December 17, 2020
The holidays are finally here! After such a hectic year, just about everyone is looking for nostalgia and a chance to feel normal again. And of course, there is nothing more nostalgic than putting on Christmas pajamas, drinking hot chocolate, and watching Disney Christmas episodes.
Rather than scrolling through Disney+ to pick a Christmas episode at random, this list has them all in one spot—and if they’re worth watching or not. If the show was on Disney Channel between 1999 and 2010, it’s on the list.
The Nice List:
Episodes that will put you in good spirits
“The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”
- S1, E21, “Christmas at the Tipton”
- The nostalgia comes full force in this episode. Not only are there great Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramírez moments, which really make the whole show, but it feels good to watch it. The only misstep of the episode is the cheesy reference to the Nativity—Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary have to stay in the hotel lobby because there are no rooms at the Tipton, and her baby arrives unexpectedly (and very unrealistically).
- S2, E13, “A Very Possible Christmas”
- Kim’s one day off of the year is Christmas, and she’s excited to be with her family. Ron is just excited for a cartoon snowman show he watches every year, but it gets cancelled. Shego and Dr. D know Kim will be busy and plan the worst. Ron tries to tackle the problem alone as a gift to Kim, but disaster of course ensues. Full of nostalgia and a relatively good ratio of good to cheesy jokes, this one is worth watching.
“Phil of the Future”
- S2, E15, “Christmas Break”
- This episode is not as Christmas-y as some of the others, but the plot feels original and unique. Phil tells Keely the story of how he first met her, and his parents tell the story of how they got the house and ended up stuck in 2004. It’s an enjoyable and easy-to-watch episode. Even half of the iconic Aly & AJ duo would be enough to put a show on the nice list, though.
- S1, E15, “Heck of a Hanukkah”
- Yay for representation! Although episodes may have one side character that celebrates something other than Christmas, this is the one and only that’s dedicated to Hanukkah. That alone helped it secure its spot on the nice list. In this episode, Louis ruins all of the gifts and gets grounded, so he dramatically wishes he was never born. He gets to see what that would look like, and the episode is sweet and again, nostalgic. Like most of the shows, it gets a little corny, but overall, it’s a good episode.
“That’s So Raven”
- S2, E4, “Escape Claus”
- Half the laughs on this one may result from the early 2000’s fashion, but it hits high on the nostalgia meter and puts you in the Christmas spirit. Raven opens a gift early from her parents but ruins it at school, so she spends the whole holiday trying to get a new one and not get in trouble. It has a sweet message to it that differs from the normal “Christmas is about giving” that most of the other episodes have, and it ends with a performance of “Silent Night.”
“Good Luck Charlie”
- S4, E17, “Good Luck Jessie: NYC Christmas Part 1”
- Everyone loves a crossover episode! PJ and Teddy go to New York, where they of course meet Jessie and the kids. The Duncan family back in Denver try to figure out what Charlie wants for Christmas. It may be predictable, but it’s enjoyable.
- S3, E7, “Good Luck Jessie: NYC Christmas Part 2”
- The plot here is not the strongest, but there’s more interaction between the two shows’ characters. Plus, Zuri is full of sass. Unfortunately, the ending is weakened by a very auto-tuned performance from Jessie. (“Jessie” premiered in 2011, but as fans continue to mourn Cameron Boyce’s death, it adds extra nostalgia to the show)
- S2, E20, “Xtreme Xmas”
- Nostalgia alone puts this one on the nice list, because the plot is not great. It’s got elves, a cheesy Christmas Carol reference, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler as Santa Claus. But there’s something about the outfits, the editing style, and the low-quality resolution that make it worth watching anyway.
“Phineas and Ferb”
- S2, E37, “Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation!”
- Full of classic Christmas songs and jokes that are funny no matter what age you are, there’s something so endearing and joyful about this episode. In this episode, Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s inator marks everyone in Danville as naughty, so Phineas and Ferb have to tackle Santa’s job themselves.
- S3, E15, “A Phineas and Ferb Family Vacation”
- Not only does this episode have animated guest star Kelly Clarkson, but it’s full of Christmas songs and warm, cozy vibes. It is a little song-heavy, but it’s still entertaining!
- S4, E1, “For Your Ice Only/Happy New Year!”
- The first half of the episode is just winter-themed as Phineas and Ferb make extreme hockey, but the second half takes place on New Year’s Eve. It’s nice to have a holiday episode that’s relevant to more cultures, and it pokes a lot of fun at New Year’s Resolutions.
The “Meh” List:
These aren’t worth checking out twice
- S1, E20, “SANTa’s Little Helpers”
- This episode has nothing that stands out as being good or bad. The kids must make toys to give to orphans on behalf of Principal Skidmore, but they discover she’s actually selling them for profit. Chyna’s dad goes to extreme lengths to try to figure out what his wife got him. It’s better than the other “A.N.T. Farm” episode, but not the best on the list.
“Good Luck Charlie”
- S3, E21, “A Duncan Christmas”
- Of the two “Good Luck Charlie” holiday specials, this one is less entertaining. It uses a common plot element of the dad trying to figure out what to get the mom for Christmas without spending too much or too little. Teddy and Spencer take Charlie to see Santa, and Amy fights with her mother-in-law. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t stand out. The ending song with Teddy and Spencer, however, has a little nostalgia to it.
- S3, E5, “Killing Me Softly with His Height”
- Hannah criticizes Oliver for being superficial, so she goes on a date with a short guy to prove to him that she isn’t. The plot of the episode is fine, but it doesn’t have any Christmas-centered content, even though it takes place at Christmas.
- S4, E5, “It’s the End of the Jake as We Know It”
- The biggest issue here is the lack of Christmas feeling. Oliver and Lily find out that Jake is cheating on Miley, but she’s invited him to be in her live holiday special. The only true Christmas content is two short song snippets Hannah sings. If “Hannah Montana” is your favorite Disney show, it’s worth watching. If not, it won’t hurt to skip it.
“So Random” (listed on Disney+ with “Sonny with a Chance”)
- S3, E18, “Musical Guest Justin Bieber”
- Some of the skits are painfully cringy. But if you can manage to sit through a skit about a girl who regrets getting her beaver teeth removed and Voldemort running a supermarket, you’ll be rewarded by the most nostalgic scene: young Justin Bieber singing “Mistletoe” to a crowd of screaming teenagers in Santa hats.
“Shake It Up”
- S2, E11, “Jingle It Up”
- This era of Disney Channel is when all the episodes start to look alike—similar jokes, plot points, and so on. Nothing about this episode feels special. Rocky is trying to find a gift that’s sold out everywhere and CeCe works at the mall because she spent all her money on herself. It ends with the traditional, “And that’s what Christmas is really about” scene.
- S3, E5, “Merry Merry It Up”
- It’s always fun to see little Zendaya before she became a big star, but the plot disappoints again. The episode, like many others, is a play on a Christmas Carol where CeCe is visited by the “Ghost of Christmas Dance,” played by Rocky. There’s a flashy Christmas music number, but the song and episode are both a little forgettable. Like the previous episode, it’s fully centered on Christmas, but the plot doesn’t stand out.
- S2, E6, “Austin and Jessie and Ally: All Star New Year, Part 1”
- It’s nice to have a New Year’s episode as something different, and a crossover episode is always fun. Austin gets to fulfill his dream of performing at Times Square, and although the performance choreography is a bit much, the song is not bad for a Disney channel show.
The Naughty List:
Episodes that should’ve received coal in their stockings
- S3, E15, “SilANT Night”
- This episode may not be horrible, but the other “A.N.T. Farm” holiday episode is better. At this point in the show, the kids are at the Z-Tech boarding school, and it feels more annoying than nostalgic. After a blackout sets off the emergency power system, the supercomputer traps them all in because it thinks Santa is evil. To escape, the kids must show him what the holidays are really about. Yep—it’s just as corny as it sounds.
“The Suite Life on Deck”
- S3, E15, “A London Carol”
- This might be a controversial placement, but there is a reason. It has strong points, like a lot of London content, a sense of nostalgia, and the guaranteed laugh of getting to see all of the characters dressed as old people. But when you compare it to the holiday episode of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” it falls flat because London’s character has been made so flat. It’s disheartening to see such a negative character arc and see her turn into a stereotype. In the other show, London lacked common sense and loved clothes, but she still had a heart. In this series, she’s always rude to her friends and completely materialistic. In Suite Life’s “Christmas at the Tipton,” London spends hours making an awful sweater for Maddie because Mosbey tells her the most meaningful gifts are handmade. Her character was always exaggerated, but in this series, it became one-sided.
- S1, E8, “A Christmas Story”
- Watching this episode in 2020, a lot feels problematic. The basic plotline is that it’s Ravi’s first Christmas and he’s scared of Santa, and Jessie is falsely put in mail prison for stealing. They really play up the Indian stereotypes, from Ravi’s fake accent, his inability to understand Christmas traditions, and other jokes made by characters. In addition, the mall Santa’s elf is played by a little person, which just feels unnecessary, especially when they make a lot of derogatory jokes about the person’s height. It felt good to see Jessie get tazed by said elf, but that doesn’t make the jokes any more appropriate.
“Austin & Ally”
- S2, E6, “Austin and Jessie and Ally: All Star New Year, Part 2”
- Normally all crossover episodes are just better, but this episode is just unnecessary. The episode takes place after New Year’s, so there aren’t even any holiday references. The song at the end is painfully cringeworthy. (“Austin & Ally” came out in 2011, so its other holiday episodes aren’t on the list.)
Lacie Kunselman is a second-year student pursuing a double major in professional writing and public relations. She aspires to one day be managing editor for a magazine or be a PR executive at a sustainable fashion or lifestyle brand. Her less-academic pursuits include beach volleyball, macrame and thrift shopping.