About two weeks ago I was dissing “A Christmas Prince”, and I suggested that readers just watch “Home for Christmas” (or Hjem til Jul) instead. Then I realized… why not just write an article about Holiday shows I think people need to watch? So without any further ado, I present to you my list of holiday shows/episodes you should check out.
Home for Christmas (Hjem til Jul), Streaming on Netflix
Before this show, I didn’t realize that a romantic mini-series about Christmas could be good. If that sounds like a weird thing to say, then I’d like you to think about it for yourself. How many mini-series have you watched that fall into the “Christmas Rom-Com” category that you would honestly say, “Yes, this Christmas show is well-written, directed, and acted.” Your list is probably going to be a short one.
Home for Christmas is a Norwegian show about Johanne, a nurse in her 30s, who is sick and tired of the pressure to be in a relationship. Thus, she embarks on a quest to find a beau to bring to Christmas dinner. This proves easier said than done as Johanne goes on one disastrous date after another. She meets a few wonderful people and a few less-than-wonderful people.
What I appreciate most about this show is even though it is clearly a romance, the focus is on Johanne’s journey rather than her lack of a boyfriend. In addition, the show takes special care to show her relationships with the people in her life. People like her friends, her family, and her patients, all of whom have dreams and hopes of their own. Johanne is a person who pours love into everything she does, and even though that does not always translate to romantic love, it is still love.
I hope that people who watch Home for Christmas (Hjem til Jul) take away the importance of companionship and kindness. I feel as though the last episode of the first season makes a profound point about the relationships we form. Even if we don’t have a romantic partner, we still have people in our lives who are essential to our happiness. And who better to spend Christmas with than someone we love?
Hilda – “Chapter 10: The Yule Lads”, Streaming on Netflix
The first time I ever watched Hilda and saw the Mountain come to life, I knew that this show was something special. If my heart could write scripts, it would look suspiciously like “The Bird Parade” from the first season. Hilda is an animated show based on a series of graphic novels by Luke Pearson. It’s about an adventurous, kind-hearted girl who lives in a modern, magical world and befriends mythical creatures. Watching this show is like drinking a cup of hot chocolate while wearing fuzzy socks.
In the second season, Hilda and her friends are gearing up to celebrate the winter festival when they run into the Yule Lads. The Yule Lads are creatures from Icelandic Folklore, and they’re like little elves that play naughty tricks on wicked children. The Yule Lads traditionally arrive one by one starting on the 12th day of December and cause mischief all the way up until Christmas.
The episode “The Yule Lads” is like the vegetable broth the children sell in the show. The broth is delicious on its own, but it tastes so much better because it’s cold outside. This episode beautifully weaves Icelandic Folklore with endearing Holiday cheer. The stories of Gryla and the Yule Lads will send a shiver down your spine, but the warmth and joy in each episode of Hilda will make you feel safe and cozy.
Futurama – “Xmas Story”, Streaming on Hulu
I first started watching Futurama religiously when I was in elementary school. I was definitely too young to get most of the jokes, but from the moment I first saw that red-headed buffoon Fry stumble his way through the comically terrible world of tomorrow, I was hooked.
Of course, by that time, the show had been canceled, and my only solace was staying up past my bedtime to catch old episodes on Adult Swim. Then I started using my birthday money to purchase the season DVD set, which was probably the best decision I ever made. Thus, on a random day in seventh grade, I watched the episode “Xmas Story” and met the greatest character cartoon character of all time: Evil Robot Santa Claus.
Did I mention before that I was obsessed? After learning about Evil Robot Santa Claus, I had a new tradition. Every year for Christmas, I would rewatch all of the Futurama Christmas episodes. This endeavor wasn’t too challenging because at the time I began this tradition, there were only two Futurama Christmas episodes. I would also like to clarify that my Futurama obsession first began around 2003, so at the time, I had no hope of the show returning. I also had, like, zero friends when my Futurama obsession began, so rewatching Futurama episodes was a great source of comfort to me.
Futurama’s “Xmas Story” is delightfully cynical and makes such fantastic use of the setting of New New York. I still crack up whenever I see Tinny Tim, and I will always sing along to “Santa Claus is Gunning You Down.” A part of me wishes Fry had bought Leela 500 lizards instead of that dumb bird because that would have been hilarious. And watching Fry and Leela be lonely together made me feel un-alone. It’s been a few years since I’ve fully indulged in this tradition, but I feel like I’m going to have to start this one up again.
Waffles + Mochi’s Holiday Feast, Streaming on Netflix
I don’t know why I first began watching Waffles + Mochi. Maybe it was the cute puppets that drew me in. Or maybe it was the promise of delicious food. Michelle Obama’s role in the show certainly helped convince me to give it a shot. I am grateful for all of this because who could have known that I would lose my heart to a little half-yeti, half-waffle puppet?
Waffles + Mochi is an educational children’s cooking show. In each episode, the titular characters go on an adventure to learn about food and the various cultural connections to that specific food. This is a show that joyfully embraces diversity and inclusion through cuisine. I highly recommend the episode about “Rice,” which includes a trip to Japan, as well as a visit from Michael Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene. This episode also made me cry at the end, which I highly doubt was their intention, but anytime you show me two cute puppets who are also best friends, that’ll start my waterworks.
Each episode of Waffles + Mochi is made with love, care, and a healthy helping of research. The holiday feast episode is no exception. In “Waffles + Mochi’s Holiday Feast,” Waffles and Mochi are feeling a little left out of their friends’ holiday celebrations, and so they make up their own holiday, “Freezie Day.” Then trouble strikes when all of their friends want to celebrate Freezie Day with them, except our heroes don’t have any food to serve their guests! So Waffles decides to entertain/distract her guests while Mochi goes on a worldwide adventure to find food for their celebration. Along the way, Mochi stops in Hawaii to pick up some fresh poi and then goes to Norway for some delicious reindeer pancakes with cloudberry jam.
Even the music in this episode is special. In addition to an original song by Tracee Ellis Ross, the episode also includes Samí Pop music, which is a completely unexpected but very much welcome delight. Throw in Chef Samin Nosrat and a Michelle Obama cameo, and this episode was a start-to-finish celebration of food and friendship.
Dash & Lily, Streaming on Netflix
To the monsters at Netflix – why on earth would you cancel Dash & Lily? I’m going to have to assume because some Netflix executive had recently gone through a terrible break-up, and watching these two adorable teenagers find love was just too painful. That’s the only possible explanation because this show was a god-damned ray of sunshine.
Dash & Lily is about two weirdly-smart teenagers who fall in love over the holiday season with the help of a notebook and a few clever dares. It’s based on the young adult series Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. The two characters engage in holiday-themed adventures throughout New York City, making friends and learning about themselves along the way. Their “book of dares” encourages them to break out of their comfort zones, try new experiences, and challenge themselves. Even though they don’t meet in person until the show’s end, Dash and Lily bring out the best in each other.
There is something about watching these two lonely souls find each other and fall in love through a book that makes you feel like the world is a bit of a magical place. Was I tempted to fill out a notebook with my own clues in the chance that a handsome man might find it and engage in my series of dares? Of course, I was, but I’m not a psycho, so I definitely didn’t do that. But I like to think that someone else did.
The “Happily Ever After” is the most wonderful and underrated of endings and I will fiercely celebrate any show that pursues it. TV shows like “Dash & Lily” that are well-plotted but unenthusiastically positive are necessary. We are all looking for connection, and there is no greater joy than finding someone you can be yourself with, who also makes you want to be a better person. Dash & Lily did that for each other, and I like to think it can happen for some of us, as well.
Alright, readers, now that you’ve read my list, I want to know: what are your go-to holiday shows?