South Park is not what you would consider a sentimental show. Yet, for the many years the animated classic has been on the air, it’s proven that it has a soft spot for holiday joy. Sure, that soft spot just happens to include a sentient Christmas turd but that’s just the closest you’re going to get to ooey-gooey feelings with creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
In its earlier seasons, South Park‘s schedule often ran through December and the show was happy to provide viewers with an accompanying Christmas special. Christmas episodes have become rarer for the series since but there are still at least 10 distinct holiday installments in the show’s canon…and that’s not even including “The Spirit of Christmas” short from 1995 that would eventually become South Park.
In the spirit of the season, we decided to go ahead and rank all of the South Park Christmas specials! Let us know what you think of our choices (and check out our rankings of the Halloween episodes over here).
10. Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics
Original Air Date: Dec. 1, 1999
“Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” isn’t an episode so much as it its an advertisement for an album. The album in question is 1999’s “South Park: Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” featuring over 30 minutes of South Park-themed holiday cheer. While the record is a fun little novelty for South Park die hards to trot out around holiday season, the episode produced from it is nothing much to write home about.
Original Air Date: Dec. 10, 2014
There might not be an episodic more emblematic of South Park‘s latter season “blah-ness” than “#HappyHolograms.” Released as the second part of the previous episode “#Rehash,” this installment feels like Parker and Stone throwing as many current events as they can find against the wall to see what sticks. And truthfully very little does. Somewhere between lascivious Bill Cosby hologram and the weird PewDiePie appearances you begin to wonder “wait, isn’t this a Christmas episode?”
8. Bike Parade
Original Air Date: Dec. 12, 2018
If you’ve followed our South Park musings in any capacity over the years, you might already know that nothing brings things to a grinding halt quicker for us than the words “Tegridy Weed.” Randy Marsh loves it. Trey Parker and Matt Stone love it. We don’t. Having said that, this Tegridy-adjacent latter day Christmas episode isn’t too bad! The zombie mall employees and a Megamind Jeff Bezos are pretty funny. But sadly there is little Christmas cheer to be found here.
7. It’s Christmas in Canada
Original Air Date: Dec. 17, 2003
One long-running South Park joke that somehow never gets tired is the show’s depiction of Canadians as bifurcate-headed, squeaky-voiced loons. And that joke gets a lot of mileage in this unusually charming season 7 Christmas episode. In this rough twist on both The Wizard of Oz and the original nativity myth, Canada demands that all of its native Canadians come home, including Kyle’s little brother Ike. The only thing keeping this episode from higher status is a shoehorned in Saddam Hussein plot, since the Iraqi dictator was captured four days before the episode’s airing.
6. A Very Crappy Christmas
Original Air Date: Dec. 20, 2000
“A Very Crappy Christmas” is the South Park season 4 finale and finds the boys missing someone very important in their lives: Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo. It turns out that the usually joyful little turd is living in the sewers because no one wants to celebrate Christmas anymore. This is a very solid special and a pleasantly self-referential one. The boys path to recapturing Christmas cheer leads them to attempt to create an animated special called “The Spirit of Christmas,” much like a pair of Colorado youths years earlier …
5. Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson
Original Air Date: Dec. 9, 1998
For its second ever Christmas special, South Park decided to momentarily ditch its Christmas poo in favor of *checks notes* infamous cult leader and convicted murderer Charles Manson? Really, ol’ Charlie Manson doesn’t factor in much here until the end. But “Merry Christmas, Charlie Manson” has plenty of fun before that thanks to an imposter Mr. Hankey and the introduction of Cartman’s extended family who we unfortunately haven’t seen since.
4. Christmas Snow
Original Air Date: Dec. 11, 2019
OK, we know we just said we don’t care too much for Randy Marsh’s Tegridy Weed nonsense. But the Tegridy storyline in season 23’s “Christmas Snow” is surprisingly, refreshingly funny. Perhaps that’s because Randy’s “Tegridy Special” this time around isn’t a Christmas weed but rather a Christmas cocaine. When South Park is devastated because they can’t drunk drive anymore, they turn to Randy’s mysterious new blend laced with a white powder. Before you know it, Santa and Jesus are back and we’ve got ourselves a proper late-season South Park Christmas episode.
3. Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo
Original Air Date: Dec. 17, 1997
Forget, for a moment, the prompt “best South Park Christmas episodes.” This early season 1 installment is by far “the MOST South Park Christmas episode” and maybe even “the MOST South Park” episode in general. You’ve seen him pop up a few times on this list so you know the deal by now. Mr. Hankey is a Christmas poo. And Kyle, feeling excluded from Christmas due to being Jewish, meets him at the bottom of his toilet bowl. Pure fecal magic follows.
2. Red Sleigh Down
Original Air Date: Dec. 11, 2002
Back in the early 2000s, South Park really made a meal out of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It all comes to a head in this deliriously entertaining Christmas installment. As its title suggests, “Red Sleigh Down” features St. Nick’s sled being shot down by insurgents in Iraq. The boys spring into action to save him but naturally can’t do it without help of their old friend Jesus of Nazareth. “Red Sleigh Down” is profoundly silly, profoundly funny, and even features the long-awaited return of Kenny following a death that mysterious stuck for longer than just one episode.
1. Woodland Critter Christmas
Original Air Date: Dec. 15, 2004
“Woodland Critter Christmas” is not only the best Christmas episode of South Park, it’s one of its best ever, full stop. Adopting the format of a childhood fable (which we eventually come to find out was dreamt up by Cartman to humiliate Stan), this wild installment finds Stan Marsh encountering a group of sweet Bambi-esque woodland critters … who also just happen to worship Satan and engage in ritualistic blood orgies to bring about the arrival of the Antichrist. By the time you get to the part where mountain lion cubs learn how to perform an abortion, you realize that you’re enjoying Christmas in a way that only South Park can provide.
South Park is available to stream on Max in the U.S. and Paramount+ in the U.K.