughter-in-law, whose relationship she had broken up by pretending to have brain cancer, then died suddenly in the square.
  • 2007: Bradley Branning discovered that his father had been having an affair with his new wife Stacey.
  • 2008: Sean Slater learned he was not the father of his new wife Roxy's baby when he found paternity test results in his homemade Christmas cracker! He proceeded to drive Roxy and the baby onto a frozen lake, which of course collapsed. They all survived, but Sean was forced to flee.
  • 2009: Archie Mitchell is murdered in the Queen Vic, sparking another endless "whodunnit" storyline.
  • 2010: The murderer of Archie Mitchell last Christmas is revealed to the Square to be Stacey Branning - not her husband Bradley, who was blamed after his death. Evil Janine Butcher stabs herself and frames Stacey, who then flees the country with baby Lily.
  • 2011: The Domestic Violence storyline between Zainab and Yusef reaches a climax culminating in Yusef setting fire to the B&B in an effort to kill Masood. Zainab tricked Yusef into thinking his daughter was still inside, leading to both he and (to Zainab's horror) her son Tamwar running back inside. Yusef died, and Tamwar suffered horrific burns.
  • 2012: Derek Branning dies of a heart attack following his family throwing him out, fed up of his domineering, violent and corrupt attitude toward them. Just when Max and Tanya look to be finally returning to happiness, Max's secret wife that he engaged with during his absence turns up looking for him setting things spiraling down out of control for Max. Kat arrives just in time to see Alfie and Roxy come together, leaving her rejected.
  • 2013: Janine Butcher is arrested for on suspicion for the murder of Michael Moon, following her attempt to escape which results in David Wicks nearly being run over by her. Alfie and Kat are ejected from the Queen Vic after Phil sells the pub ... to Shirley's brother, Mick, unaware of their relation. Carl White is killed by Ronnie Mitchell after she is threatened once too much.
  • 2014: The Beales are grief-stricken after the recently murdered Lucy's jewellery box is wrapped up and left as a sinister "present" under their tree. Mick can take no more and smashes up the Queen Vic after finding out within the space of one day that his "sister" Shirley is really his mother, his dying "parents" are his grandparents, and Dean (who is his brother, not his nephew as he thought) raped Linda.
  • 2015: The Mitchells and Beales' dinner goes awry as it is thought that Bobby has once again striked, apparently killing off Sharon's son Dennis. Before then, Dennis revealed to Bobby that he killed Lucy, when he was believed it wasn't his fault. Phil's excessive alcohol consumption causes him to have cirrhosis in the liver. Shabnam finds out that her husband Kush is the father of her best friend Stacey's newborn baby. Fatboy is an unintentional victim in a clash between Ronnie and Vincent. Shirley dismisses Dean over his attempted rape on Roxy, forcing her to try and drown her own son. When Linda gets involved, Dean admits he raped Linda. During New Year's Day, Dean takes revenge to try and drown Shirley in the canal right next to where Mick and Linda's wedding is located. Mick risks his life jumping in the water trying to stop Dean.

  • New Year's Eve 1993: A plane crashes, half the cast dies, and the village is showered with hundreds of dead bodies. Even cheerier than usual!
  • 2003: A storm hits Emmerdale village, Tricia is crushed when The Woolpack is struck by lighting and collapses, Ashley and Louise crash off a bridge to avoid a fallen tree. Tricia later died.
  • 2006: Tom King is murdered.
  • 2010: Chastity Dingle has a wedding on Christmas Day at which she jilts and humilates fiancee Carl due to knowing about his affair with Eve. She also lies about being pregnant.

  • Christmas 2004: Dan Hunter gets out of jail after being framed for the serial murders committed by his brother-in-law. He reunites with his lost love, gives her what turned out to be an engagement ring - then gets blown up in a rally car accident moments later.
  • 2008: Louise is murdered by Warren on their wedding day after he discovered her plans to shoot him dead because he'd murdered her previous husband.
  • 2009: An episode aired at Christmas was set six months into the future, revealing that Calvin Valentine is murdered on HIS wedding day in May 2010 as he renews his vows to Carmel. Back in the present day, Zoe is knifed by Lydia on New Year's Eve after Lydia admits to being responsible for Sarah's death. The show had planned a Christmas storyline which would reveal that two characters had killed a child and were now living under police protection with new identities, but producers announced the plot had been axed due to outcry over the similarities with the real life case of James Bulger.
  • 2014: Having found out that Sinead's baby cannot possibly be his because he is infertile, Tony exposes her cheating and humiliates her at a Christmas dinner with friends. Meanwhile, Sienna is holding Dodger prisoner in a basement after kidnapping him so they could have a "perfect family Christmas". At Ste and John Paul's wedding reception, Sinead publicly announces that Ste is the father of her baby, putting the marriage in serious jeopardy before it's begun. She then runs out crying into the snow and is hit by Sienna's car. Later at New Year, Joe Roscoe finds out that Lindsey and Freddie have been having an affair behind his back for months, and throws them both out. He later ends up punching Rick during an argument. Rick is taken to hospital where he is found not to be seriously injured - then he falls victim to a serial killer within the hospital.
  • 2015: Reenie McQueen goes back to jail, leaving behind her daughters, one of whom will now have to testify in court against her abuser alone. Simone Loveday is forced to tell her children that she has lost the baby she was carrying. John Paul tries for a reconciliation with his ex-husband but is rejected in favour of Harry. Cameron Campbell tries to blow up his ex Leela in her new house, and when his brother Lockie threatens to report him, Cameron kidnaps Lockie. Meanwhile Lockie's estranged wife Porsche leaves town heartbroken when he fails to meet her as he promised. Leela finally gives her husband Ziggy her blessing to be with her sister - but then he dies from injuries he sustained in the explosion.

    Other shows 
Anime and Manga

Live-Action Television
  • In the first part of the Alien Nackle 2-parter in Return of Ultraman, two of Hideki Goh's closest friends are murdered by Nackle Agents and Jack suffers a painful defeat at the hands of the main alien and his pet Kaiju Black King, before being dragged off by two Nackle ships for execution on the alien planet. All of this happened on Christmas Eve.
  • In the House episode "Merry Little Christmas", House refuses a deal (two month rehabilitation instead of jail) and subsequently detoxes, overdoses on pills and is left in a pool of his own vomit as Wilson leaves in disgust. He then attempts to take the deal but it's been removed since.
  • On The O.C., Ryan's memories of Christmas aren't exactly happy, and after a series of bad things inevitably happens he declares that "if there's cops and crying, well then it must be Christmas!"
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Amends". Angel gets psychologically tortured by Satan into recognising his essentially evil nature, and is prevented from suicide only by divine(?) intervention.
  • The X-Files first Christmas episode (actually a two-parter) falls victim to this in the worst kind of way. The episode starts with Scully spending the holidays with her brother and his wife in San Diego. They're expecting a baby and are very exciting, unknowingly digging the proverbial knife deeper for Scully, who has just found out that she is unable to conceive. A mysterious phone call leads Scully to a murder mystery, in which the parents of a sick 3-year-old die in quick succession. The little girl looks an awful lot like Scully's sister, Melissa, who had been killed two seasons before. So, Scully has some DNA tests run. While they run, Scully tries to adopt the orphaned Emily, but is denied. When the tests come back and reveal that Emily is actually Scully's daughter, things get worse. The little girl has an incurable form of anemia, which would be bad enough except when taken to the hospital, an entire conspiracy involving surrogate mothers taken from the local nursing home and alien hybrids is discovered after Emily's blood burns an ER doctor. On top of that, Emily has a growth that's shutting down her body systematically. The final scene is her funeral, which happens just after Scully's sister-in-law gives birth to Scully's nephew. Quite possibly one of the most depressing Christmas episodes.
    • Their only other Christmas episode also has depressing themes, though is markedly less Tear Jerker and more comedic. The episode's premise is a lover's murder/suicide pact, which two ghosts are trying to get Mulder and Scully to re-enact.
  • In Space: Above and Beyond, Cooper Hawkes, an InVitro who until he joined the Marines, had been homeless with no family, described Christmas as being the one time of the year when he was even lonelier than usual. Meanwhile, the squad spends Christmas in a crippled transport drifting in space, with no means of calling for help or getting homenote 
  • The first season of Bones had a Christmas episode in which the main characters were quarantined in the Jeffersonian for 2 days after being exposed to a virus found in a corpse.
  • Downton Abbey's series 3 Christmas special ended with Matthew Crawley being killed off in a car accident, just after Mary had given birth to his son.
  • The Christmas episodes of Frasier feature some of the most vicious fights in the entire series.
  • The Veronica Mars episode "An Echolls Family Christmas" has a light-hearted A-plot involving stolen poker winnings, but the B-plot see Keith investigating death threats against Aaron Echolls. They turn out to be genuine, and he's stabbed by a spurned lover at his family's Christmas party - he survives, but the fallout and scandal breaks up his marriage and drives his wife Lynn to suicide two episodes later.
    • Topped in season 2's Christmas episode, One Angry Veronica. The tape of Aaron having sex with Lilly is stolen from the Neptune sheriff's department and destroyed, which ends up helping him escape conviction later in the season. Leo is forced to resign (having revealed in the same episode that he's under severe financial strain looking after his disabled sister). And having survived the season-opening bus crash, Meg dies in hospital from a blood clot, leaving her newborn baby in the hands of her abusive, fanatical parents.
  • Babylon 5 ended up with this due to the gimmick of each season covering exactly one calendar year in show chronology, and its desire for big end-of-season cliffhangers.
    • First season: The President of the Earth Alliance is assassinated by a fascist conspiracy, Mollari begins to seriously fall into evil, Delenn enters a cocoon, and Garibaldi is shot in the back by a treacherous underling.
    • Second season: The Earth Alliance continues to descend into fascism and appeases the Centauri, Sheridan gets into trouble with the government by attacking a Centauri ship to defend a fugitive Narn one, the Centauri try to kill Sheridan, and the Vorlons and Shadows are outed in public.
    • Third season: Sheridan launches a suicidal attack on the Shadow capital city, and Garibaldi is abducted by an unknown force.
  • In the BBC mockumentary The Day Britain Stopped, Britain as a whole undergoes a transport paralysis with massive gridlocks across the country in 20 December 2003 - which was a couple of years later than the first airing of this production. Unlike what you may think about traffic jams, this proved to be much more than just a minor annoyance: traffic jams were stretched for tens of kilometers, motorists were stranded for hours and some even had to stay at emergency shelters overnight, and the fallout resulted in at least two tragedies:
    • One mother have lost her daughter in an accident on a motorway. The ambulance took 1 hour to reach the scene, and did not make it to the hospital in time (paramedics ran out of blood transfusion on the way).
    • The air traffic control just outside of Heathrow Airport suffered from lack of staff members due to them being stuck in traffic. One of the operators, having done shifts for at least 8 hours, made an error (probably in fatigue), which resulted in two plane colliding into each other and crashing into a residential district in London. At least 80+ people died, including a family who had to walk along the motorway to Heathrow just so that they could get to their plane in time for their vacation.
  • The West Wing did these quite frequently in its early days, frequently using its Christmas episodes to tackle personal tragedies head-on—producing some of its most effective Tearjerkers in the process. Season 1's "In Excelcis Deo", for example, revolves around Toby organizing a military funeral for a homeless Korean War veteran, Season 2's "Noël" is about Josh reluctantly seeing a therapist for help in coping with PTSD, and Season 3's "Bartlet for America" is a flashback episode involving Leo's alcoholism and Bartlet's multiple sclerosis.
  • On General Hospital, as local mobster Sonny, his lawyer Alexis, his errand boy Zander, and Zander's girlfriend Emily left the police station (they'd just posted bail for a wrongly accused Zander), they were attacked by gunment. Sonny and Zander ended up injured as they simultaneously moved to protect Alexis and Emily.
  • Averted on offbeat British soap Night and Day. Since the show progressed at a slower pace than real life and therefore hadnít actually reached Christmas by real-time December 2001, it used the episodes that aired over that period to explore the events of the previous Christmas in Thornton Street, through the power of flashback. A refreshing change from the usual festive soap misery, which also provided an opportunity to bring more depth to many of the characters and storylines.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Season 7's "Symphony Of Illumination" deals with Robin's infertility.

Western Animation
  • The Moral Orel Christmas Episode was an utter Downer Ending with Orel thinking his Annoying Younger Sibling / Bratty Half-Pint brother Shapey was the Second Coming and going on a rampage with him, and then witnessing the first major hint that his parents despise each other. The special ends with Orel spending the last few minutes of Christmas looking up in hopes the God will save his day, but it is implied that does not happen. That one thing that could make it more depressing is that it is a taste of things to come.
    • While the other Christmas (and final) episode "Honor" had a happier ending it still had Clay outing himself as a Depraved Bisexual and getting rejected both by his wife Bloberta and his lover Daniel. The Distant Finale hints that Clay's only spoken to out of obligation rather than love.
  • The Adventure Time two-part Christmas Episode "Holly Jolly Secrets" was an utter downer that revealed a major character's incredibly sad and grim back-story, and fully established the show's Cerebus Syndrome.

     Other Media 
  • Eugenesis is an insanely dark story, where the plot just happens to start just before Christmas Day. A massive amount of death and carnage occur on the actual day, and the story continues on in increasingly bleakness right through to the new year.


Video Games
  • Both of Kyle Hyde's adventures in Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Last Window involve Christmas time. The first game involves a quick plot detour to help Melissa celebrate the Christmas she missed. The second games plays it a little more with Kyle dealing with his misgivings about the holiday, due to his father being murdered around that time when he was a kid.
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake takes place on Christmas. This is the game where Snake has to kill his best friend and estranged father in utterly cruel and unusual ways (Throwing the former into a mine field after beating him with his bare fists and the latter by setting him on fire) and ends up becoming a PTSD-ridden, alcoholic mess isolated on Alaska for six years before Metal Gear Solid rolled around.
  • Divine Gate has Blue Christmas, which was a massacre that occurred just two days before the holiday, and left 666 people dead, with a girl named Ruri being the Sole Survivor.

Web Comics

Web Original
  • Demo Reel gives us this gem from The Blair Witch Hangover:
    Quinn: My God this is depressing. And I'm Irish! I'm going to have to put on Angela's Ashes just so I can remember what it's like to laugh again.

Alternative Title(s): Grim Christmas Episode