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How the Character Stole Christmas

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You're a mean one, Mr. J.!

"Are those cave-kids gonna whimper when they find out I kooped all their toys! Hahahahaha! Merry Koopa Christmas, boys and girls!"
Bowser Koopa, the Super Mario World Christmas Episode

Any story in a show that is a take on How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (even if it's a different holiday).

Basically, a villainous character attempts to stop a beloved holiday from coming by stealing all the material elements of the occasion. However, he is stunned to see that all his victims care about is the holiday's true spiritual significance, which he could not steal. The villain is so profoundly moved that he has a change of heart, returns all his loot without prompting and is welcomed to celebrate the occasion with his former victims.

The story isn't in the public domain, but as long as they are clear parodies, the plot isn't violating any copyrights.

A Sub-Trope of Whole-Plot Reference (so anything less than the plot is merely a Shout-Out).

Sister Trope to Yet Another Christmas Carol, Gift of the Magi Plot, Christmas Every Day, The Parody Before Christmas, and It's a Wonderful Plot.

Compare Saving Christmas. See also Usurping Santa.

Not to be confused with The Grinch, which is the name for a character type (albeit one which might be likely to try this ploy).


    open/close all folders 

  • From 2002 to 2005, Nickelodeon ran a series of Nickmas shorts parodying the classic 1960s Christmas specials with the Nicktoon characters every December. One segment, titled How the You-Know-Who Stole the You-Know-What!, featured Angelica from Rugrats, as "Grinchelica", stealing all the candy from the other Nicktoon characters.

  • Back when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the The Capitol Steps did "How the Ging-Grinch Stole Congress".

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot did one where Jason wrote a story casting his mother as "Mrs. Grinch", a cheapskate who wouldn't buy expensive enough presents for the "Kids down in Kidville". Instead, she replaces all the cool game consoles with nutritious health bars.

    Fan Works 

    Film - Animated 
  • In an almost literal capacity, Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas gets it in his skull that he and the rest of Halloween Town's citizens can take over Christmas that year. They make presents for all of the children in the human realm (all of which designed to frighten rather than bring joy), kidnap Santa Claus with Jack replacing him (putting him in danger at the hands of local criminal Oogie Boogie), and essentially hijack the season. It isn't until the National Guard literally blow Jack back to his senses (and out of the sky) that he tries to set things right.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a more symbolic example than a literal one, the titular lead of Hawkeye (2021) is missing out on his family's Christmas because of Wilson Fisk, alias the Kingpin and his criminal activities. For bonus points, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" actually plays over the credits when it reveals Kingpin's involvement.
  • Just Shoot Me!: Finch, of course, (complete with a whole song plus ham-filled narration by Kelsey Grammer) because he feels left out.
  • A How I Met Your Mother episode is appropriately named "How Lily Stole Christmas". Narrator Ted, relating the story to his teenaged children, substitutes "grinch" for "A Very Bad Word". Lily, upset over being called a c—-, takes away all the Christmas decorations. At this point, Ted actually does call her a grinch.
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: During Donald Trump's presidency, the show ran multiple animated holiday skits involving him or one of his allies stealing Christmas or one of its aspects.
    • The first of these was "A Very Special Counsel Christmas", where Trump fires Santa and replaces him with one of his supporters to force Santa's elves to build the border wall. Santa goes into a Heroic BSoD and literally gets Drunk on Milk, until Special Counsel Robert Muller (one of Santa's buddies from Vietnam apparently) manages to snap him out of it, gets him to fly to the border wall, and delivers the infamously claimed "pee tape" to the public watching the spectacle, leading to Trump and the false Santa's arrest...until Muller wakes up and realizes he was dreaming the whole thing. Until he looks on his desk and gets a typewriter from Santa, complete with the same picture of the two in Vietnam.
    • The second, "Once Upon Impeachment", sees Trump's lawyer Rudy Guilani steal the naughty list from Santa during the middle of Trump's impeachment trial to "prove" that Joe Biden was the guilty party in the affair. Unlike last time, Santa barrels down into the Capitol to testify and get the list back...but rather than testify against Trump, he heartwarmingly reads the list of deeds that the parties present have done, pointing out that there is good in the world.
    • "Twas the Coup Before Christmas", the last of the skits released, dealt with Trump, angry at losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden, steals Santa's sack of gifts up at the North Pole during the then-incoming President's visit to Santa Claus, in order to "find" the votes necessary to get him reelected. This leads Biden and Santa to team up and stop Trump and his allies before they succeed. They fail, but only because Trump and his allies are frozen solid Ala Raiders of the Lost Ark, since they sought the sack for their own ends rather than for others.
    • Even after Trump left office, the holiday hijinks didn't stop there. 2021 capped off the show's run for the year with "A Conspiracy Carol", in a parody of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, where Santa's attempts to certify the naughty and nice list leads Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representative Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) to stir up Scroogeanon into storming the Klaus of Representatives and steal the Naughty and Nice List to get revenge for not getting any presents—even Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is convinced to join their cause.
  • Malcolm in the Middle had one where Lois took away Christmas until the boys behaved themselves - which they did, until they decided to sneak behind her back to open the presents. However, Lois herself regretted stealing Christmas five minutes into it, as part of the episode's moral that only the most black-hearted person would try to steal Christmas, a holiday the show defines as "unconditional generosity".
  • The X-Files had "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas", continuing their tradition of rather morbid Christmas episodes by having Mulder and Scully go ghost-hunting on Christmas Eve. What they don't know is that the ghosts are real, are under a murder-suicide pact, and are desperate to get another couple to re-enact it.
  • Sue Sylvester, in "A Very Glee Christmas".

  • "How the Grinch Stole Chanukah" by Mike Toomey, popularized on the Dr. Demento show.
  • Subverted in "This Christmas (I'll Burn It To The Ground)" by Set It Off. A suburban teen is fed up with his rich kid neighbors belittling him for his comparatively lackluster gifts, and decides to get revenge by pulling the Grinch routine. Subverted in that, not only is there no change of heart at the end, he doesn't stop at stealing Christmas. As the title suggests, he proceeds to pile up the stolen gifts and trees in the middle of the cul-de-sac, and lights them on fire for the entire neighborhood to see.

  • Radio's The Bob & Tom Show had the skit "The Griswold Who Stole Christmas", in which co-host Tom Griswold steals the presents from the show's other regulars.
  • WKQX-Q101 has "The Night We Stole Christmas", a live concert every December.

    Visual Novels 
  • There are two instances of this in Hatoful Boyfriend Holiday Star, and neither completely follows this trope. In The Christmas Thieves, Miru and Kaku steal trees, assaulting people and blowing things up to get to them. They aren't very bright and don't think at all about what impact this might have, they just really want all the trappings. This is Japan, where Christmas is more of a romantic holiday than taken seriously; the Buddhist main character doesn't think very highly of the holiday but scolds the twins, saying that plenty of people like it and it's mean to ruin their fun.
    • Legumentines, in-universe, is a descendant of Valentines in which beans are exchanged. Tohri decides to ruin it out of spite - no one gave him any beans! how dare people have fun without him! - and decides to buy up all the beans the day before the holiday to prevent anyone else from having them. He's stopped halfway through when someone gives him "courtesy beans".

  • And Shine Heaven Now's 2004 "How the Grinch Canceled Christmas'' arc.
  • Penny Arcade's Christmas 2009 story arc is How the Illithid stole Lolthmas.
  • The New Adventures Of Queen Victoria is currently doing a parody with Osama bin Laden.
  • The now-defunct sprite comic Insonicnia's special "How the Eggman Stole Christmas", with a twist: Eggman planned to steal everything while wearing a Santa suit as camouflage... and then literally steal the holiday away by re-delivering the gifts as himself to make people think he was the one who sent them in the first place and thus make himself popular.
  • Brawl in the Family has a take. And in-universe, he pulls that stunt every year. Enough that the other villains rob his house, knowing that he'll be gone.
  • Far Out There has How the Caligaris Stole Christmas. Inverted in that the theft in question is actually meant to SAVE Christmas (for Jenna, at least).
  • The Axe Cop Christmas Special uses some of the same ideas, but it's definitely not played straight; call it a parody or subversion or something. There's a whole planet of Christmas monsters (who look kind of like the Grinch) that steal all the presents from all planets because it's the only way they can have a Christmas. Axe Cop steals the presents back and delivers them again. Then, gaining the power of Christmas, he gives all the Christmas monsters presents of their own. They go back to celebrate happily... until it turns out the presents were all full of bombs and the whole planet explodes, saving Christmas forever.
  • Alex himself does it in Guest Strips in Captain SNES: The Game Masta. He's mostly doing it to screw with the censor-slash-narrator who wants him to get into the holiday spirit in precisely the way it thinks is best, whether he likes it or not, and he ends the series with a Take That! at the narrator that stuns it so much that it stops censoring him.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer has stolen Christmas a few times, though he had good reasons. For example, in "Tis the Fifteenth Season":
      Homer: You're a hero, Homer J.,
      You're as crafty as a skunk.
      You'll make everybody happy when they're rid of Flanders' junk,
      Homer Ja-a-ay.
      I'd call you a double bacon genius-burger,
      And just a little drunk!
    • In "The Old Man and the Lisa", Mr. Burns is said to have stolen Christmas from 1981-1985.
    • In "Future-Drama", Mr. Burns somehow robs the world of ever celebrating Christmas again. As punishment, he created a scholarship that Lisa wins to get into Yale.
      Lisa: I miss Christmas.
    • In "Bobby, It's Cold Outside", there's been a chain of thefts of Springfieldians' online-ordered Christmas gifts, with the only clue from a badly injured Lenny being the initials SB. This stands for Smithers and Burns, marking the first time Mr. Burns actually steals Christmas onscreen.
  • A less direct example is Bowser in the Super Mario World Christmas episode.
  • There was one short TV parody called "How the Grinchy-Poo Stole Christmas!" from the South Park episode "Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson!" Also, some characters from the episodes "Cartmanland" and "Woodland Critter Christmas" parody some "lines" they borrowed from ''How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"
  • The Emperor's New School does this, although it is based on Halloween rather than Christmas. The episode is even called "The Yzma That Stole Kuzcoween".
  • This may have been before the original story was even written - a Tom Terrific storyline had bad guy Crabby Appleton steal all the holidays from the calendars, so he could have them all to himself as the kids had to stay in school. Being who he is, he doesn't have a change of heart.
  • On The Real Ghostbusters episode "The Halloween Door", a prudish old man who hates Halloween invents a device that will make all the paraphernalia of Halloween disappear. The consequences in the supernatural world are dire, for this allows a horde of demons to return to Earth. And true to the "stealing Halloween" plot, Halloween is restored because the "true meaning of Halloween" is the joy of children at play, and a little girl (who even looks a lot like Cindy Lou) expresses her faith and lack of fear in standing up to the demon lord. The Grinch figure, despite having seen the chaos, still denies that it was his fault, and continues to hate Halloween and wish to suppress it.
  • Spoofed on Kim Possible, when Ron believed (for no apparent reason, since it wasn't a Christmas Episode or anything) that the Evil Plan behind Dr. Drakken's mischief-of-the-week was to "steal Christmas". Kim argued, correctly, that the plan was Drakken's usual pursuit of that more sensible plot, taking over the world.
  • Dr. Claw of Inspector Gadget once tries to steal all of the toys from Santa Claus before he could deliver them on Christmas Eve.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • A minor example: "Tanks for the Memories" has Rainbow Dash trying to stop winter from coming so she can keep her pet turtle from hibernating. At one point she makes a face reminiscent of the Grinch's.
    • "A Hearth's Warming Tail" is mostly Yet Another Christmas Carol, but the start of Snowfall Frost's story is about her trying to ruin Hearth's Warming for everypony out of a belief that it's a big waste of time that they could spend bettering themselves instead. It includes the aspect of stealing some trappings of the holiday, although in this case it's to use as components for her memory-erasing spell. And, as she discovers, Hearth's Warming literally keeps Equestria safe from Windigos, who would turn Equestria into a frozen wasteland if not kept away by the holiday celebrations; she promptly changes her ways when she realizes what her actions would result in for the entire country.
  • The PJs had "How the Super Stoled[sic] Christmas" where Thurgood becomes a repo man so he can earn enough money to buy his wife the computer she's been wanting. Right at the time many of the residents in The Projects had stopped paying bills on their new purchases so his job becomes easy.
  • Non-malicious example in Lilo & Stitch: The Series. While Stitch did steal all the presents in town in the episode "Topper", it wasn't to steal or ruin Christmas, it was because inside one of them is one of Jumba's experiments, still in unactivated pod form. Because the present was intended for Dr. Hamsterviel, Gantu stole Stitch's stolen presents, and the whole attic they were stored in. But it was all for naught, the present containing Experiment 025's pod was still at the gift wrapper's.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016) episode "You're A Good Man, Mojo Jojo" is Yet Another Christmas Carol with some How the Grinch Stole Christmas! mixed in. Mojo Jojo steals presents in his sled on Generic Tree Lighting Day in his sled but changes his tune after having a dream featuring three ghosts. When he wakes up, he tries to give all the presents back and be nice, only for the townsfolk to complain that he didn't set fire to the town's tree.
  • On Teen Titans Go!, a villainous Santa steals Halloween, and his rationale is rather clever: Santa understands that Halloween is obviously the second most beloved holiday behind Christmas; therefore, if he controls both holidays, he will have supreme power over holidays in general.
  • In the Season 23 finale of South Park, Santa Claus gets in on the act, by stealing all the legalized cocaine in South Park in an attempt to stop impaired driving in the town, after passing ordinances that banned the sale of alcohol and marijuana until January 2 failed to do the job.
  • In the Family Guy episode "The First No L", Lois gets fed up with her family not helping her make Christmas a success, so she leaves them alone in order to teach them a lesson. But when she sees that they are managing just fine without her, she changes her objective to stop Christmas out of jealousy by stealing their decorations, presents, and Christmas tree. Stewie even walks in on Lois while dressed as Cindy Lou Who.
  • An Al Brodax Popeye cartoon has the Sea Hag kidnapping Santa and throwing all the presents into a fire pit for the obvious reason that if she can't have a happy holiday then no one can.
  • Xiaolin Chronicles: In one episode entitled "Omi Saves the Holidays", Jack Spicer uses Shen Gong Wu to remove December 25 from the calendar as revenge for his parents not having bought him presents.
  • DuckTales (2017): The episode title of the season 3 Christmas Episode "How Santa Stole Christmas!" is a play on the Grinch-title. However, in the episode itself it is Scrooge who almost ruins Christmas because instead of delivering presents to the children as he is asked to by Santa he gifts everyone a piece of coal. It turns out he feels wronged by Santa and wants to teach the children a lesson that resources like coal are more practical and important than toys. Of course, in Grinch-like manner it is Scrooge who learns his lesson that a warmed heart helps you through the coldness. He and his family help Santa to undo his mistake and give every child his present.


Video Example(s):


How the Finch Stole Christmas

Mr. Finch makes like Mr. Grinch

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