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True Meaning of Christmas

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Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!
Linus: Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about...

What is the True Meaning of Christmas? A common, yet ambiguous theme in Christmas Specials (episodes, films, stories, etc.), usually answered with An Aesop.

In fiction, the "True Meaning of Christmas" is often (though not always) "It's better to give than to receive." That is the most common Aesop, especially in kid's shows, but also sitcoms, etc. It's often lampshaded with those exact words when Mr. Exposition sums it all up at the end.

However, when you look at the most memorable and popular Christmas-themed works, each of them offers up a different "True Meaning of Christmas". For example:

Those are probably the five "staple" specials and movies of the Christmas season, in that they get shown year after year after year (on an endlessly repeating loop too). Yet none of them uses the most common "True Meaning of Christmas" Aesop.

Compare Santa Clausmas, when the True Meaning of Christmas is discussed without any indication that the holiday might have a religious aspect. See also You Mean "Xmas", where the characters may learn the True Meaning of Fictional Holiday. And compare and contrast Away in a Manger, when the plot starts to suspiciously parallel the Nativity story.

Christmas in Japan is different.


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  • British department store chain John Lewis typically releases their blockbuster Christmas adverts towards the end of the year, and their messages normally revolve around the importance of being with family and how much better it is to give and receive gifts.
  • The 2016 Sainsbury's Christmas advert, "The Greatest Gift", is "being with your loved ones"; an annoyingly catchy song sung by James Corden about a man who wants to find perfect presents for his family, but doesn't have time to spend with them, until he realises "the greatest gift that I can give is me".

  • The Big O uses the Christian explanation for their Heaven's Day episode. It also was Foreshadowing that the Villain knew things about the past world when he shouldn't have by informing the person next to him its about the day God's son was born. (In the setting, everyone has amnesia of anything before 40 years ago.)
  • One of the (yes, oddly out-of-place) Christmas specials of the wicked World War II allegorical satire Hetalia: Axis Powers sort of skates around this idea, featuring the titular three main characters going around asking their fellow Nations as People about the treatment of Christmas around the world.
    • Of course, they don't find any real meaning from any of their peers: America talks about stuffing his face with food ("We cross out the 'Christ' part to make it more extreme~! Want some Xmas cake?"), France about some interesting holiday conquests, "godless China" leaves it with, "it kind of sucks" ("Just like girls!"), and "godless-er Russia" talks about... something. Finally, at the end of the special, the Axis talks to Finland, who they attribute with the creation of the modern holiday and assume must celebrate the truest form of Christmas; he tells them he spends Christmas sitting naked in a sauna.
    • Played much straighter in an earlier special, where the Allies and Axis are about to duke it out when they're interrupted by Finland, dressed as Santa and delivering presents. Touched, both groups agree to call an armistice in honor of the holiday spirit.
      America: I totally forgot it was Christmas. I guess being bloodthirsty can get a little distracting. [beat] ...And by that I mean bringing democracy to the rest of the world.
  • Spoofed in Saint Young Men, where not even Jesus himself knows what Christmas is supposed to be celebrating. When Buddha asks him if he knows what it commemorates, he thinks it's "the day Santa achieved reindeer-powered flight".
  • On the Samurai Pizza Cats Christmas episode, Polly has a debate with Speedy and Guido over the value of gift-giving vs. receiving.

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Christmas Issue of Shade, the Changing Man, in which Meta's You Mean "Xmas" is the Day of Bones, originally celebrated by bringing the skeletons of their ancestors into the house and decorating them, but now celebrated with plastic skeletons that glow and play tunes. Some Metans think this is too commercial, and people are "forgetting the real meaning of digging up our ancestors' skeletons".
  • Parodied in an issue of The Simpsons doing a pastiche of Heroes for Hire (with Carl as Power Man and Lenny as Iron Fist). The heroes get into a fight with Disco Stu trying to burn down the city, and in the process Carl's afro is burned short. Outraged at now having a hairdo that won't be fashionable for another decade, Carl tries to kill Stu until Linus himself intervenes, to tell them the true meaning of Christmas. "One speech later (you know the one)", Carl and Stu have calmed down, but as they're talking Lenny — thinking Linus is the villain — intervenes by punting Linus over the horizon.

    Fan Works 
  • The Homestuck fanfic "Very Merry Midwinter". The true meaning of Midwinter, apparently,
    isn't about the rituals or what they mean. It's about doing the rituals because they remind you of past times and the people you spent them with. It's nostalgia.
  • Explained by Tapper in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf stories "Empath And The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "A Haunted Christmas" when he is asked about the manger scene that he has in his tavern.
  • Parodied in Anthropology; Lyra's Wistful Amnesia dreams correctly point her to the basic idea of Christmas as a human holiday that takes place every winter, but despite her best efforts, she "never could find the true meaning of Christmas".

    Films — Animated 
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas ends with Jack Skellington realizing the deeper meaning to Christmas than a different way to scare people - namely, love. And in the beginning it's inverted—Jack does understand the meaning of the Christmas feeling and deeply wants it; he just doesn't understand exactly where it comes from. His attempts to make Christmas are what cause the titular nightmare.
  • Every story in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas takes a different lesson into account. In "Stuck on Christmas", Huey, Dewey, and Louie learn that Christmas is special because it only happens one day a year and that day should be celebrated and cherished, since Christmas would not be special if it happened every day. In "A Very Goofy Christmas" Max and Goofy learn that Santa exists because he is in the hearts of those who believe in him. In "Mickey and Minnie's the Gift of the Magi" the two learn that having each other together for Christmas is what counts, not the material presents you decide to give each other.
  • In Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas every story also has a different lesson. In "Belles on Ice" Minnie and Daisy learn that Christmas is a time to put difference aside and give each other peace. In the story "Christmas: Impossible" We get the "More fun to give then to receive" message along with the "kindness and respect to others" message. Huey Dewey and Louie destroy Santa's shop after trying to write their own names on Santa's nice list, because Uncle Scrooge tells them they will wind up on the naughty list like him if they don't act carefully and they decide that they surely aren't on the nice list. After helping Santa's elves clean up the shop they find the list but decide to put Uncle Scrooge's name on it because he has been off the list for years. Santa winds up placing the boys on the nice list and giving them presents saying that "There's always room on the nice list for people that think of others first." In "Christmas Maximus" Max learns that Christmas is a time to spend with family, regardless of how odd certain members may be. In "Donald's Gift" Donald learns that everyone has Christmas spirit deep down in the heart. In "Mickey's Dog Gone Christmas" Pluto finds It's a Wonderful Plot when he runs away from home and learns that Mickey isn't the same without him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Double subverted in A Christmas Story. The family does end up eating at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day, and the kid nearly gets his eye put out by the BB gun he wanted...which sounds like an antithesis to the trope. But they learn the Christmas Aesop after all.
  • Parodied in The Hebrew Hammer, where the heroes chuckle over the fact that Damien Claus failed to understand the true meaning of Channukah. Only for them to realize that none of them have any idea just what the point of the holiday is either.

  • Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! uses this: "Maybe Christmas, perhaps, doesn't come from a store... maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more..." (In this case, the true meaning of Christmas seemed to be thankfulness for friends, neighbors, and family.)
  • A Christmas Carol is a major example, if not the Ur-Example. Scrooge learned to look beyond himself and found joy in bringing happiness to other people who needed it. Partially Under threat of wandering the earth in chains forever, but also in large because he realized that no one would miss him when he died.
  • The Gift of the Magi: Della and Jim sacrifice their most prized possessions to buy presents for each other, and the loss of said possessions makes each present useless, but the narrator states "Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise... They are the magi."
  • In Hogfather, Death talks about teaching people the real meaning of Hogswatch (the Discworld's Christmas equivalent). Albert sarcastically asks which one he means — burn a big bonfire to bring back the sun? Someone's found a bean in their food so now we have to kill him? Slaughter all the livestock and hope we have enough food to get through winter? Death reluctantly concedes the point and says "Very well, then. The Hogfather can teach people the unreal meaning of Hogswatch." Then he proceeds to subvert some Broken Aesops, by giving rich gifts to poor children instead of letting them be grateful for what they get (which is usually almost nothing), and rescuing The Little Match Girl. It's worth noting that part of the book's Aesop (and that of Discworld in general) is that the "unreal" meanings of things are actually very important—including the kinds of meanings that Albert sarcastically suggests.
    You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?
  • In The Gift Of Nothing, Mooch wants to get his friend, Earl, a gift, but it gets hard because he discovers everyone has something. Eventually, he decides to give Earl "nothing" and when Earl opens his gift, he sees that there is nothing in the box and Mooch says that even though he didn't get anything, they still have each other and the two hug. In a nutshell, spending time with friends and family is better than receiving gifts.
  • C. S. Lewis begins his 1957 essay "What Christmas Means to Me" (collected in his book God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics) by stating that there are actually three different things that go by the name of Christmas: a "religious festival", a "popular holiday", and a "commercial racket", the latter of which Lewis then goes on to criticize.
    [The religious aspect] is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here.
  • The Framing Device of The True Meaning of Smekday is about Gratuity "Tip" Tucci writing an essay on the true meaning of Christmas, renamed "Smekday" by the alien invaders who invade on Christmas Eve.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch used the "Spending time with your family" version.
  • The Vicar of Dibley Christmas episode featured a scene in which Geraldine reminds the parish council about the true meaning of Christmas while they're rehearsing their nativity play (in response to Owen suggesting that it wasn't the Greatest Story Ever Told compared to, "The one where the couple had burglars break into their house and thought they didn't take anything, but a few months later had their pictures developed and got photographs of the burglars sticking their toothbrushes up their bottoms".)
  • Played straight on Perfect Strangers' first Christmas Episode:
    Balki: ...Christmas is not just Christmas turtles and presents, it's also the birthday of baby Jesus!
    Larry: Yeah, I guess I...forgot that, too.
    Balki: Well, the sheepherders never forget it. We were the first ones to get the news, you know.
  • The trope is referenced (along with A Christmas Carol) in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager, when Tom Paris tells Harry Kim how he accidentally caused the deaths of three Starfleet officers: "The ghosts of those three dead officers came to me in the middle of the night and taught me the true meaning of Christmas."
  • Played with tongue firmly planted in cheek in the 2010 Leverage episode, "The Ho Ho Ho Job", when crazy hacker/Magnificent Bastard Chaos (played by Wil Wheaton) is arrested for attempting to rob the Federal Reserve on Christmas. Alec(whose van Chaos blew up earlier in the ep) was there to deliver the coup de grace:
    Chaos: You have to admit, it was a good plan.
    Hardison: It was, but there was one thing you didn't count on.
    Chaos: Aw, no.
    Hardison: You forgot...
    Chaos: No, no, no...
    Hardison: ...about the true meaning...
    Chaos: Don't you say it!
    Hardison: ...of Christmas.
    Chaos: Gah, come on man, that barely applies here!
  • Abed's goal in the Community Christmas Episode, after his mother not being able to visit over Christmas for the first time ever causes him to hallucinate a stop-motion animated journey through Winter Wonderland, accompanied by a Christian, a Jew, a Jehovah's Witness, an Atheist, an Agnostic and a "Buddhist".
    Abed: I get it. The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want. It used to mean being with my mom. Now it means being with you guys.
    • The Christmas Episode of 2011 parodies via a skewering of Glee; the director of the campus glee club appears to sincerely believe that a failure to put on the school's Christmas pageant will mean the complete destruction of Christmas.
  • Blackadder's Christmas Carol has fun with this. Ebenezer Blackadder, the only good and friendly member of the Blackadder bloodline (and also an Extreme Doormat), is shown that his descendant would rule all of the universe if he became a spiteful backstabbing miser like his ancestors (instead of being a slave to future Baldrick, which would happen if he were to remain kind and generous). He decides the true meaning of Christmas is that bad people have more fun. However, given that it's a Christmas episode it wouldn't do to fully endorse such a cynical Aesop, so this backfires when Ebenezer slams the door in the face of his next visitors... unaware that it's Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who have turned up to publicly reward him for his famous generosity.
  • After Doctor Who had a series of Christmas Episodes, the Spoof Aesop became that you have to get out of London as aliens always seem to invade on that day.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, during a host segment, Joel shows the 'Bots some films TV's Frank sent up to the Satellite of Love to watch after the experiment. The final three (all fictional examples) are all about old people who learn the true meaning of Christmas, in clear nods to A Christmas Carol.
  • Adam Ruins Everything: "Adam Ruins Christmas" has Adam and Rhea learning the true meaning of Christmas can be whatever you want it to be.
  • The Adventures in Wonderland special "Christmas in Wonderland" uses the "Christmas is about family and friends" variation. The Queen thinks she can't enjoy Christmas unless it snows, and goes into a sulk when her subjects' attempt to make it snow for her goes awry. But in the end she learns that what really matters is the friendship and caring her subjects have given her. And then it starts to snow after all.
  • Full House attempted to show this trope in a Christmas Episode or two. The key word here is attempted, as Fridge Logic often kicks in that undermines the intended moral.
    • In one episode, the family, along with a large group of strangers, gets trapped in an airport on Christmas Eve. Everyone is miserable, especially because the bag with the girls' presents has been lost. Jesse scolds the crowd by pointing out that "the first Christmas was in a manger" and says that the holiday is about love, not material things. Unfortunately, he immediately contradicts himself by rallying the people to imagine all of material things in the airport as Christmas decorations. To make matters worse, the real Santa Claus shows up and magically conjures up the missing present bag...just for the Tanner family. There's no indication that anyone else got their gifts. Points for trying, though.
    • In a later season episode, Stephanie and Michelle become extra greedy at Christmas and make endless lists of what they want as gifts. Jesse promises to give them the most amazing present of them all on Christmas morning. On Christmas afternoon, the girls enter the kitchen and reveal that the present was...spending time in a soup kitchen to help the homeless. They talk about how eye-opening the experience was, and say it's changed them. This is a perfectly lovely idea that lines up with the "better to give than receive" version of the trope, but there are two issues. One: Stephanie and Michelle still got a big pile of presents even before they volunteered. Two: The audience never gets to see the volunteering. Instead of actually showing the less fortunate and their struggles, we only have the girls' word for it. It comes across as exceptionally hollow, because the audience doesn't actually get to witness Stephanie and Michelle's change of heart, and the subplot is promptly dropped and never brought up again.
  • The Golden Girls did two versions of the trope, each in a different episode.
    • In "The Nightmare Before Christmas," the women's attempts to travel to their respective hometowns to spend the holidays with their families are cut short by a blizzard, leaving them miserable in a nearby diner. The owner gives them some cheesecake on the house and is surprised to hear that the girls aren't related (granted, Dorothy and Sophia are mother and daughter, but that's beside the point), given that they share all the love and support of one. The women realize that they truly have become closer than blood and get to spend the holidays with loved ones after all, making the moral "Christmas is about family, even though family may not be what you expect."
    • In "Have Yourself A Very Little Christmas," Rose volunteers at a soup kitchen on Christmas Day, and the other girls tag along. Stan, Dorothy's ex-husband, shows up in a Santa Claus suit, having lost all of his money in a poor novelty toy investment. He gripes and moans to Dorothy, who angrily points out that he's literally surrounded by people with nothing. Stan has a change of heart and becomes a "real" Santa for the homeless children by passing out his novelty toys to them, offering a twist on "better to give than receive."
      • The same episode also has the girls discuss the limitations of this trope—Blanche points out that the homeless are receiving charity and kindness because it's Christmas, and they likely won't be so fortunate on December 26th (or the rest of the year, for that matter). The priest running the shelter admits that the needs of the destitute extend far beyond a single day, making the implied moral "Keep the Christmas spirit alive throughout the year, not just for the holiday."
  • Schitt's Creek: In "Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose'', Johnny remembers the family's lavish Christmas parties and wants to throw one in the town. Making matters worse, Johnny decides this on Christmas Eve. When his family reacts unenthusiastically and plans go awry, Johnny remembers being lonely after all the lavish parties because Moira is passed out and David and Alexis have bolted. Meanwhile, Moira, David, Alexis, Stevie, Patrick and Ted throw together a modest, but well-decorated, party at the motel. This party is obviously better than all the family's lavish ones, as they are together and have real friends.

  • Mitch Benn has a song called "The True Meaning of Christmas".
    The true meaning of Christmas is to eat until it hurts
    Then drink until it don't hurt any more
  • A 1960s song by the Ray Conniff Singers states, "The real meaning of Christmas is the giving of love every day."
  • A strange musical example happens in The Who's Tommy in the play, album, and movie. In an opera that is otherwise not at all about Christmas, there is a single song titled, appropriately enough, "Christmas". The main character's parent(s) ponder if Tommy realizes that it's Christmas and if he experiences any of the joys of the holiday. They're also worried that he'll go to Hell. "Tommy doesn't know what day it is/He doesn't know who Jesus was or what praying is/How can he be saved/From the eternal grave?"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert went with "The true meaning of all Holidays, not just Christmas, is to remind people that their families are important".
  • Since 2017, Mutts celebrates The Gift of Nothing Day, a holiday that occurs on the 2nd or 3rd Saturday of December, based on the popular children's book "The Gift of Nothing", whose Aesop is "a gift filled with nothing but love and family time is better than a regular gift".


  • In episode But Make It Scary, Colin McLeod writes a Christmas version of Halloween (1978) the main characters have to help Mike Myers learn the true meaning of Christmas following him falling into a blind rage after The Cat in the Hat is outdone by Jim Carrey's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Mike believes Christmas to represent the dark heart of humanity as bathed in corporate nonsense. The main boy Tommy tries to convince Myers that Christmas is about spending time with family and ending out the year on something joyful. It makes like worth living.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Furchester Hotel: A Furchester Christmas, Elmo and Big Bird are worried that Santa doesn't know they're at the Furchester and not on Sesame Street, until Mr. Harvey Dull reminds them that Christmas isn't about presents but spending time with friends and family. (And then Santa knows where they are anyway, so that's all right.)

    Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In Stan Freberg's "Green Chri$tma$," Bob Cratchit (played by Daws Butler) tries to implore Scrooge (played by Stan) about the true meaning of Christmas, but Scrooge keeps twisting everything he says into another opportunity to make money at Christmas. Towards the end, Cratchit finally gives up.
    Cratchit: The people keep hoping you'll remember, but you never do.
    Scrooge: Remember what?
    Cratchit: Whose birthday we're celebrating.
    Scrooge: Well... don't get me wrong. The story of Christmas, in its simplicity, is a good thing, I'll buy that. It's just that we know a good thing when we see it.
    Cratchit: But don't you realize? Christmas has a significance, a meaning...
    Scrooge: A sales curve. Wake up, Cratchit, it's later than you think.
    Cratchit: I know, Mr. Scrooge. I know.

    Tabletop Games 

    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner, where the people of Free Country USA celebrate Decemberween, riffed on this a number of times.
    • Happy Dethemberween had this exchange after the characters watch "Brundo the Decemberween Yak and the Sword of St. Olaf".
      Strong Sad: Can someone please explain again what a mystical sword has to do with Decemberween?
      Homestar: You heard that nasty ol' puppet! The magic of Decemberween is inside all of us!
    • And in this short from "Decemberween in July", Homestar and Strong Bad watch the Sweet Cuppin' Cakes holiday special:
      Strong Bad: Um, didn't I invent this cartoon?
      Homestar: Yeah, I think so.
      Strong Bad: Then how come I can't understand a lick of it?
      Homestar: What's not to understand? Eh! Steve!'s mouth exploded the universe, and that blond guy did a tiny, tiny dance.
      Strong Bad: Oh, right. The true meaning of Decemberween.
      Homestar: Yeah yeah, right right!
    • In "Homestar Presents: Presents", Homestar buys half-assed last-minute gifts for everyone, and this is Strong Bad's response:
      Strong Bad: Foolish Homestar. Decemberween is not about getting people presents. It's about getting people good presents! Good presents! Not this last-minute discount crap you're trying to foist on us!
  • Subverted in The Nostalgia Critic's parody of It's a Wonderful Life entitled You're a Dirty Rotten Bastard. With the help of his Guardian Angel, Critic learns that without him everyone he knows would lead a better life (except Phelous). He even discovers that his existence is forestalling world peace. In the end, he kills his Guardian Angel and declares that he makes one person's life better: his own.
    • Played straight at the end of his review of ''The Christmas Tree''. He goes through his house having his staff, his family, and himself all explain that the real point of Christmas is to have a joyful time giving, spending time with the people you love, and just taking a step back to remember that you aren't the center of the universe all the time. Comically subverted in the end when his parents, who both gave their own heartfelt monologues, question who the hell the Critic even was.
  • The Onion is slightly more concerned about whether or not people remember the true meaning of Halloween.
  • Played straight (?) in Dragon Ball Z Abridged's "Plan to Eradicate Christmas", where Goku, Gohan, Piccolo, Trunks and Vegeta put the True Meaning as having nothing to do with Santa Claus or the presents, but instead the True Meaning is the bonds that bring people together, family, friends, and killing Santa.


    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in "Eight Misbehavin'". After the episode skips from Manjula finding that she's pregnant to when she's about to give birth, the Simpsons offhandedly list a few things they've done over the last nine months. Bart's stories include "I learnt the true meaning of Columbus Day" and "and then I learnt the true meaning of Winter".
    • From "Miracle on 34th Street":
      Bart: Hey, since when was Christmas just about the presents? Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of this day? The birth of Santa?
    • From "'Tis the Fifteenth Season":
      Homer: Let's just agree that on this day a million years ago a dude was born who lots of people think was magical. And some people don't think so, and that's cool too. But we're probably right.
    • Parodied again in "Holidays of Future Passed", when Bart tells his future kids that they're the only thing worthwhile in his wasted life.
      Bart's Future Son: You've taught us the meaning of Christmas; which schools are forbidden to tell us anymore.
  • The Flintstones went with "It is better to give than to receive". Just to make it even more egregious, that episode had a picture dated "10 million BC". That's 10 million years before Christ, which makes 10 million years before Christmas.
  • Dexter's Laboratory had an awesome subversion. Dexter is fighting a climactic battle with Santa Claus and his family walks in on them and see the demolished living room, Christmas tree and gifts. Dexter understanding he has upset his family says the typical Christmas Aesop of how Christmas is all about sharing, giving, love, and family. Then Dee Dee tells "You blockhead! That's not what Christmas is about!" Dexter then asks "Oh yeah? Then what is Christmas about?" Santa answers simply with, "The presents." Episode ends.
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "Christmas Every Day" plays with this, with the plot being kicked off when Timmy wishes it was Christmas every day. In this case, Timmy already starts knowing the "meaning" — getting presents was less important to him than Christmas being one of the few days of the years that he actually gets to spend with his usually-neglectful family, and his wish was driven by wanting to preserve that special feeling for even longer. The ending aesop that comes from saving Santa Claus and reversing the wish is that Christmas is only truly special if it happens just once per year.
  • Swedish cartoon Sagan om Karl-Bertil Jonssons Julafton deals extensively with this. And in the spirit of the fact that wealth inequality stands in opposition to it, the true meaning of Christmas is "to steal from the rich and give to the poor".
    • Lampshaded in the last scene, when the narrator tells us that Karl-Bertil's mom "got an almost religious expression in her eyes...for this happened at a time when Christmas was used to celebrate the birth of Christ."
  • My Little Pony (G3) G3.5 has the short Waiting for the Winter Wishes Festival (a prelude to the Direct-to-DVD Winter Wishes Festival special Twinkle Wish Adventure), in which the ponies sing about their favorite things to do during the holiday season. Pinkie Pie sings that one of the things she likes is throwing holiday parties, but later sings:
    My favorite thing without a doubt
    Is remembering what this day is all about
    Caring and sharing and spending time
    With friends you hold so dear
    Taking time to tell them all
    How glad you are they're near.
  • A Garfield Christmas Special skirts the edge of the standard "better to give than receive"—Garfield kicks off the show by dreaming of getting lots of rich presents and is a grouch about having to go to Jon mother's for the holiday. He's warmed over by Grandma's reminiscing (the warm lap doesn't hurt either), finding old love letters from her departed husband to give her and Odie's surprise gift to him, summing it up with "Christmas: It's not the getting, it's not the giving, it's the loving. (bashfully)... There, I said it, now get out of here."
  • Subverted in "Low Tidings", the Christmas special for The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. K'Nuckles learns the "better to give than to receive" Aesop... but it's made moot when Poseidon, God of the Sea (who also runs the holiday) states that everyone gets gifts now, no matter whether they've been good or bad. You know, just like in Real Life.
  • In Prep & Landing, Wayne always considered his Christmas duties (to prepare Santa's arrival in the houses) as a job and nothing more. And because of events in the movie, he's now in full "doesn't care" mode, until his attitude almost causes the abortion of a visit, and owes him to get called out by his younger partner Lanny, who gives the fifth staple (A Christmas Story) as the true meaning:
    Wayne: We are just tiny ornaments in a gigantic tree, slaving away. And for what?
    Lanny: For what? For him. Just look at that face, Wayne. Just imagine his face when he wakes up tomorrow morning. Think of all the memories he'll pass on to his children, and his children's children. The passion may be gone for you, Wayne, but it's not gone for him.
  • The VeggieTales video "The Toy That Saved Christmas" followed an action figure, programmed to teach kids the materialistic meaning of Christmas, as he escaped the factory in search of a deeper meaning. This being a Christian-targeted video, he not only learns the True Meaning Of Christmas involves giving to others, but also that it involves God giving Jesus to the Earth.
  • Subverted on the Venture Brothers Christmas special, as at shows' end, their jet has crashed in Bethlehem, and Brock is uncertain what'll happen if the PLO gets there first:
    Dr. Venture: Are you kidding? This baby runs on pure plutonium! They're gonna love us!
    Dean: And that's what Christmas is all about!
  • Danny Phantom tells us that the true meaning of Christmas is to respect the traditions of others and be happy with what you have. It tells us this through rhyme and ghost-fighting actions.
  • South Park:
    • Parodied in "A Very Crappy Christmas", where it turns out that the true meaning is commercialism because otherwise people wouldn't have jobs.
    • In another episode, Kyle launches into a True Meaning of Halloween speech, only for Stan to interrupt him and say "Dude, you're thinking of Christmas. Halloween is all about the candy." Satisfied, Kyle goes off to trick-or-treat.
    • "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo" plays this a bit straighter: the town descends into madness over what symbols can be used for Christmas without offending anyone (non-Christians don't want religious stuff, Christians don't want Santa, environmentalists don't want Christmas trees, etc.), wrecking the whole holiday. Eventually Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo appears and tells everybody to stop focusing on what's wrong with Christmas and pay attention to what's right about it, like giving and baking cookies. Though, for added effect, the credits are interrupted with a brief cutaway to Jesus, singing a sad "Happy Birthday" to himself.
  • There are three Christmas Specials surrounding an animal (usually a donkey) that spends most of the special being shunned by his peers and ridiculed but in the end ends up escorting Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. They are Rankin/Bass Productions' Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, Disney's The Small One (directed by Don Bluth), and The Little Brown Burro.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy's Jingle Jingle Jangle, Edd tries to tell Eddy this trope.
    Edd: Hold it right there, mister! The true meaning of Christmas isn't about want or material things! Rather, it comes from here.
    Eddy: ...That's my udder you're touching.
    • Later Eddy realizes that, "Christmas ain't about what you find under a tree, Christmas is about what you find in your heart." A few minutes later, he steals everyone's gifts from Santa.
  • The first SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas Episode "Christmas Who?" has Squidward make fun of everyone for believing in Santa, but when he gets a present from SpongeBob (who didn't want Squidward to feel left out), he discovers that it's better to give than to receive - even if it means giving all his possessions away.
    • Parodied in one episode where SpongeBob learns "The True Meaning of Summer" from Mr. Krabs: to make money off kids on summer break.
  • In the As Told by Ginger Christmas episode Ginger finds out her mother's father was Jewish. Her mom Lois doesn't seem to consider herself any religion but celebrates secular Christmas. After finding out she's part-Jewish, Ginger becomes obsessed with learning about Judaism and attempts to celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas. In the end, they decide to celebrate both holidays but at the Christmas-Hanukkah party their house catches on fire thanks to faulty Christmas lights. After the party is ruined Ginger states she was so caught up in the holidays she forgot they're really about being close to friends and family.
  • This is the main moral of the Big City Greens Christmas Episode "Green Christmas", typically coinciding with Cricket's issue throughout. He thinks Santa can tell him if he's nice enough to get presents and if he's deemed naughty, than he decides he's just that. Tilly is the only one who sticks to the main reason what Christmas is about — spending it with your loved ones and giving back to those in need. She even says such multiple times throughout the episode.
  • Initially it seems Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales (2017) doesn't need any sort of lesson, since his grinch act is...well, an act, he does eventually realize he still needs to learn the true meaning of Christmas: that it's better with family, and the minor frustrations family brings pale to the joy and excitement they also bring. The Ghost of Christmas Past doesn't want Scrooge to learn that, since every time someone learns the true meaning of Christmas, they become too busy celebrating it with the family to hang out with him.
  • Eek! The Cat: After Eek and friends pull Santa's sleigh around the world while the Reindeer are on strike, the Reindeer return:
    Reindeer: We owe you an apology, Elmo. You and your friends have reminded us all about the true meaning of Christmas...(whatever it is).
  • The Loud House: "11 Louds A-Leapin" presents the true meaning of Christmas as showing compassion and kindness to people in need, even if they haven't been nice to you. Lincoln discovers that their Cranky Neighbor, Mr. Grouse, is such a grouch because he's unable to visit his family for the holidays. When he relays this to his sisters, who had initially been primarily concerned with their Christmas activities, they all pitch in to make Christmas more cheerful for Mr. Grouse, by decorating his house and gifting him a bus ticket to see his family.

  • An early example is "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus," which dates from 1897. It's more about the meaning of Santa, of course - but in his role as a representation of belief, of trust in human goodness and in all the beautiful invisible things that cannot be simply found or recorded, but that requires faith to exist.

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.


The True Meaning of Christmas

Pee-wee explains the origins of Christmas to Randy.

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