In this year's Christmas episode written by Tim Long (and the last episode of the 20th century), Bart and Lisa (and their main recurring classmates) get snowed in at the school due to a freak blizzard—Principal Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie are the only adults around, due all the other school staff/faculty being at some "emergency caucus" (they're at a ski lodge). Principal Skinner must call upon his skills as a drill sergeant to keep the kids in line (which doesn't work, as Bart and the others lead a revolution).
- Angry Fist-Shake: Homer does this when he refuses to leave the circus during a storm, demanding that they nourish the child within him.Homer: NOURISH!
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the kids realize their predicament snowed into the school building...Nelson: We're trapped in the school!
Milhouse: We're gonna miss Christmas!
Skinner: I fixed the DVD!
- Artistic License Physics: Skinner claims that it's physically impossible to climb up a rope. It actually is possible, just very difficult (though he may have meant that he couldn't climb the rope while stuffed in a sack from the neck down...)
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Bart shouts "di di mau" at Skinner because he's a Vietnam veteran, which is a grammatically incorrect way of saying "go faster." It's actually a Shout-Out to The Deer Hunter.
- Ascended to Carnivorism: Apparently Vietnamese elephants eat people.Skinner: That elephant ate my entire platoon.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Chalmers demonstrates, yet again, that he's very lapsing as a Reasonable Authority Figure whenever he feels like it when he demands to know if there's an explanation for all of the insanity of the episode...and when he's told that there is an explanation, he says it's all he needs to know and leaves.
- Principal Skinner told the students they'd watch a story about a grinchy creature that almost stole Christmas. Then he showed "The Christmas that Almost Wasn't but Then Was."
- Earlier in the episode, the radio announced that all schools were closed, including Springfield Elementary (Bart: GASP) My Dear Watson Detective School. Then it mentions Springfield Elementary School, and after Bart and Lisa cheered, it added, "...is open."
- Chief Wiggum appears to be writing his name in the snow, then asks Lou to shake out the last few drops. It turns out Wiggum was using coffee he was pouring from a Thermos.
- Marge seeing the flexible female acrobats gives her ideas, making us think she's referring to sexual positions... but then we see her thinking of using contortion skills to clean.
- Beyond the Impossible: Although you won't see it on the TV version of the episode, after Milhouse tears up and crumples Lisa's slightly unflattering permanent record, it not only reassembles and uncrumples itself, the page then reasserts itself within the permanent record book, the book closes on its own, and then the drawer it's in closes on its own.
- The Bore: Skinner refuses to shut down the school no matter what ever (even if that means forcing the students to risk getting killed because of the overly-icy roads and having to just sit around because there are no teachers), he picks the crappiest Christmas film in the history of the world to show during that time (he's the only one that shows anything other than pained boredom at seeing it) and he attempts to maintain control, even if that makes him a complete tyrant. It's even mentioned in passing that he ruined all of the books in the library by "spending many hours crossing out the sass-back".
- Brief Accent Imitation: Lisa and Homer briefly speak in a French accent at the beginning:Marge: Ready for the circus, Homer?
Lisa: Le Cirque de Pureé. We've had tickets since Septembre.
Homer: But I want to watch Brett Favre.
- Call-Back: When Ned tries to remind Homer of his Mr. Plow business, Homer responds, "I think I know my own life, Ned." This is a call back to a similar remark he made in "Mom and Pop Art", when he screws up a Continuity Nod to "Brush with Greatness".
- Continuity Nod: Upon reading his permanent record, Bart read "Underachiever and proud of it?" and asked how old that thing was.
- Also, Flanders asks Homer whatever happened to his Mr. Plow business (for those who don't know, an unseasonably warm winter and Komatsu Motors repossessing the plow Homer never made payments on is why Homer doesn't have his Mr. Plow business anymore), and points out that he still has the jacket (which Homer kept around because Marge likes it when Homer wears it in bed).
- Contortionist: Marge watches some of these perform at Le Cirque de Pureé.Marge: Oh, look at those exotic positions! Watching those women is giving me ideas... (imagines herself contorting her body as she cleans the bathroom)
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: The events of the episode could've been avoided if Skinner closed the school like all the others did due to the snow day.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The title to The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was.
- Ear Worm: Even though Homer cannot remember being Mr. Plow, he remembers the jingle.
- End-of-Episode Silliness: On the way home from rescuing the kids, the car fumes get to Homer again and he hallucinates Lisa as a camel and Bart as a harem girl.
- Epic Fail:
- When Homer attempted to make a snow angel, he ended up making a snow devil instead (which, according to Homer, always happens).
- At one point during the movie the kids were watching, the film broke in half and the projector caught fire. Nelson then mocked Skinner, saying he should've gotten a DVD, to which Skinner replied it was a DVD.
- Fridge Logic: Invoked when the students rummage through the file cabinets while Skinner is tied up.Nelson: Hey, look how much Skinner makes. $25,000 a year!
Bart: Let's see. He's forty years old, times 25 grand. Whoa! He's a millionaire!
Skinner: I wasn't a principal when I was one!
Nelson: Plus, in the summer, he paints houses!
Milhouse: He's a billionaire!
- Gym Class Rope Climb: As revenge for Skinner being such hard-ass, Bart and the other classmates force Skinner to climb a rope. Skinner protests that it's physically impossible.
- Halfway Plot Switch: The episode starts out with the Simpsons attending a French-Canadian circus, but then a snowstorm rolls in and blows the circus away.
- Hand Wave: Flanders explains his car's lack of airbags by saying "The church opposes them for some reason."
- Hydrant Geyser: Homer crashes a fire hydrant on Ned's car, trapping both of them when the water freezes over.
- I'm Standing Right Here: While Homer and Flanders were trying to drive to school to rescue the kids, Flanders once believed they ran over something. Homer said he hoped it was Flanders.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: When Bart moans that everyone is off except the students of Springfield Elementary, Marge denies that, saying that adults still have to go to work...only for Homer to come in happily saying that he doesn't have to go to the power plant thanks to the snow.
- Jerkass Has a Point: While Skinner was needlessly strict, he was also trying his best to keep the elementary school children safe. Even when he gets his comeuppance he's essentially proven right, because he manages to collapse Bart's snow tunnel using only a few quick jabs with a mop. Bart's plan of the children, Skinner and Willie using it to escape could easily have gone badly wrong (then again, Willie and the others say the tunnel is pretty firmly built and Skinner has to poke on it for a while with tools to destroy it, so if anything it just cements him even more as an unwitting tyrant).
- Lead In: Homer watching a football show on television. He finally accepts going to the circus when Marge and Lisa's insistence makes him miss one of the hosts' zings, and he moans about how he will never be able to catch up with the rest of the narration.
- Locked Out of the Loop: After Chalmers arrives at the end, demanding an explanation for what happened at the school, Bart says that there is an explanation...whereupon Chalmers leaves, since "[he's] happy" that at least an explanation exists.
- MacGyvering: Homer and Flanders improvise a snow plow by attaching a piece of a house's rooftop (Flanders', and Homer sawed off the middle part, leaving a gigantic hole) to the front of Flanders' compact sedan.
- Mushroom Samba: The fumes getting inside the car cause Homer to hallucinate that he's a sultan with a harem and a hose full of salad dressing.
- Mustache Vandalism: When the kids take over the school, Milhouse decides to draw mustaches on paintings of former Presidents. He does it to portraits of Warren Harding and Woodrow Wilson but doesn't know what to do with William Howard Taft, who already has a mustache.
- Negative Continuity: Played with. Flanders recalls perfectly well that Homer used to have a snow-plow business ("Mr. Plow") and Homer still has the business' jacket (which he's wearing at that exact moment) and is still capable of singing the business' jingle. Homer is utterly unable to recall this and insists that this is the first time he's ever done any snow-plowing.
- Non-Giving-Up School Guy: All of the events of the episode happen because Skinner absolutely refuses to close his school, even if a snow day has been officially declared and there are no teachers available. The children nearly get killed on the way to the school, courtesy of Otto driving like crazy and lots of ice on the road.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: During one of Homer's hallucinations, he is entertained by some belly dancers, but shoos them away:Homer: Enough. I grow weary of your sexually suggestive dancing.
- Oh, Crap!/Rule of Three: The kids shouted the first time when a snow storm got them stuck inside school, the second when they realized it'd make them miss Christmas, and the last and loudest when Principal Skinner announced his lame Christmas movie could be watched again.
- Orwellian Edit: Among many other details tossed around during the episode regarding Skinner's ways of ruling over the school, it turns out that he's spent many hours at the library "crossing out the sass-back" of the books (whatever that means, especially with his way of thinking. It says a lot when Lisa is okay with burning them).
- Out-of-Character Moment: When kids are burning books, Lisa is with them which is confusing considering that Lisa promotes education and would of at least tried to sway them from burning certain books.
- However, it's implied that many of the books were already ruined by Skinner, who "spent hours crossing out the sass-back."
- Padding: Invoked: "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, But Then Was" features a song that is apparently two hours long.
- Rage Breaking Point: Skinner thwarting Bart's escape attempt and destroying his escape tunnel winds up being the straw that breaks the students' back. However, it's downplayed in that, once it's clear he's trapped, Bart rallies the students into taking over the school.
- However, it's played straight when Willie refuses to take any more abuse from Skinner after protesting destroying Bart's escape tunnel.
- Scream Discretion Shot: The kids scream twice when they realize that A) the school has been showed in, and B) they're gonna miss Christmas. Then Skinner comes out of the classroom to announce that he has fixed his crappy Christmas movie DVD. Cue an outside shot of the school as the kids scream loudly.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- Not wanting anything to do with a school being open during a snow day, the teachers instead attended an "emergency caucus" (which turns out to be a day at a ski resort).
- The hamster after Principal Skinner orders him to chew through his (dodge) ball sack.
- Self-Serving Memory: Parodied.Ned: Hey, whatever happened to the plow from your old snowplow business?
Homer: I never had a snowplow business.
Ned: Sure you did — Mr. Plow. You're wearing the jacket right now.
Homer: I think I know my own life, Ned. (proceeds to sing the Mr. Plow jingle)
- Shout-Out: The title of the episode is a parody of Smilla's Sense of Snow.
- SoCalization: Most school districts in the United States either close down every school, or don't close down any schools at all. However, it is common in Tim Long's native Canada for the principals of individual schools to decide whether school is cancelled.
- Spoiler Title: The Christmas That Almost Wasn't But Then Was.
- A Storm Is Coming: When the weather starts acting up, Sideshow Mel exclaims these words, adding, "I can feel it in my bone."
- Strangely Specific Horoscope: Subverted. When Homer and Ned crash Ned's car with his rooftop attached inside a crackers factory into a salt silo, a security guard says that his horoscope was right, but when he takes the paper out, it only says, "You will face challenges today."
- Stylistic Suck: In-Universe. The Christmas That Almost Wasn't But Then Was is very much this, considering the reindeer are obviously cardboard cutouts, an elf appears onscreen for no reason other than to say he's happy, a stagehand appears onscreen, a sequence supposedly lasts two hours where a hobgoblin serenades a shepherdess, and the plot, despite the title, has almost nothing to actually do with Christmas. Unsurprisingly, it bores the kids to death.
- Suckiness Is Painful: There is no other way to describe The Christmas That Almost Wasn't But Then Was (and, sure enough, Skinner is the only one who is immune). When the kids hear that Skinner fixed the projector, this is what makes them belt out a Skyward Scream.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Principal Skinner. First, he keeps Springfield Elementary open despite every other school closing and all the teachers going on a ski trip, resulting in them being snowed in. Then, in his efforts to prevent anyone from ending up like his platoon in 'Nam, refused to let anyone leave even when they had the proper means to, becoming tyrannical. This reached its peak when he actually demanded that the escape tunnel Bart had dug be caved in, something even Willie felt was unnecessary. This act ended up biting him in the butt when he got trapped in the collapsing tunnel and as a result, lost control of the school.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: A really weird example: Skinner becomes even more tyrannical than usual for the sake of trying to keep the kids safe during a snow-in.
- Writing Lines: Bart forces Skinner to write "I ain't not a dorkus" (which Skinner calls "a grammatical nightmare"). Bart also shows little sympathy to Skinner's complaints about a cramp in his wrist, demonstrating that all his years of doing it have left Bart with a wrist that "sounds like a cement mixer".