Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas is a holiday that tends to not get too much attention on Friends. And yet, it just wouldn’t feel like the festive season without a sing-a-long with Phoebe and the mention of the Holiday Armadillo.
While some seasons are without question more ‘jolly’ than others, there’s nothing better to get the festive feeling than sitting down to a Friends Christmas special.
If you’re looking to spend a little bit quality Chrimbo time with Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey and Ross, but don’t know where to start, take a look at our definitive list of festive Friends episodes, ranked from not-s0-great to bloody brilliant.
10. The One with Christmas in Tulsa (Season nine, episode 10)
While the episode gets off to a typically Christmassy start, as Monica decorates the tree, Ross wraps presents and Phoebe claims to have written A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore, the festive bubble is quickly popped by the news that Chandler has a load of paperwork to file by the end of the year or he’ll be fired, so he won’t be able to spend Christmas or New Year in New York.
I’m definitely not a fan of the whole ‘Chandler working in Tulsa’ storyline, because he and Monica are without a doubt the best couple on Friends, and having them apart feels unnatural. It also has sad connotations because of Matthew Perry’s poor health at the time, as it’s widely believed – although never actually confirmed – that the storyline was written in so he could less time on set and more time focusing on his health, following a stint in rehab for alcohol and drug addiction.
Although the episode offers some good ol’ nostalgia from former Christmas shows, that’s pretty much all it has to offer, sadly.
9. The One with the Monkey (Season one, episode 10)
Despite the fact that many Friends fans still believe the earlier series are the best, the first festive episode is somewhat lacking in comparison to other years. The episode centres around New Year rather than Christmas, as the six of them make a pact to not have a date so they can be ‘just as lonely as each other’ when the ball drops. Things don’t go to plan when everyone but Ross ends up with a date (unless you’re counting Marcel), and slowly but surely everyone’s dates go wrong, one by one, and they’re all left, well, miserable.
Sadly, for me, this episode doesn’t provide any of the light-hearted warmth you’d expect to receive from a festive special, and so it kind of lets the side down. Not to mention the fact that David could not have gone to Minsk. Can you imagine how different the show would have been if they had stayed together the entire time?!
8. The One with the Inappropriate Sister (Season five, episode 10)
While this episode has a brilliant festive storyline going through the middle of it – in the form of Phoebe and her ‘no more Mrs Nice Bucket’ – the rest is pretty much lacking in festivity. Ross ends up falling out with Chandler after forcing Joey to write his own play while bored on sabbatical from work, and Rachel ends up in the grossest love triangle of all time, between herself, Danny… and Danny’s sister.
After realising how fortunate she has become since her time on the streets, Phoebe decides to give back by gathering money for charity – despite the fact she lied about being able to sing Merry Christmas in 25 different languages to get the good spot outside Macy’s.
It’s always great when Phoebe reverts back to her old street ways – especially when it comes to threatening innocent old ladies – but sadly, that’s about as festive as this episode gets.
7. The One with the Creepy Holiday Card (Season eight, episode 11)
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find The One with the Creepy Holiday Card virtually impossible to watch, thanks to Ross’s excruciating inability to have ‘the talk’ with Mona. After Mona suggests they send out a holiday card together, Ross ends up giving her a key to his apartment, before later changing the locks, just to avoid having the awkward conversation about where their relationship is going.
‘So, to sum up: We’re having fun, you look young.’ It’s seriously unbearable, in a can’t stop looking kinda way. Fortunately, the episode is propped up by Rachel’s pregnancy hormones leaving her feeling ‘erotically charged’, which was a seriously underrated storyline in my opinion.
6. The One Where Rachel Quits (Season three, episode 10)
While it might not seem like the most Christmassy Friends episode there is, as Joey and Chandler talk Rachel into quitting at Central Perk and Ross accidentally breaks a little girl’s leg, Phoebe learns an important lesson about Christmas trees and their destiny!
When Joey is about to head off to his temp job selling Christmas trees, Phoebe tells him she’s against ‘innocent trees being cut down in their prime and their corpses grotesquely dressed in, like, tinsel and twinkly lights’. Of course, Pheebs comes around when Joey explains that those trees were born to be Christmas trees and they’re fulfilling their Christmas destiny by making people happy. But, it all goes downhill when Phoebe comes to visit Joey and sees some of the dead, brown trees being thrown into the chipper.
After desperately trying (and failing) to get Joey’s customers to buy the dead trees so they avoid their fate in the chipper, Joey and Monica surprise Phoebe by filling the apartment with all the dead trees and allowing them to live out their destiny!
‘It’s like night of the living dead Christmas tree!’ Easily one of the best Christmas moments of the entire show.
5. The One with the Girl From Poughkeepsie (Season four, episode 10)
This episode deserves a high ranking purely based on the fact it contains one of the most catchy songs of all time, and I’m not talking about Smelly Cat.
‘Happy Hanukkah, Monica! May your Christmas be snowy, Joey! Happy New Year, Chandler and Ross! Spin the dreidel, Rachel!’ Of course, Phoebe is forced to rewrite it when Rachel points out that her name doesn’t rhyme with dreidel, but we all know that nothing rhymes with her stupid name!
Meanwhile, Joey goes to work at Monica’s restaurant just so she can fire him and show everyone who’s boss, and her epic ‘It’s my way or the highway’ speech is one of her best monologues. Not to mention Joey ranting that ‘It’s going to be a lean Christmas in the Dragon household this year. LEAN LEAN LEAN!’
4. The One with Phoebe’s Dad (Season two, episode nine)
From baking homemade cookies for Mr Treegor to spying on Ugly Naked Guy’s Christmas balls, The One with Phoebe’s Dad is without question, one of the most festive Friends episodes there are.
Monica and Rachel opt to gift Christmas cookies to the mailman, the newspaper delivery man and the super instead of tips because they’re broke, and a broken radiator knob turns the girls’ Christmas party into a tropical-themed sweatbox. Phoebe opts not to knock on her estranged father’s door, and because her, Joey and Chandler were out for so long, the boys are forced to buy all their Christmas presents from the gas station on the way home.
The episode has a few stand-out moments, including Ross – aka Gel Boy – trying to ‘seize the day’ to impress Rachel, by losing $50 to Mr Treegor, and the boys gifting Monica condoms for Christmas because they’re ‘ribbed for your pleasure’. All in all, an absolutely solid festive special.
3. The One with All the Resolutions (Season five, episode 11)
While the focus of The One With All the Resolutions is undoubtedly New Year, Ross’s disastrous leather pants situation is enough to class it as one of the best festive episodes there are. The gang all set themselves a number of ambitious resolutions, which include Chandler not being able to make fun of anyone and Rachel unable to gossip.
After finding out about Chandler and Monica’s secret romance, Rachel desperately tries to share the news with Joey without accidentally gossiping, while Joey ‘nails the old lady’ when attempting Phoebe’s unorthodox method of learning the guitar. Despite it not being the cheery sing-song festive theme we might expect from Friends, it includes one of the most important revelations of the entire show.
And, I think we can all relate to Ross walking into Monica and Rachel’s, leather pants in hand, and announcing, ‘This year was supposed to be great!’ Real 2020 vibes.
2. The One with the Holiday Armadillo (Season seven, episode 10)
The One with the Holiday Armadillo is unquestionably the most recognisable festive episode of them all, as Ross desperately attempts to teach son Ben about Hanukkah. Every time he begins his tale with, ‘Years and years ago, there was these people called the Maccabees,’ he’s interrupted with Christmas songs from Ben, Chandler in a Santa costume, and even Superman!
After failing to find a Santa costume at such short notice, Ross is stuck with a giant armadillo costume, resulting in The Holiday Armadillo from Texas, Santa’s representative for all the southern states and Mexico! Finally, the Holiday Armadillo, Santa and Superman come together to get Ben excited about Hanukkah, as he learned about ‘when Superman flew all the Jews out of Egypt!’
Although, sadly, Chandler didn’t get to shake his belly like a bowl full of jelly, the festive feel-good is more than worthy of one of the very top spots.
1. The One with the Routine (Season six, episode 10)
From the opening scene, which sees the gang decorating the tree and Ross telling stories about Hanukkah, to Phoebe and Rachel dragging Chandler into hunting for Monica’s Christmas presents, The One with the Routine is, without question, the elite Christmas episode. Chandler is humiliated when it turns out Phoebe and Rachel look for Christmas presents every single year, and even look at the back of his closet where he ‘stores that stuff for Joey’.
‘Ps, Chandler, I knew they’d break you.’
But it goes without saying that Monica and Ross steal the show when they perform ‘the routine’ while performing as dancers at Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve, with Joey and Janine. One of my all-time favourite things about Friends is when Ross and Monica revert back to their childhood sibling ways, and the routine delivers in every possible aspect. Iconic.
Christmas might not be at the top of the Friends priority list, but sometimes sitting down to a festive episode is just as good – if not better – than any of the Christmas classic movies.
You can watch every single episode of Friends on Netflix now.