Which ‘Simpsons’ character wins Christmas? We watched every Christmas episode to find out
The very first ‘Simpsons’ episode — a Christmas episode — debuted 30 years ago today. So we made a list and checked it twice
SALT LAKE CITY — On Dec. 17, 1989, “The Simpsons” premiered on Fox.
That Christmas-themed first episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” started a phenomenon. And now here we are, 30 years later, with “The Simpsons” still airing new episodes (672 and counting). It is both America’s longest-running sitcom and longest-running scripted primetime TV series.
Over that 30 years, “The Simpsons” has aired 14 different Christmas episodes. To honor the anniversary — and because “The Simpsons” is now on Disney Plus — we watched all 14 Christmas episodes to determine which Simpson wins Christmas.
Our methods were simple: watch each episode, rank each Simpson by how they fared in that episode, and tally each character’s points over the 14 episodes (a first place finish in a single episode is worth one point, second place is worth two points, etc., with the overall winner having the fewest number of points — kind of like golf).
I’ve excluded Maggie from competition — she only has a story arc in two of the 14 episodes. This is a competition between Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa.
Let’s get to it.
Fourth place: Marge
Marge and Lisa actually had identical scores, but when Marge loses an episode, she really loses. Whether it’s public humiliation (Season 7) or spousal neglect (Seasons 1, 17, 26, 30), Marge unquestionably bears the brunt of her family’s Christmas antics.
Many of these episodes revolve around Homer, Bart and Lisa trying to redeem their sins against Marge. She puts up with a lot.
“Let me tell you something about your mother,” Homer tells the kids in Season 30’s Christmas episode. “She is always as happy as the saddest one of us.”
Third place: Lisa
All of her family members (minus Maggie) swing big in these episodes, but Lisa is rarely the driving force, for either good or evil. Nothing wagered, nothing gained.
Even when Lisa means well, she unwittingly sets chaos in motion (Season 15, when Homer misinterprets her advice and steals the entire town’s presents; or Season 18, when Springfield ne’er-do-well Gil Gunderson is fired for giving Lisa the department store’s last Malibu Stacy doll). She’s a classic middle child, at the mercy of family dynamics beyond her control.
Second place: Bart
Respect for Bart. When he does something, he does it with gusto. His behavior in Season 1 Episode 1 — getting a tattoo that costs his family their Christmas savings to remove, but urging Homer to adopt the failed race greyhound Santa’s Little Helper — sets the tone for 30 years of his Christmas behavior. He goes on to burn down the family’s Christmas tree (Season 9), to shoplift (Season 7), and even become a deadbeat dad (Season 23). He also redeems himself nearly every time.
First place: Homer
When Homer screws up — Seasons 9, 15, 17 and 30 — he usually finds a way to make it right. And when he’s not a Christmas episode’s driving force, he’s usually the jolliest of the bunch.
“There’s a trickle-down theory here,” he says in Season 15’s Christmas episode. “If I’m happy, I’m less abusive to the rest of you.” He can be surprisingly self aware at times.
And, if the Christmas episodes are any indication, Homer is genuinely learning to be a better person as the series continues. In most of the show’s recent Christmas episodes (Seasons 23, 26, 28 and 30), Homer goes out of his way to do the right thing, even when he knows it’ll cost him. Season 23’s Christmas episode takes place 30 years in the future and an aging Homer has become a lovable, thoughtful grandpa. “People learn from their mistakes,” Marge says, “and your father made so many mistakes.”
Other stuff we noticed
- Grampa Simpson gets treated worse than anyone: It’s as sad as it is funny. We still love you, Abe.
- Marge’s voice is getting raspier: It’s been gradual, but binge-watching these episodes makes you notice that all of Marge’s heavy sighs have taken a toll. Springfield never ages, but the show’s voice actors do.
- Kent Brockman has the funniest lines: Springfield’s local news anchor appears in these Christmas episodes pretty often, and his lines are usually the funniest part. Some personal favorites: “For there will be no fire truck for little Bart, no sweater for little Lisa, no Cajun sausage for little Homer” (Season 9), and “This just in: Santa Claus is dead — or he might as well be, because there’s an even fatter man who’s holding families at nice-point” (Season 15).
- The show is still funny: I was raised during the show’s golden years (Seasons 2-8), and watched its decline in real time. After a while, this fall from grace just made me sad, so I stopped watching. Since there’s only one Christmas episode from these golden years, I expected this to be a slog. But I found myself laughing a lot, even during the late-period episodes. In fact, these recent Christmas episodes retain the spirit of earnestness that the show lost for a lot of years. Maybe “The Simpsons” hasn’t forgotten its roots after all.