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Twisted Christmas

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"Oh, did you have to? 'No turning back'? That's almost as bad as 'nothing could possibly go wrong' or 'this is gonna be the best Christmas Walford's ever had'."
The Doctor (alluding to EastEnders), Doctor Who, "The Impossible Planet"

A Darker and Edgier version of Christmas in a work, for added irony.

Christmas being the biggest celebration of love, family, and happiness, it can further increase a single character's personal misery if he experiences totally opposite emotions.

In extreme cases, this can mean death, torture, rape, and more death. In shows with more everyday themes, it might be loneliness, failed relationships, and depression.

Sometimes this doesn't just affect one person but everyone. British Soap operas in particular have a reputation for making Christmas a time of death, divorce, infidelity, and violence, which explains why some of them have their own sections below. 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 Christmas 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. 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. Or during Christmas dinner.

In Doylist terms, this isn't necessarily done just to be depressing and cynical for the sake of it: it's also done so audience members whose own Christmases are miserable in unremarkable ways can have the satisfaction of knowing that someone else's Christmas is even worse than theirs. Having to be hospitable to relatives you resent, graciously receiving presents you neither need nor want, and the inevitable mountain of leftover turkey will feel like lenience by the closing credits.

Snow Means Death is a frequently used motif in such settings. Bad Santa and An Ass-Kicking Christmas are more humorous/badass takes on the concept. The Christmas section of Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday has some of the most brutal examples. To fit the theme, the score for tense or scary moments may involve Chaos of the Bells. Crappy Holidays is a downplayed version; characters aren't in any danger but aren't having any fun either. See also Anti-Christmas Song and Did I Mention It's Christmas?.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In 7 Seeds, the final events of the Ryugu Shelter, meaning Maria locking herself and the other infected Arcia X people into a freezer to prevent them from spreading, as well as Saruwatari and Mark committing suicide took place on Christmas.
  • In Angel Beats!, it was implied that Otonashi's sister died on Christmas Eve.
  • A few Brave Series entries feature this to an extent, as the times they aired meant that they were approaching their Grand Finale by the holidays, so sometimes they included plot developments leading up to them.
    • Averted in Brave Exkaiser's Christmas Episode, where it seems like typical Exkaiser fare, but holiday themed. However, the raffle tickets Kouta's mom wins lead to the Hoshikawa family vacationing to Egypt, which is where the show's final arc is set into motion.
    • The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird's Christmas Episode features Draias and his minions holding the world for ransom by infecting millions with a disease. It actually seems like it might work for a while. Additionally, it also marks the point where Inspector Satsuda finds out the Amanos are working with Fighbird and co.. The show's final arc kicks off on the next episode.
    • Brave Police J-Decker very briefly features some Christmas celebrations before the Fahrzeugs' master plan takes centre stage.
    • Brave Command Dagwon has the the Dagwon team fight take on Mado Warugaia and later Genocide in an all-or-nothing battle around Christmas, with Mado on the verge of destroying the earth with a Gravity Beam followed by Genocide attempting the same with a Colony Drop.
    • GaoGaiGar plays a little with the trope, showing Mamoru celebrating Christmas with his parents like a normal kid… then he says goodbye to his parents before leaving to join GGG in fighting the Primevals at Jupiter. The resulting battle sees the loss of Leo Shishioh, all but one of the Mic Sounders series, and (seemingly) the J-Ark and its crew.
  • The eleventh episode of the anime series of Devilman Lady takes place on Christmas and it is just as dark and bitter as the rest of the series.
  • In ef - a fairy tale of the two., first the earthquake on Christmas, that killed hundreds of people in the town, including the families of Yuu and Yuuko. Then, years later, Yuuko got raped by her stepbrother on a Christmas night for the first time. And then, more years later, she died in a car crash on a third Christmas.
  • World War III breaks out from Christmas to New Year's Eve in Future War 198X after A Nuclear Error on Christmas Eve.
  • The Apocalypse Virus was unleashed on Tokyo on December 24, 2029, in Guilty Crown. The event came to be known as "Lost Christmas."
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, "Christmas Eve": Hayate watches as her entire adopted family gets murdered right before her eyes and so is overwhelmed by the power of the Book of Darkness. The Power of Friendship later prevails happily, but still.
  • In Psycho-Pass, Makishima Shougo murders Akane's friend Yuki on December 24, 2112.
  • In Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl, Mai is run over and killed by a car on Christmas Eve as she ran into the street to save Sakuta..
  • In Star Of The Giants, Hyoma had been focusing too hard on his baseball career and was only aware that it was the Christmas season only for his Christmas party to end up as a complete disaster as nobody came and he unleashes an emotional temper tantrum and trashes his own party.
  • Sword Art Online has the episode "Red-Nosed Reindeer", which culminates in Kirito breaking down over Sachi's pre-recorded message after having let Sachi and his other comrades die at the hands of high-level monsters.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Barnaby returns from a fun outing where he went ice-skating with his family's trusted housekeeper, opens the door to the drawing-room of their home...and happens upon the dead bodies of both his parents, a burning Christmas tree, and the murderer himself. The house ends up a pile of smouldering rubble while Barnaby himself ends up with his memories of the murderer's true identity wiped from his mind, thus allowing the perpetrator to pose as his Parental Substitute and mentor for the next 20 years.
  • In Toradora!, Taiga and Minori, both in love with Ryuuji, pushed him away from themselves wanting him to be happy with the other girl. Cue to upbeat Christmas song.

  • Yes, Batman gets his own folder. Christmas is NEVER a happy time for Batman. Not only is it an emotional time for him since the loss of his parents, but supervillains LOVE to stir up crap during Christmas time (especially guys like The Joker, Mister Freeze, and the Calendar Man). Here's a few examples of Batman stories set in Christmas time, both in comics and other media:
    • The Long Halloween: Both The Joker on a crime spree and the Holiday killer are active during Christmas in this story.
      • Two years later we have the same thing, except replace Joker with Scarecrow and the Holiday Killer with the Hangman. And the energy Bruce devotes in trying to stop both in turn heavily strains his relationship with Selina Kyle when he winds up standing her up on Christmas Eve.
    • Batman: Noël, Yet Another Christmas Carol, where Bruce is Scrooge dealing with the Joker.
    • The Holiday Special of The Batman Adventures, a Mister Freeze story.
    • Detective Comics #826, in which Tim Drake ends up accidentally driving around Christmastime Gotham with The Joker.
    • Legends Of the Dark Knight #79
    • "A Slaying Song Tonight" in the anthology book Batman: Black and White opens with a splash panel of a skinny, wild-eyed Santa Claus hiding a machine gun in his sack, going on to reveal that this is a hitman who plans to get near his target by taking the place of a rent-a-Santa hired to put in an appearance for the target's daughter.
    • The very second episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Christmas With the Joker, and the later episode Holiday Knights.
    • Batman Returns opens with Penguin being dumped in the river on Christmas. The film's present-day is set during Christmas time as well.
    • Batman The Animated Series for the Game Boy sees the third level take place during Christmas, right as Poison Ivy takes a pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent hostage while Batman gets tangled up with Catwoman when he crosses her path during a robbery.
    • The Christmas episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold reveals that Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered on Christmas, while Bruce was sulking over not getting the toy he wanted.
      • ...though a later episode then Retcons that to show that he perked up a moment later so that he could have a last happy family moment before his parents were murdered. Wait, is that better?
    • Batman: Arkham Origins is set during Christmas in Batman's second year as a crimefighter. There are 8 assassins in town, he's dealing with 2 mob bosses, the hopelessly corrupt police force want him dead, the Mad Hatter makes his first appearance, Anarky wants to destroy the city, there are two prison riots, and the Joker is behind it all For the Evulz. This Christmas is downright brutal.
  • Parodied/subverted in one well-known short story. Superman chooses to spend that Christmas giving presents to poor children and helping out around the community. Batman catches him as he's leaving and tells him off, stating that Supes' time would be better spent making sure supervillains don't cause problems. Superman hesitantly agrees and heads back to the Fortress Of Solitude, only to decide to at least drop off the presents he already picked up. He opens the door to the family's house and finds Batman in Santa Claus garb, having lied to Superman in order to give out presents and take the credit for himself. Cue Superman decking Batman in front of a couple of terrified children.

    Comic Books 
  • Guy Lefranc, a Tintin Expy, bring us its darkest story with Black Christmas. The premise is set in France during Christmas Eve and is about a mining accident that lead to the death of many miners. While Lefranc saved some survivors, the story is filled Heroic Sacrifice, Hope Spot, graphic deaths. Lefranc unwittingly learned that the accident was born out of many broken lives following World War II while underlining how horrible mining conditions were in the '50s.
  • An issue of The Flash has his arch-enemy Abra Kadabra manipulating things so Wally has a particularly sour Christmas where he's forced to spend the day chasing after some drug peddlers, and by the end of it he winds up getting sued.
  • An issue of Hitman had Tommy and Natt hunting a radioactive homicidal maniac in a Santa suit at Christmas. That's Gotham. And the narration was verse in the meter of "The Night Before Christmas".
  • "Helliday," issue #29 of The Powerpuff Girls depicts a Christmas-like holiday that Him is orchestrating. Buttercup is the only person not buying into it.
  • Santa Vs. Zombies is about Santa Claus getting caught in a zombie outbreak on Christmas Eve.
  • The Warrior Christmas Special features The Ultimate Warrior doing several unspeakable things to Santa. WARNING: Not for the faint of heart.
  • Zombies Christmas Carol is A Christmas Carol in the middle of a zombie apocalypse caused by Scrooge himself. Lines from the original story are distorted and played with at times, and the setting isn't exactly cheery.

    Fan Works 
  • Citadel of the Heart, in a Mythology Gag to the aforementioned example from Sword Art Online, depicts a flashback of such events dating back to December 24th, 1954 in the fic Sword Art Online: Special Edition. The circumstances, however, are vastly different from the canon Twisted Christmas. Grandis, one of the Ultimorian Deities, is captured and given some strange microchip into his system, which promptly awakens him and causes him to go berserk, eventually going from his near undead looking Phase 1 form to his Humongous Mecha Phase 4 form, in an attempt to escape from the experimentation done to him by his Arch-Enemy Dr. Devoniak. While Dr. Devoniak manages to subdue Grandis with the laboratory's own machines, eventually breaking his will to struggle further to escape, Grandis, in an increasingly sobbing tone, cries himself to sleep as narcotics take effect, quoting "Frosty the Snowman" in doing so.note 
  • In Eleutherophobia: Ghost in the Shell, Tom recalls a Christmas Eve (which was also the first night of Hanukkah) when his Yeerk used his bare hands to snap a child's neck for singing "O Come Emmanuel".
  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf plays with the trope two times:
    • It takes "Haunted Smurfs" (a semi-dark cartoon show episode) and turns it into "A Haunted Christmas", with the Smurf Village tragedy of losing the storehouse to a fire happening sometime prior to Christmas, which makes things pretty dismal for Smurfette since this would be her first Christmas with the Smurfs. Fortunately, as the story unfolds, things turn out for the better and the trope is ultimately averted... although in the Framing Story's end Smurfette does mysteriously disappear when the lights in the dining hall go out.
    • "A Wild Winter Solstice" sets itself up for a possible Twisted Winter Solstice, as Empath during his first visit to the Smurf Village is lost and injured somewhere in the Smurf Forest and is being taken care of by Wild Smurf, whom Empath first encounters but keeps his existence a secret for years, while the Smurfs search the forest for days in the hopes of finding him. Again, things work themselves out in the end and the trope is ultimately averted.
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter and the Endless Night has a Mall Santa on Christmas Eve having been transformed into a Vampire that goes about devouring the Mall-goers to transform them into Ghouls. Draco; who was working as one of the Mall Elves springs into action to help escort the survivors out of the mall and away from the massacre while Integra and Harry show up with the rest of the Hellsing Organization to contain the outbreak and deal with the Ghouls. Alucard finally shows up after Draco and Dobby finished ragdolling the Vampire Santa around before killing him. However, it's revealed that among the victims that were turned into Ghouls were Hermione's parents as their now-orphaned daughter was found with a hollow look in her eyes after seeing her parents killed.
  • Simple Gifts: Watson becomes sick just before Christmas, and on Christmas Eve itself, his illness reaches a crisis that comes far nearer to killing him than anyone expected. That night Holmes also figures out why Watson has been so depressed and withdrawn lately: he's suffering from the deaths of most of his friends in the military and he's too afraid of experiencing that loss again to make new ones.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 8 Women: In which a family gathers for the Christmas festivities, but their patriarch dies and they have to figure out who did it instead.
  • Anna and the Apocalypse is a Zombie Apocalypse movie set during the Christmas season. It's also a musical.
  • Babe, despite being a family film, doesn't show Christmas in a positive light. We see Farmer Hoggett take Ferdinand's girlfriend Rosanna to the chopping block to be their meal, half of the sheep be stolen by rustlers, and the bratty granddaughter reject a homemade dollhouse.
  • Cash on Demand takes place on December 23, and features charming but ruthless criminal Colonel Gore Hepburn holding hostage the wife and son of bank manager Harry Fordyce to force Fordyce into helping him rob the bank.
  • The Children: Beginning on Christmas Eve, children become infected and start killing their parents. Ending on New Year's Eve, it's revealed that the whole country seems to be affected.
  • The Day of the Beast: This Spanish Horror Comedy classic depicts the misadventures of a priest who goes on an unhinged quest through a Wretched Hive Madrid in order to find and kill The Antichrist during his birth ceremony, which is presumed to be on the midnight before Christmas of '95.
  • Ebenezer (1998) is one of the few A Christmas Carol adaptations to show Scrooge directly killing someone, and his character in general is extremely villainous.
  • Christmas Blood: The movie is about a Serial Killer who dresses up as Santa Claus and murders people around Norway every Christmas Eve. After spending five years in jail, the killer busts out of prison and makes his way to a house where a bunch of young people are partying to hack them up.
  • The Elf: The movie is about a young couple and their families trapped in a house on Christmas Eve with a killer elf doll targeting them.
  • Eyes Wide Shut takes place over the holidays and involves Bill, the protagonist, becoming embroiled in a sex cult that may or may not be murderous and everywhere.
  • First Blood involves Rambo coming home from Vietnam looking for a friend, only to find that he died of Agent Orange following the war. When Rambo tries to go to a diner, Sheriff Will Teasle drives him away but Rambo tries to go back to town, only to be arrested. Rambo eventually snaps while at prison and goes on a one-man war against Teasle and the police. In the end, after Rambo severely wounds Teasle in a gunfight, Rambo is confronted by his former commander Col. Trautman and he is told to surrender. Rambo breaks down and cries as he tells Trautman about what happened in Vietnam and when he returned home, before surrendering to Trautman and put into state custody while Teasle is carried to the hospital. All of this happened on Christmas.
  • The movie Gremlins is an example (the events happen at Christmas), and contains another one—one of the main characters tells how her father died on Christmas, trying to go down the chimney in a Santa suit. "And that's how I learned there was no Santa Claus."
    • The MAD magazine satire of the movie adds another twist to this unfortunate fate: all the warranties of the gifts he was carrying had expired.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The film adaptation of the novel added a Death Eater attack on the Burrow during Christmas break, ending with the beloved Weasley family home in flames.
  • The film Krampus is about an evil deity, torturing a family whose son loses his faith in the holiday.
  • Love Actually: While most of the plot lines, taking place during the Christmas season, end happily, a few of them start or end on a bittersweet note:
    • Daniel's plotline opens on his wife's funeral and his struggles to bond with his stepson, Sam, at the start of the Christmas season.
    • On Christmas Eve, Karen discovers the expensive necklace her husband secretly bought was meant not for her, but for his sexy young secretary. In the Flash Forward at the end, their marriage remains notably strained, though she smiles through it.
    • Sarah attempts to start a relationship with her long-time crush on Christmas Eve, but is unable to due to his inability to put up with the many phone calls from her mentally-ill brother. Her storyline ends on a bittersweet note, as she spends Christmas with her brother in the psychiatric ward.
  • Nutcracker Massacre: The film is about a bunch of people celebrating Christmas together under one roof... while a six-foot tall nutcracker kills them one by one.
  • Scrooged, which is a modern take on A Christmas Carol. Frank's resentment of Christmas (and love of television) came as a result of his disinterested parents, especially his father who regarded anyone who didn't work (including his underage son) as lazy. To make things even bleaker, years later around Christmas Frank ended up choosing his career over the love of his life, which left him jaded until the Ghosts came.
    • It wasn't much better for Elliot Loudermilk, who was fired on the spot for questioning Frank, had his wife leave him because of it, got robbed of both his money and his booze (which he sold his blood to pay for), and ended up buying a shotgun to shoot Frank with in revenge. It works out for him in the end. Frank (by now a reformed man) rehires him in a better position and enlists his help in performing a Hostile Show Takeover.
  • Nuclear war docudrama Threads includes a grim parody of a Nativity scene. The main character, Ruth, who has recently given birth in a barn, spends Christmas Day huddled around a fire with other survivors, seemingly indifferent to her baby's cries. Not only that, the narration makes it clear that many children and elderly people will not make it through the first post-holocaust winter as they are more vulnerable to the effects of cold and radiation.

  • Surely one of the most famous examples would be A Christmas Carol. A big part of the reason for Scrooge's hatred and resentment of Christmas is that his father often left him at school for the Christmas holidays, where he had to spend the festive season by himself.
    • Not to mention that he sees some pretty horrifying sights during the visits of the ghosts, starting with the miserable, wailing spirit of his dead friend and ending with his own grave.
  • Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections is an entire novel of this.
  • The Crowner John Mysteries: Crowner's Quest starts with John being called away from a Christmas party being thrown by his to investigate an apparent suicide. So John spends Christmas Eve examining the body of an elderly priest hanging a stinking privy. This leads to a very bad Christmas and New Year for John.
  • Galactic Milieu: In Magnificat the Remillard Dynasty attempt to magically torture their father in order to remove his split personality on Christmas Day, as since he won't be expecting it, it will be easier to get him into the room.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Harry and Hermione visit Harry's parents' graves in Godric's Hollow on Christmas Eve. They end up falling into a trap set by Voldemort, who suspected Harry might visit the gravesite. The duo gets attacked by Nagini, who was horrifically disguised in Bathilda Bagshot's corpse, and nearly captured by Voldemort. Harry's wand is also broken during the attack, leaving them with one less weapon and no leads on the horcruxes.
  • In Heavy Object, the first chapter of Volume 17 has the protagonists and their unit dressing up in Christmas-colored uniforms and head to the North Pole to rescue a boat of sick children! Along the way they need to kill a lot of enemy soldiers, "accidentally" kill some soldiers on their side, use Elise's increasingly stripped body as a distraction, and ultimately deal with the nobles using said sick children as mules for contraband.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: Played with. The Grinch, who hates Christmas, tries to make it a sad Christmas for the Whos below by stealing all their presents, decorations, and food. But the Whos, despite being robbed, are still happy because they can still sing and be together on Christmas. This causes the Grinch to understand the true meaning of Christmas and give everything back.
  • Subverted in the Mog story "Mog's Christmas Calamity", where Mog accidentally causes a house fire around Christmas, but the neighbours pitch in to repair the damage.
  • Roys Bedoys: Downplayed in “Christmas is the Season of Giving, Roys Bedoys!”, where Wen mainly has a happy Christmas, but one downside is that she receives no presents (until her friends sacrifice part of their own presents).
  • In John Corey Whaley's novel Where Things Come Back, Benton Sage commits his suicide on Christmas.

    Live-Action TV — Coronation Street 
Coronation Street does its best to keep up with EastEnders:
  • 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 into a box while the staff has 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.

    Live-Action TV — Doctor Who 
Especially during the Russell T. Davies era, 21st-century Doctor Who's soap influences extended to the Christmas episode.
  • "The Christmas Invasion" (2005, set in 2006): The Tenth Doctor's first adventure has 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 Sycorax spoiled by Torchwood shooting the alien ship down. And he has a huge falling out with his friend Harriet Jones, Prime Ministernote  which ends with him getting her deposed, destroying "Britain's Golden Age" and paving the way for the Master.
  • "The Runaway Bride" (2006, set in 2007): He has to face an ancient menace called the Racnoss whose offspring wish to gorge on life across the cosmos. Her webstar is mistaken for a giant decorative Christmas star by Londoners until it starts shooting lightning tearing up the streets. This adventure immediately follows him losing Rose at Canary Wharf, and features an especially dark moment for him in which he kills a ton of the Empress's children, and almost lets himself die along with them. Oh, and the Thames is drained.
    • From Donna Noble's perspective, her Christmas wedding gets ruined by her disappearance, her family has the reception without her, assuming she left on purpose to be dramatic, and she discovers her groom was using her as a sacrifice in the Racnoss plot, only to still feel sad when he dies. She gets a fresh perspective on life, but still - not an ideal Christmas for Donna.
  • "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 the populace of central 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.
  • "Turn Left" while not a Christmas special, featured an Alternate Timeline of what would have happened during the previous two Christmas specials above if Donna Noble had never met the Doctor. "Runaway Bride" in this reality thus ends with the Doctor drowned and unable to regenerate because Donna wasn't there to snap him out of his murderous rage. The next Christmas is even worse since, without the Doctor there to stop it, all of London is blown up by the crash of the Titanic, killing the few survivors from the original special and leaving the Noble family and thousands of others homeless refugees.
  • "The Next Doctor" (2008, set in 1851): The Cybermen defeated at Canary Wharf escape from the Void, and thanks to a breakdown in the walls of reality caused by the Daleks' planet-stealing heist, end up in 1851 London, which the Doctor happens to be visiting. On the other hand, that means GIANT CYBERMAN ROBOT RAMPAGING THOUGH 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 sometime 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's able to save the soul of the old man Kazran who controls the planet's upper atmosphere, but through some very morally grey uses of time-travel, and Kazran is 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 whose husband has just been 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 Everybody Lives — the widow saves the trees, taking their souls through the Time Vortex to live amongst the stars, and in the process accidentally 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.
  • "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 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 millennia 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) deals 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 traumatized, 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". The kicker is that sure, it was their last night together... but it lasted twenty-four years! The episode ends on the title card "And they lived happily ever after". It's a triple subversion.
  • "The Return of Doctor Mysterio" (Christmas 2016, set in 1992 and 2016) aired between the previous Christmas show and Series 10 and averts the trope. The opening sequence is set on Christmas Eve 1992 and humorously establishes how the Doctor accidentally had a hand in granting a human boy superpowers, but the rest of the episode has nothing to do with Christmas.
  • "Twice Upon a Time" (Christmas 2017, set in 1914, 1986, and the far future): After the devastating events of Series 10 finale "The Doctor Falls" have left him completely bereft of all but the TARDIS, the Twelfth Doctor is ready to die for good when he encounters his first self, who is also resisting regeneration. Then they encounter a displaced British captain whom a mysterious Glass Woman is pursuing — to return him to his deadly destiny in the War to End All Wars. Subverted in that there's No Antagonist and it's because of Christmas that Everybody Lives, and both Doctors ultimately decide to regenerate because helping others is Worth Living For. Plus, Twelve gets his memories of Clara back and learns Bill didn't die as a Cyberman. Steven Moffat decided to subvert this trope because he'd originally planned for "The Doctor Falls" to be Twelve's Grand Finale until he learned that there wouldn't be any more Christmas shows if it was (Chris Chibnall didn't want to introduce Thirteen in one and the BBC refused to let the show skip a special). Since he had to give Twelve one more story and it was Christmas, Moffat decided to give him the happiest ending possible under the circumstances.

    Live-Action TV — EastEnders 
EastEnders is the single most notorious work for this.
  • 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. (Indeed, one of the Big Fat Quiz of the '80s confirms it was the most-watched single even of the eighties in the UK.) 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 of 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 with 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 struck, 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.
  • 2016: The Christmas Day episode is actually broadly positive! Among the events in the episode, Phil finally manages to get his liver transplant, saving him from dying from cirrhosis. But over the next week, Lee Carter comes close to killing himself before changing his mind at the last minute, and on New Year's Day Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell both drown in a drunken swimming pool accident hours after Ronnie's wedding.
  • 2017: Things spiral out of control for Max after Tanya returns to take Lauren and Abi to Glasgow, during which time she reveals that he killed Stephen and drove Jane away, leading to both girls and Stacey rejecting him. Meanwhile, Mick rushes to get rid of a gun Aiden Macguire has hidden in the Vic before the police arrive and search the pub; he gives it to Billy Mitchell, who then gives it to Phil. After Phil nearly shoots him with said gun, Max goes to the roof of the Vic to commit suicide but is talked out of it by his daughters, only for Lauren to slip and both her and Abi end up falling off the roof themselves. Lauren recovers, but Abi is declared brain dead.
  • 2018: Kat Slater discovers that her husband Alfie Moon is the father of her cousin Hayley's baby, Cherry. The resulting fight ends with Alfie being pushed down the stairs, seemingly killing him; as the Slaters attempt to get their story straight for the police, Alfie gets up and kidnaps Cherry.
  • 2019: Phil learns that Keanu Taylor is the father of Sharon's baby, not him. He, Ben, and Keanu's fiancee Louise plot to kill Keanu, with Ben assigning Martin Fowler to do the deed. Martin seems to go along with it, but on New Year's, it is revealed that he actually faked Keanu's death with the help of Linda Carter.
  • 2020: It is revealed that Sharon has known all along about Ian's involvement in her son Dennis's death, as he had left her a voicemail shortly beforehand. She is also revealed to have gotten Phil to attack Ian weeks earlier. When Phil refuses to kill Ian on the grounds of him being family, Sharon takes matters into her own hands and begins poisoning his food.

    Live-Action TV — Emmerdale 
You thought that Emmerdale would be a gentle soap about country folk?
  • 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! Special points for being inspired by the real-world Lockerbie terrorist attack, which really did happen just before Christmas.
  • 1998: Vic Windsor is killed during a robbery at the post office carried out by Billy Hopwood on Christmas Day. The same night, Belle Dingle is born to Zak and Lisa Dingle, despite Lisa being unaware that she was pregnant.
  • 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 humiliates fiancé Carl due to knowing about his affair with Eve. She had also been lying about being pregnant.
  • 2015: Belle Dingle reveals to the entire family that her father Zak has been cheating on her mother Lisa with Joanie Wright.
  • 2017: Robert Sugden is hit by a car and briefly flatlines, before experiencing a tricked-out coma dream featuring, among other things, a funeral for his estranged husband Aaron Dingle and a visit from his deceased step-aunt Val Pollard.

    Live-Action TV — Hollyoaks 
Hollyoaks is the UK's best-known "youth" soap, but is just as bad as the others.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV — Miscellaneous 
  • 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.
    • Fourth season: Nothing much happens, but if J. Michael Straczynski had got confirmation of a fifth season early enough that he didn't have to potentially wrap up the story, the season would have ended with a Christmas Episode consisting entirely of Sheridan being tortured and ending with it continuing indefinitely.
  • An episode of Bones had a man dressed as Santa robbing a bank shortly before Christmas. The team doesn't seem too put off by it until they find out he was just a victim in someone else's robbery ploy, and Angela even jokes that she won't let Santa ruin Christmas.
    • An earlier episode had Hodgins accidentally exposing the team to a potential biohazard, meaning they all had to stay in isolation during Christmas, getting only a few minutes to see their families through glass. This episode revealed that Brennan, beyond just being an atheist, doesn't celebrate Christmas because her parents went missing shortly before the holiday and her brother Russ had gone out of his way to give her as normal a Christmas as possible- accidentally tricking her into thinking they'd come home.
  • 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.
  • A Christmas episode of Castle revealed that Beckett always works on Christmas because she sees it as her duty to keep watch. Her mother was killed in early January, but their Christmas decorations were still up, and when she and her father put them away "it felt like [they] put that box away forever." She does end up deciding that it's time to make new Christmas traditions and gets someone to cover her shift so she can spend the holiday with Castle and his family.
  • The Cold Case episode Sabotage opens around Christmas and depicts a department store being bombed as Wham!'s "Last Christmas" plays.
  • A Christmas Carol (2019) is quite possibly the darkest adaptation to date. Just for starters, Scrooge is far more evil in this version, from his past as a criminal (where he and Marley preyed on impoverished small businesses, buying them for low prices via blackmail before demolishing them for profit) to blackmailing Mrs. Cratchit to strip for him in exchange for the money needed for Tiny Tim's operation.
  • Season 2 of Danger 5 takes place entirely around Christmas, and is much darker and weirder than the first season.
  • In the BBC mockumentary The Day Britain Stopped, Britain as a whole undergoes a transport paralysis with massive gridlocks across the country on 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 had 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 planes colliding with 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.
  • Dexter: New Blood: "Family Business" is set on Christmas, with Dexter confessing that he's a Serial-Killer Killer to Harrison, then killing Kurt, the Runaway Killer.
  • 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 Dragnet episode "The Big .22 Rifle for Christmas" sees Friday and Smith taking on the case of a young boy who accidentally shot and killed himself with the rifle his parents were planning to give him for Christmas.
  • The Christmas episodes of Frasier feature some of the most vicious fights in the entire series.
  • 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 gunmen. Sonny and Zander ended up injured as they simultaneously moved to protect Alexis and Emily.
  • In the Hannibal episode Œuf we see the Frist household alight with holiday cheer: Christmas decorations on the walls, Christmas tree in the corner, Christmas carols blaring from the stereo, the corpses of the Frists — mother, father, daughter, and son — strewn around the room and another son who had been abducted from his family earlier, trained to kill them, then killed when he couldn't carry it out and burned to charcoal in the fireplace.
  • 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.
  • The How I Met Your Mother episode "Symphony of Illumination" features Robin having a pregnancy scare and then finding out that she is infertile while imagining how she might have, at some point in the future, told the story of how she met their father (whose heart in canon she had just broken). Possibly the single most depressing example in history that didn't involve someone dying (and also subtly subverts Away in a Manger.)
  • The 1-hour Christmas movie for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has the gang go through this in spades: Charlie discovers that his mom is a whore, Mac learns that all his Christmas gifts were stolen from other families, and Dennis and Dee go through hell every year since Frank intentionally buys the gifts they want for himself and intentionally ruins them just to harass them. Things suddenly look up near the end when Frank actually undergoes a genuine Heel–Face Turn and actually does try to give the gang a good Christmas, making it look like for the first time they'll receive a happy ending... and then the Cruel Twist Ending sets in since there's no way this series is ever going to allow that.
  • Jake and the Fatman: In "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", it's Christmastime, but McCabe isn't feeling so jolly as an ambitious assistant DA helps Jake find a murderous Santa Claus.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid's Christmas episode features the debut of Genm's Dangerous Zombie form, which he then uses to kill Kiriya, with the latter's death being the show's first major Tear Jerker.
  • One M*A*S*H Christmas, BJ insisted on keeping a critically wounded soldier alive so the soldier's children wouldn't remember Christmas as "the day Daddy died." Despite their efforts, he died with roughly 35 minutes left to go - so Hawkeye moved the hands of the clock and said, "Look at that, it's not Christmas anymore."
  • Merlin (2008): While not technically a Christmas episode, the show's Grand Finale aired on Christmas Eve 2012. How did it end? Arthur dies in Merlin's arms after finally recognizing Merlin for all he did, leaving Gwen to rule Camelot alone and Merlin to await his destined return, up to the modern day. In addition, Gwaine dies after being tortured for information, and Morgana finally dies by Emrys/Merlin's hand, a fate she had tried to avoid.
  • Monk: Monk's wife was murdered during the Christmas season. By the time the sixth season rolls around and it marks ten years since her death, he's very bitter about the holiday. Specifically in the four Christmas episodes themselves, the series has this thanks to operating on a Victim of the Week basis.
    • "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa" (2005): One of Stottlemeyer's detectives drinks a bottle of poisoned port that had seemingly been addressed to Stottlemeyer, and is initially suspected to have been sent by an ex-con with a grudge against Stottlemeyer. Making it worse is that the detective is a family man who had just gotten back together with his wife, and the reason he was killed was that he'd been having an affair with the cop who organized the Secret Santa exchange, and she wasn't happy about him dumping her.
    • "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad" (2006): Monk is reunited with his dad, who has become a truck driver out of Texas since leaving his family. It's an awkward reunion that is further compounded when it turns out Jack's boss has been skimming from the trucking company, accidentally murdered another colleague who found out about it, and is having Jack be his patsy driving the truck he used that day so as to get rid of evidence linking him to the crime.
    • "Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa" (2007): It's the tenth anniversary of Trudy's death, so Monk is already in a bad mood when, whilst stuck in traffic with Natalie and Julie, a man in a Santa suit begins tossing presents down on the street below. Monk goes up to confront the guy, but things go from bad to worse as the Santa has a gun on him, and Monk is forced to shoot him in self-defense with said gun after a fight breaks out. Monk thus finds himself being made a social pariah by the press as he tries to clear his reputation and solve the crime.
    • "Mr. Monk and the Miracle" (2008): A homeless man is murdered, and his friends come to Monk to ask for help solving his death. While this is going on, Stottlemeyer is having back problems and is distanced from his family to the point his son doesn't pick up the phone. And the fountain at a monastery has begun to instantly cure anyone who drinks water from it. It all turns out to be a scam run by Stottlemeyer's pharmacist, who killed a partner who stole money from him years prior and buried his body where the fountain was erected. With the monastery planning to construct new classrooms on the fountain site, he enacted a major fraud using his patients as patsies, and he also killed the homeless man Monk is investigating because said man caught him painting a sign on Stottlemeyer's front door.
  • In one episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, Stoic Woobie Kenzie reveals to a suspect, and her coworkers, that she was engaged to a man named Jack who suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder following a tour of duty in the Middle East. Though she tried her hardest to help him readjust to civilian life, she woke up on Christmas morning and found that he had left her in the night; six years later, she still has no idea where he is.
  • Averted on offbeat British soap Night and Day. Since the show progressed at a slower pace than real life and therefore hadn’t 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.
  • On The O.C., Ryan's memories of Christmas aren't exactly happy, and after a series of bad things inevitably happen, he declares that "if there's cops and crying, well then it must be Christmas!"
  • An episode of Perfect Strangers had Mr. Gorpley being a royal Jerkass to everyone at Larry and Balki's Christmas party until everyone (save the resident Mypiat that invited him) had enough and wanted him gone. This prompted Gorpley to snarkily (then emotionally) reveal that many of his personal tragedies happened at Christmas time.
  • The second season of Paris Police 1900 (titled Paris Police 1905) begins on Christmas Eve. With the discovery of a bloody corpse in a park, followed by the tragic death of a baby.
  • 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.
  • The first Scrubs Christmas Episode starts off like this but then goes Away in a Manger. Still worth mentioning just for the song that plays as Turk's Christmas Spirit gradually gets worn away:
    On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
    Twelve beaten children,
    Eleven drive-by shootings,
    Ten frozen homeless,
    Nine amputations,
    Eight burn victims,
    Seven strangled shoppers,
    Six random knifings,
    Five suicides,
    Four beaten wives,
    Three ODs,
    Two shattered skulls,
    And a drunk who drove into a tree.
    • Anyone working in a hospital emergency room will tell you that this is Truth in Television, sadly.
  • Sesame Street: The Christmas special "Elmo Saves Christmas" features a 'what if' scenario that reveals that if a year of nothing but Christmases occurred, then on the next "real" Christmas (December 25th), pines would be out of business, people would be sick of watching TV because only It's a Wonderful Life plays, the Count would be bored of counting the days and be much gloomier than usual as a result, the economy would suffer due to businesses being closed, the carollers would have lost their voices, and Maria would've forgotten how to repair things due to a
  • Six Feet Under opens with family patriarch Nate Fisher Sr. dying in a car crash while trying to make it to Christmas dinner. Things spin out of control from there.
    Ruth: Your father's dead, and my roast is ruined.
  • Smallville has two Christmas episodes, Lexmas and Gemini. Guess how they turned out.
    • In Lexmas, it started out fine with we seeing Lex's perfect future, then let's just say Lex thinks money and power are the only things that could help him hold on to that, triggering his Start of Darkness.
      • The episode actually starts with Lex being critically injured by a gunshot.
    • In Gemini, Chloe and Jimmy are trapped in an elevator with a bomb, complete with Soundtrack Dissonance. Clark saves them, of course. Only that it is not Clark, but Bizarro, who only wants Chloe alive so she could help him track down Brainiac to defeat Clark.
  • 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 
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Mortal Coil" (which in real life aired one week before Christmas), the crew is preparing to celebrate the Talaxian equivalent Prixin, when Neelix is killed in a shuttle accident. Seven of Nine revives him, but Neelix has no memory of experiencing the afterlife which all his life he has believed in, and later has a dream that says all his beliefs are a lie and there's no point in living. As Neelix is almost driven to suicide, Chakotay convinces him that the dream might have simply been Neelix's own fears being reflected back to him and it is not meant to be taken as the truth.
  • In Tokumei Sentai Go Busters, the "birth" of the series' Big Bad, Messiah, occurred on Christmas Day 13 years prior to the beginning of the series; and he was only rendered a Sealed Evil in a Can thanks to a mass Heroic Sacrifice of the people on-site. During the series itself, Christmas is when Messiah is fully unsealed and threatens to consume the world again. There's a happy ending, though, as the Go-Busters manage to destroy Messiah for good.
  • The Veronica Mars episode "An Echolls Family Christmas" has a light-hearted A-plot involving stolen poker winnings, but the B-plot sees 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.
  • Watchmen has the White Night, a Christmas Eve massacre in which members of the Seventh Kalvery snuck into the homes of various members of the Tulsa police and killed them on site (with Angela Abar being one of the only cops to survive the incident). The attack would eventually lead to police officers being forced to keep their occupations a secret and to wear masks when on duty.
  • 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 after he suffers a complete mental breakdown on Christmas, to the point that the constant cheery Christmas carols flooding the hallways of the White House trigger severe traumatic flashbacks to his recent shooting.
    • Season 3's "Bartlet for America" is a flashback episode involving Leo's alcoholism and Bartlet's multiple sclerosis.
    • Season 4's "Holy Night" has Toby dealing with an unexpected visit from his estranged, former career criminal father, and CJ and Leo trying to stop a news story proving the Bartlet administration's involvement in Shareef's assassination.
  • 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.

  • Sufjan Stevens' song "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever", which is quite a Tear Jerker.
    • Followed several years later by "Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)"
  • The blink-182 song "I Won't Be Home for Christmas" is about a cynical man who hates being nice to people he can't stand. Over the course of the song, he attacks a group of carollers with a baseball bat and is arrested. The cherry on top is the line:
    "Even though we didn't have a tree, Christmas came a night early because a guy named Bubba unwrapped my package."
  • Billy Idol's song "Yellin' at the Xmas Tree"
  • "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" surely qualifies, since the lyrics specifically mention that this unfortunate incident happened on Christmas Eve.
  • In 2006, Twisted Sister released an album called "A Twisted Christmas," which consisted entirely of traditional Christmas carols through the lens of Heavy Metal.
  • This is the entire premise of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's third Christmas album, "The Lost Christmas Eve." The story of the album is about a man who has despised Christmas ever since his beloved wife died in childbirth on Christmas Eve; he gave his mute son up for adoption and turned his back on the entire holiday. Naturally, events transpire to make him rethink his position.
  • "Dead Winter Dead," by the related group Savatage, is a concept album about the horrific Bosnian War. The story's climax happens one Christmas Eve when the old cellist who plays in the town square is killed by an artillery barrage.
  • The Trope Namer may be Bob Rivers, a Seattle-based DJ who is famous for his black-humored Christmas parody albums named Twisted Christmas.
  • The Arrogant Worms have an album called Christmas Turkey, which is loaded with similarly dark-humored mayhem.
  • Karine Polwart's "Strange News" is about a real-life example when her cousin died on Christmas Day.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic did a couple of black-comedy Christmas songs: "Christmas At Ground Zero" in which nuclear war breaks out at Christmastime and "The Night Santa Went Crazy" in which Santa Claus goes Ax-Crazy and starts killing everybody at the North Pole workshop.
    The night Santa went crazy
    The night St. Nicholas flipped
    Broke his back for some milk and cookies
    Sounds to me like he was tired of getting gypped
  • A real biggie is "The Cat Carol", where a cat is locked outside her house on Christmas Eve and nobody will let her in, during a blizzard. She saves a mouse by wrapping herself around him and although the mouse survives, the cat freezes to death. Santa then comes by and turns the cat's body into a constellation that shines only at Christmas. This is possibly a religious metaphor.
  • There are several songs about being sick on Christmas:
    • "Got a Cold in the Node for Christmas" by Gayla Peevey is about a girl who caught a cold on Christmas.
    • "I Got a Cold for Christmas" is about a boy who caught a cold on Christmas.
    • "I'm Giving You My Cold for Christmas" is about a man who's tired of having a cold on Christmas and seeks to deliberately infect his girlfriend so that they can commiserate.
    • "It Sucks Being Sick at Christmas" is about a woman who's sick on Christmas.
  • "Circle of Steel" by Gordon Lightfoot is about an unfit mother getting drunk while waiting for CPS to come take her child, contrasted with the cheerful Christmas imagery outside her dirty tenement.
    'Deck the Halls' was the song that played in the flat next door where they shout all day.
    She tips her gin bottle back 'till it's gone; the child is strong.
    A week, a day, they will take it away, cause they know about all her bad habits.
  • Wall of Voodoo's "Shouldn't Have Given Him A Gun For Christmas", where the narrator's father gets in a drunken argument with a relative and it drives him into an Axe-Crazy rampage with the titular gift.

    Video Games 
  • Christmas Massacre has you playing as a psychotic man named Larry and going on a series of killing sprees around Christmas time.
  • Clock Tower 3 has a young 12-year-old piano prodigy named May Burton, who was brutally murdered by Sledgehammer on the night of Christmas Eve while her father was gone to war, but was killed in an explosion. Little May's body was found on Christmas Morning. The game protagonist Alyssa defeated Sledgehammer and returned the locket to May's ghost, and had her play the special song on the piano for her father, which reunited father and daughter as they descended to heaven.
  • Cold Call: It's Christmas Eve, and there's a monster loose in a house with the people previously inside having gone missing.
  • The mission Suffer with Me in Call of Duty: Black Ops II occurs shortly before Christmas. Hudson dies, Alex Mason may also die, Woods is crippled, and David Mason is traumatized.
  • 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.
  • D'LIRIUM begins with little Ponies celebrating New Year's Eve. However, When the Clock Strikes Twelve all the protagonist's friends are killed and gutted, and the festive mansion is transformed into an Eldritch Location crawling with demons. Only the occasional holiday tree and present box, or a series of lights hanging limply from the ceiling juxtaposed against bloody sigils and mutilated bodies remind the player of what the holiday they were supposed to be celebrating was before it all went to hell. To hammer the point home, if you get a game over, you get a shot of the corpse of the player character hung from holiday lights.
  • Friday Night Funkin' plays it for dark comedy: Daddy Dearest and Mommy Mearest battle the protagonist on the Mall Santa's throne while pointing a gun on him and the crowd only cares about the rap battle. The comedy becomes much darker when Monster takes over and makes a Christmas song about how he's going to cook the protagonist and his girlfriend for his holidays recipe.
  • Karen Sees: The game seems to be set around Christmastime. For one thing, there's a "Meet Santa" area on the second floor of The Mall. For another, an exterior screenshot shows Christmas trees in the mall parking lot.
  • This tends to happen every Crimbo in Kingdom of Loathing due to Uncle Crimbo making some big mistakes and requiring help from adventurers to bail him and the holiday out. Highlights include the penguin mafia, hostile corporate takeovers, the Borg coming 'round to assimilate everyone only for it to backfire on Uncle Crimbo himself, becoming the Crimborg...
  • The Hollijolli Village invasion in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. The music is a twisted version of Christmas music to drive the point home.
  • 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 minefield 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 in Alaska for six years before Metal Gear Solid rolled around.
  • In South Park: The Fractured but Whole, this is revealed to be Mitch Conner's ultimate plan: By getting himself elected as Mayor through the drug epidemic he started, he wants to turn every day into Christmas in a town where things get weirder during the holidays. When the kids travel to a Bad Future in which he succeeded, the town is in utter chaos due to the adults being wasted on cat piss and the Woodland Critters murdering everyone they see.
  • The festive time-themed Metro Square stage from the 2012 Twisted Metal game. During the pre-stage dialogues in Sweet Tooth's story mode for this level, Calypso invokes this trope with: "Do you like the holidays Sweet Tooth? I do. I, I love to see the people so happy. So excited. Because when they die violently, they're so surprised. Am I right? No one expects to die on Christmas".
  • Zombie Claus is about trying to survive inside your home while being pursued by a zombie Santa Claus.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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 play 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.
  • Nameless has every route's end take place on Christmas, in an amusement park. And in every route, either Eri or one of the dolls disappears at the blink of an eye.
  • The fourth case of the first Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game features a murder happening in the middle of a lake in the foggy night between December 24 and 25. Phoenix takes the case and discovers that another murder happened 15 years ago on December 28.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, the Momoi Department Store was burned down during the lead-up to Christmas, leading to multiple families dying while they were buying presents for their children and loved ones. The main soundtrack of the area is a dark and unsettling version of Jingle Bells.

    Web Animation 
  • In DEATH BATTLE!, the fight between Omni-Man and Homelander takes place during Christmas. Considering these two are Beware the Superman incarnate, and the fact that the conflict was caused by Homelander killing Debbie as a message for Omni-Man to stay out of his way, you can already tell this isn't going to be a pleasant holiday for either of them.
  • David Firth's original cartoon short made for Charlie Booker's Screenwipe Christmas Special was considered so violent offensive that he had to air another video instead. The short involved a crazed man digging up dead bodies to feed to his family. He shoots his wife and son when they are against this idea. He then beats his wife's body with a large log and saws through her head, among other things...
    "Saws are too difficult to use. BE EASIER TO USE!"
  • Stupid Kids: Boldogat és még boldogabbat (Merry and even more) has a Zombie Apocalypse of people who sold their souls to Facebook because it crashed.

    Web Original 
  • There's this spoof "history" of Santa's dictatorial reign over an elf slave empire, originally concocted by high school history teacher Chris Butler to entertain his students during an annual goofy-lecture event.
  • How to Survive Camping: The campgrounds are closed during winter, and for good reason, as ancient powers converge during that time. The creatures that appear during the season are even more threatening than usual, from a gigantic cat that will devour you if you haven't received new clothing, to a woman who will stuff your intestines with stones and straw for being "wicked" (which includes being messy around the house), to warriors in chainmail armor that will drag you to be drowned if you're not merry enough around Christmas.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: The two-part Christmas Episode "Holly Jolly Secrets" was a bit of a downer that revealed the Ice King's incredibly sad and grim back-story, but it ends on a high note when Finn and Jake end up re-inventing Christmas in their efforts to cheer up the Ice King and bond with him.
  • In an American Dad! Christmas Episode, Stan mentions the so-called "Christmas Rapist" (though due to Political Overcorrectness he's been renamed "the Holiday Rapist").
    • A later episode has Steve accidentally kill Santa, with Santa swearing revenge after being revived. They manage to take refuge in a mountain man's home and fend off his forces long enough for Christmas day to arrive, meaning Santa has to end his onslaught and leave. The next Christmas episode has the Smiths realize that fighting for their lives to survive Santa's wrath has become their Christmas tradition.
  • Amphibia's Christmas Episode "Froggy Little Christmas" features King Andrias hijacking a giant Santa parade float robot with nanobots and controlling it in an attempt to kill Anne. Fortunately, Anne and her team manage to defeat it.
  • Doug's Christmas Story, where after accidentally biting Beebe Bluff and injuring her leg, Porkchop is sent to trial and is almost put to sleep. The Wham Episode of the series.
  • In Futurama, Christmas is a time of getting together... to take shelter from Robot Santa, a robot version of Santa Claus who was programmed with exceedingly high standards of "nice" and whose idea of punishing "naughty" people is to kill them, preferably with heavy artillery.
    Amy: He knows when you are sleeping.
    Prof. Farnsworth: He knows when you're on the can.
    Leela: He'll hunt you down and blast your ass from here to Pakistan!
    Zoidberg: Ohhh!
    Hermes: You'd better not breathe, you'd better not move.
    Bender: You're better off dead, I'm tellin' you, dude.
  • Moral Orel:
    • The (intended) first season finale, ironically titled "The Best Christmas Ever" is about Orel's parents deciding to separate after Clay confronted Bloberta with the (completely true) accusation that Shapey wasn't his son. Ultimately they choose to stay together for appearance's sake, despite both of them being miserable. This was the show's first hint of its oncoming Cerebus Syndrome. The ending is Orel waiting for God to grant a Christmas Miracle (with two minutes left) while looking up at the sky. It's implied nothing happens.
    • A year later was slightly better for Orel, in which he found a true father figure in Coach Daniel Stopframe, but he still had to deal with the fact that his father is an abusive jerk and that he'll be limping for the rest of his life because of his father's neglect. (Then again, those facts are true because Orel had a Twisted Easter weekend where his father shoots him and then was too drunk to get Orel medical treatment for an entire day, so it evens out.) It's arguably worse for Clay; he finally comes to terms with his bisexuality and confesses his love for Daniel, only for Daniel, who by this point also knows how abusive Clay is, to reject him, potentially ruining his marriage to Bloberta in the process. Ultimately, it doesn't end up spoiling Christmas for Orel, as he's seen in the Distant Finale celebrating it with his childhood sweetheart Christina, his son, and his newborn daughter.
  • The Bad Future shown to Grouchy in The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol is that all his fellow Smurfs will be captured by Gargamel on Christmas Day.

    Real Life 
  • Only four days before Christmas 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in the small Scottish town of Lockerbie after a bomb detonated in the cargo hold, killing all 259 onboard and 11 people on the ground.
  • The Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004.
  • The Cyclone Tracy hit the Australian city of Darwin around 10 pm on Christmas Eve, 1974, and dissipated on Boxing Day.
  • The storm Lothar that ravaged Europe on December 26th, 1999.
  • The Penlee lifeboat disaster, in which a merchant ship and the RNLI search-and-rescue boat sent to take her crew off were both wrecked with the loss of all hands.
  • Jason Wingreen, the first voice actor of Boba Fett passed away on 25th December 2015.
  • Ronald Simmons's killing spree, which lasted from December 22nd to the 28th.
  • The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut (which claimed the lives of, among others, 20 grade-schoolers) ruined Christmas 2012 for the families of the victims, if not the entire town when it took place on December 14. USA Today ran a story noting that there were people who took down their decorations, finding them inappropriate.
  • It was Christmas Eve 2002 when Scott Peterson called his mother-in-law to tell her that her daughter Laci was missing. 4 months later, what was left of Laci and the baby she was carrying washed up on a beach, and Scott was arrested, tried, and convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence in a California prison. Even if Scott had been innocent, one can reasonably assume that Christmas has been a very sad occasion for her family ever since.
  • This trope was scarily employed by Canadian serial killers Karla Homolka and her then-husband Paul Bernardo. Not only did they end up ruining Christmas 1990, as well as every subsequent Christmas for Karla's own family by their role in her kid sister, Tammy's, death, note , but they also ruined every Father's Day beyond 1991 for the family of their second victim, Leslie Mahaffy, and every Easter since 1992 for the family of their final victim, Kristen French.
  • In the early hours of Christmas Eve 1910, Hawes Junction station on the Settle to Carlisle line was a hive of activity. Several locomotives that were used to assist trains on the steep climbs were due to head back, two of them northbound. However, the signalman forgot about them, and likely had trouble seeing them with the driving rain. He cleared the line for an overnight express to Glasgow, and the two locomotives, on the same line, set off. The express, with clear signals, passed the station and caught up to them a mile further on. The front two coaches were crushed, and the gas lighting caught fire. Twelve passengers died.
  • In the Sendling Christmas Massacre of 1705, almost three thousand Bavarian rebels tried to storm the city of Munich while it was occupied by Austrian troops, only to be betrayed, surrounded, forced to surrender, and massacred in the same night. Still widely known as the Sendlinger Mordweihnacht (Sendling Murder Christmas).
  • Just three days before Christmas in 2014, the driver of a bin lorry in Glasgow blacked out and mounted the pavement, killing six people — including three members of the same family, one of whom was only 18.
  • The Tangiwai train wreck, which claimed 151 lives on Christmas Eve, 1954 in what remains New Zealand's worst rail disaster.
  • Air France Flight 8969 (as featured in Mayday), which was hijacked on Christmas Eve 1994 by terrorists who managed to kill three passengers before they were dispatched by French special forces in Marseilles.
  • On 20 December 1987, the ferry Doña Paz, which was loaded with far more passengers than it was designed to carry, many of them visiting relatives for the holidays, collided with the ocean tanker Vector. Both ships caught fire and sank, with more than 4,300 casualties and only 25 survivors — the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster in history.
  • El Niño, a weather phenomenon which causes severe conditions worldwide, gets its name from the shortened form of El Niño de Navidad — a Spanish allusion to the newborn Christ — because it tends to be strongest around Christmastime.
  • The rapid spread of the Omicron variant during the COVID-19 Pandemic coincided with the 2021 holiday season - twelve months after the start of the Alpha variant's surge.