It's a big public holiday but our characters have decided that rather than spend the day stuffing their faces, drinking themselves into oblivion or spending a quiet day at home, they're going to give up their free time and help out those less fortunate.
The holiday in question varies; in the USA it's likely to be Thanksgiving while in other countries Christmas is going to be the top spot, but the traditional job is normally serving out food in a homeless shelter/soup kitchen. Expect a clash of class, quirky characters and for somebody to learn the True Meaning of Christmas.
- Simple Gifts: Mrs. Hudson participates in some holiday knitting work, meaning she's not as able to spend as much time on seeing to Holmes' wishes as the detective expects.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Carlton and Hilary volunteer at a homeless shelter but purely for their own interests; Carlton wants a note of recommendation to help get into Princeton, while Hilary wants to promote her TV show by filming a sob story for Thanksgiving. After the food runs out the two pay for a posh meal complete with waiters and Hilary decides not to exploit the poor for one day of the year.
- Glee: Sue attempts to recruit homeless shelter volunteers for Christmas hoping to get the Glee Club.
- Coronation Street: Sophie drags Sally to a shelter on Christmas 2013, only for Sophie get into a fight with one homeless girl who shoves her face into a dessert. Her purse gets stolen soon after and of course she blames it on the girl.
- Keeping Up Appearances has a Christmas Special where Richard is forced to dress up as Father Christmas as he hands out gifts to the old people at the Church Hall. But when he gets drunk on sherry, Emmet has to take over.
- Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 has a episode where James Van Der Beek volunteers to join a celebrity soup kitchen on Thanksgiving in order to get publicity and is unpleasantly surprised when he and Luther actually have to work.
- Bad Education Christmas Special has Miss Gulliver attempting to persuade her students to volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
- 7th Heaven episode "Here Comes Santa Claus," each of the kids has to do a good deed over the holiday season; Matt becomes a mall Santa, Mary volunteers at the soup kitchen (and is happy that a hot boy was recruited alongside her), and Simon is determined to help Ruthie keep her faith in Santa.
- The Home Improvement episode "The Wood, the Bad and the Hungry" has Randy volunteering at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving. As he's leaving, one of the regulars is upset about spending the day at a shelter, so Jill invites him back for a meal at their house.
- In one NCIS: Los Angeles episode, Deeks teases throughout the show that he has a hot date for Christmas. At the end of the episode, he presents Kensi with a Santa hat and invites her to join him for his 'date' - volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
- Gilmore Girls has Paris attempting to volunteer at a soup kitchen over Thanksgiving so she can put it on her college application, only to be told they don't need any more help.
"Who are all these jackasses who volunteered anyway? They can't all be students like me. They're not all putting it on a college application. I get something out of it and these other people don't get a thing. Talk about selfish."
- M*A*S*H: During several Christmases, the 4077th hosts the children from nearby orphanages instead of getting blind stinking drunk as they would've done otherwise.
- The first Thanksgiving episode of How I Met Your Mother features Ted and Robin trying to volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. However, thanks to this trope, there's no openings. Much to their surprise, Barney is a rock star volunteer and vouches for them. However, they soon learn that the volunteers aren't exactly the saints they envisioned, and wind up being kicked out. In the end, the true charity Ted performs that day is buying a homeless man a lap dance. Further, it's revealed that Barney is volunteering because he's been sentenced to community service for urinating on a church.
- 30 Rock: Tracy finds a $50,000 gift card for a chain of restaurants (that expires in a day) on Leap Day. After realizing he couldn't spend it all himself, he invites everybody from the local Soup Kitchen to join him.
- The Golden Girls episode "Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas" sees Stan (once again) attempting to get the girls to invest in his business. They're not interested and instead head off to the soup kitchen to volunteer, where they find Stan in the line.
- In City Guys "Gift of Friendship," Dawn, Cassidy, and unwittingly Chris and Jamal serve as volunteers for the school's food drive. It drives the plot surrounding Al's family, who is going through tough times, by way of Jamal taking some of the donations to the Ramos' apartment third-way through the episode.
- In the Christmas special of Upstart Crow the Shakespeare family and friends seek to save the Scrooge-like Robert Green's soul in an effort to impart a bit of their love on the needy (while also convincing the actors it's for charity). They do this by re-creating A Christmas Carol via a series of convoluted plays each night to convince him to mend his ways.
- Also more traditionally Kate is seen collecting alms for the poor from Robert Green at the start of the episode.
- Parodied in Corner Gas episode Merry Gasmas where Hank attempts to help out a seemingly poor family, the Buckles, before Christmas, enlisting the help of Davis and Karen to gather collections. In the end, it turns out the Buckles were just being frugal and waiting for the sales after Christmas and didn't need the handout.
- 227 has Julian who shows he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold in "Guess Who's Not Coming to Christmas" by entertaining orphans for Christmas.
- Friends: In season five Phoebe decides to spend Christmas volunteering as a donation collector. During her shifts she has to deal with a man who tries to take money out to make change, a woman who mistakes the bucket for a trash can, a man who uses it as an ashtray and a (thankfully unseen) man who thought it was a urinal. Phoebe is so annoyed by people's bad behavior that she makes signs telling them how to behave and acts aggressively towards anyone approaching to donate. The charity decides to give her spot to someone else due to complaints.
- In The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Santa Flanders' one-hour task is to Serve the Poor.
- In Arthur's Perfect Christmas (no relation to Arthur Christmas), it turns out that Binky and his family volunteer at a soup kitchen every year on Christmas, and in that special, he was assigned to make desserts. He spends the special giving out practice desserts he's made and getting feedback on them—but Binky keeps forgetting essential ingredients and/or directions (like forgetting to shell pecans for a pecan pie and forgetting to add sugar to a batch of brownies). In the end, he secretly serves store-bought cookies at the soup kitchen he and his family volunteer at.
- Futurama: In the episode "Xmas Story," Bender volunteers at a Liquor Kitchen (for homeless robots), only to pose as a homeless robot himself and drink all the free booze. In the end he invites some of the robots back to have Christmas dinner with the rest of Planet Express.
- In The Cleveland Show episode "'Tis the Cleveland to Be Sorry", Cleveland pretends to be homeless while volunteering at a soup kitchen in order to have free gourmet sandwiches, until it backfires and results in Cleveland going on an apology tour which doesn't go well either, by the end of the episode Cleveland learns about the plight of the homeless especially on the holidays.