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Christmas 8608.png
"This is the heartwarming true story of how the weed delivery guy saved Christmas."

Rather than the typical Do They Know It's Christmas Time? sort of Christmas Special or Christmas Episode, many series (primarily action cartoons) feature some sort of plot in which the protagonists must "save" Christmas (or their local equivalent) in some manner. Flavors of this plot, which can be mixed and matched with each other, include:

  • Santa's Been Kidnapped! — The heroes must rescue Santa; usually they gain friends along the way and teach the villain the True Meaning of Christmas!
  • Sabotaging Saint Nick — Some villain tries to sabotage Santa's operation (either by trashing his workshop or by abducting Santa), and it's up to the good guys to fix things. Said villain usually repents by the end, having learned the True Meaning of Christmas.
    • Taking Over Christmas — In this variation, the villain wants to become the guy the kids write to for presents, or perhaps just the source of said presents. This would leave Santa out in the cold, so to speak. Often the villain intends to make money off of the venture.
    • Fake Ultimate Santa — Someone's replaced good ol' Kris Kringle, and he's not so jolly. May overlap with the Bad Santa, except that the heroes have to get the original back.
  • Santa's Sick! — Santa is otherwise indisposed, and the heroes must try as best they can to substitute him. Can they measure up and lead the sleigh? An extreme take on this is that Santa is DEAD - such as in The Santa Clause.
    • The Sleigh is Broke — A variant has his sleigh, reindeer, or helper elves be damaged, sick, or on strike. The heroes have to help fix, cure, or replace them.
    • Santa's in the Slammer — Because Adults Are Useless, they caught Santa and put him in Jail! The kids have to help free him or clear his name.
  • Santa's Origin — Who was Santa before he became, well, Santa? These stories tell not just how, but why Santa took up the mantle, and the obstacles he overcame.
    • Legacy Character Santa — The job and title of Santa Claus is passed down over the ages, and it's time to pass the torch. It can be either a family member or a deserving stranger, but expect some drama in the process, with the future of Christmas at stake. If it's a stranger, they will be an adult who no longer believes in Santa and thus will need a lot of convincing.
  • Visit the North Pole — The kids don't believe in Santa, or want to make sure he gets their letter. They travel through an (thankfully) imaginary and short distance to the North Pole. They may even get to ride the sleigh!
  • Santa Needs Children's Faith — The unobtanium fueling Santa/his sleigh/the North Pole in general runs on children's faith in him, and it's running dangerously low! Santa has to bring the spirit of Christmas into the hearts of children.
    • Santa's Test Of Character — The heroes encounter a nice old man/suspicious character/crazy bum, he seems somewhat like Santa and/or repeatedly claims he is Santa. He eventually leaves and the truth is revealed that he wasn't Santa. Or was he?
    • The Naughty and Nice Lists — Alternatively, Santa might be disgruntled with humanity's naughtiness - especially greed and/or disbelief - and consider giving up on them and the holiday. The heroes have to convince him that Rousseau Was Right.
  • Personal Santa — The most mundane version, common in Sit Coms, involves financial problems or a minor disaster ruining the holiday celebrations on a personal or local level. Luckily, if the characters show the True Spirit Of Christmas, Santa (or a plausibly deniable representative thereof, see Secret Test of Character) will give everyone a special gift. Maybe not what they wanted, but what they need or deserve.
  • Santa's Cousin, Twice Removed — Take one of the above stories, but make the protagonist Mrs. Claus, the Elves, the Reindeer, his brother, son, daughter, (deep breath) or accountant. They usually start by having a crisis of faith (not in Santa, but their own utility) then the situation arises where they have to step up and help Santa a la Rudolph.
  • Everyone's Naughty — A person gets jealous of other people being Nice and not him/her, so he/she tricks Santa into thinking everyone's Naughty. The hero must prove to him that those people are nice.

Sometimes the Mall Santa will be called in to help. Be careful though, because Bad Santa might take his place. Luckily Badass Santa will come to save the day!

Compare An Asskicking Christmas. See also Subbing for Santa

Examples of Saving Christmas include:


  • Kyouran Kazoku Nikki had its Christmas-saving episode done in its usual wacky fashion. Though Kyouka did shoot Santa down with a bazooka first, so it's her fault that it needed to be saved to begin with...
  • Macademi Wasshoi had a Personal Santa and a Secret Test of Character scenario. The episode involved finding a toy Takuto wanted as a kid through a Chain of Deals, culminating in a high speed explosive car chase.
  • Pokémon's episode, "Holiday Hi-Jynx", has the characters going to return Santa's lost Jynx to the North Pole. The Team Rocket trio follows them and tries to steal all of Santa's presents because Jessie wants to get back at Santa for stealing her dolly. This turns out to be a misunderstanding; Santa's Jynx took the broken doll to be fixed and couldn't bring it back because Jessie no longer lived in the same place.
  • Actually every season of Ojamajo Doremi had some sort of saving Christmas episode which was aired as a christmas special.

Comic Books

Fan Fiction


  • The "Jewsploitation" film The Hebrew Hammer centers around a plot by Santa's betraying son, played by Andy Dick. He assasinates his father, becomes Santa, and launches a worldwide campaign to eliminate all other December holidays. Only "The Hammer" can save Channukah. See note at Do They Know It's Christmas Time?.
  • ~Miracle on 34th Street~ had the "Secret Test of Character" plot.
  • The movie The Nightmare Before Christmas plays the Sabotaging Saint Nick plot straight, but with a subversion of the hero's role in the plot. Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween and the protagonist, takes over Christmas by kidnapping Santa Claus, just because he's looking for a change of pace, but botches the big night. He then has to save Santa from his (Jack's) own badly-monitored henchmen.
    • And he really had no malicious intent toward Santa Claus, either. He looked at it more as him (forcibly) giving Santa an opportunity to get a chance to take it easy while good old Jack Skellington does all the hard work for him than kidnapping him to get him out of the way while he filled the role. He even told his henchmen to make sure that Santa is comfortable, but unfortunately, said henchmen had their own plans for Santa...
  • A particularly horrible (in a good way) portrayal is in The Proposition, when Morris and Martha Stanley's Christmas dinner is beset by outlaw Arthur Burns and Sidekick Sam Stote, who have come to rape and murder. Arthur's brother Charlie arrives just in time to save Christmas.
  • The Santa Clause features Tim Allen as a divorced man who must become the new Santa when the old one is killed falling off the roof of his house. It's a slight variant: he has an entire year to transform.
    • The Santa Clause 3 has the other kind of Santa flavour: Santa is betrayed by Jack Frost, who proceeds to turn the North Pole into a theme park and hotel.
  • Santa Claus the Movie (1985) was made by the producers of the live-action Superman films and critics noted its similar structure: it first presents an origin story, then moves on to Santa trying to save Christmas from being co-opted and sequelized by a Corrupt Corporate Executive who is solely interested in making money off the holiday (as opposed to Santa just giving stuff away).
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
  • Ernest Saves Christmas was probably the first film to use the Legacy Character Santa plot; Ernest is helping the current Santa contact his successor. It also involves Santa getting sent to jail. Ernest has to break him out, worrying what will happen to him, locked in a cell with a bunch of hardened criminals. Ironic Echo Cut to Santa leading the hardened criminals in singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
    • Also contains one of the most Badass lines ever said by Santa:

  Santa Claus: The name... is Santa Claus.

  • Olive the Other Reindeer. One of Santa's reindeer is injured and can't make the Christmas run. Santa gets on the television and pleads for "all of the other reindeer" that can fly to come and try to replace him. A dog named Olive mishears him and is convinced that she's actually a reindeer, so she strikes out for the North Pole to try and save Christmas.
    • Which is way, way Better Than It Sounds: Matt Groening executive produced and Michael Stipe shows up for a musical number.
    • Olive is an interesting case, actually, because it has two varieties of the Saving Christmas plot. In addition to the injured reindeer, there's a disgruntled postman trying to "cancel" Christmas because of both the extra work the Christmas season creates for the post office and his own long-standing personal grudge against Santa.
  • Santa Baby: Jenny McCarthy (yeah, that Jenny McCarthy) is Santa's daughter and has to take over the family business when dad is sick.
  • In the last third of Elf, the engine on Santa's sleigh falls out, and Buddy and his family must make Manhattan believe in Santa (without a sighting) in order to re-power the sleigh.


  • Quite possibly a Truth in Television; Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was written at a time where Christmas was going out of fashion as a holiday. Many scholars believe that this showed Christmas in a new light and many people returned to the holiday. So this is Older Than Radio.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Hogfather, the titular Hogfather (the Discworld equivalent of Santa Claus) is assassinated (for want of a better word, since the Hogfather is a sort of immortal quasi-deity), and Death is the one to stand in for him. Meanwhile, Death's granddaughter Susan (it's a long story) tries to find out what happened to the Hogfather and fix things.
    • Filled with Fridge Brilliance related to the origin of myths like Santa Claus which really matter in-story. And it includes the best version of The Little Match Girl EVER.
  • An early example is J.R.R. Tolkien's The Father Christmas Letters, written as "replies" to his children's letters to Father Christmas in the 1920s and 30s. In the early letters a running theme is that Father Christmas' assistant the North Polar Bear (Karhu) keeps accidentally screwing up Christmas at the last moment (e.g. by 'snapping the North Pole'), and everything is only put right again through hard work. In later letters, matters evolve to make the NPB more of a heroic figure, and he helps fight off invasions of goblins that supposedly parallel the real-life events of World War Two (and may have been an attempt by Tolkien to provide reasons for his children why the war was making Christmas grimmer than usual).
  • Another origin story is Frank L. Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which has had several Animated Adaptations.
    • Its sequel A Kidnapped Santa Claus features just that.
  • There was this other origin story--a 2D TV special with realistic graphics. I remember Santa was an old man who lived in a cabin in the woods with his deer--who got a red nose because he ate some jam one time--and then a fairy came and granted him his Santa-powers. I don't remember what it was called, though.
  • The children's book The Polar Express (and later The Film of the Book) features the "Visit The North Pole" variety.
  • Another children's book, Cops And Robbers by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, has the robbers stealing presents from homes on Christmas Eve. Luckily the good old cops are onto them.
  • Geronimo Stilton has done this a few times, most prominently in "The Christmas Toy Factory".

Live Action TV

  • A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All plays with this trope by having Stephen trapped in his mountain cabin by a bear. He laments:

 I've got to get to my studio to do my Christmas special! That's where Santa brings my presents every year! If I don't, then Christmas won't come! ...for me!

  • An episode of Early Edition had the "Secret Test of Character" plot.
  • Even the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers got into the act in a direct to video episode.
  • The Stroker and Hoop Christmas episode combined the first two variations on this type with a subverted Yet Another Christmas Carol set-up. Talking car Carr was the Santa substitute, and Stroker saved Santa's life by exploiting the Time Travel powers of the three spirits.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch more or less had to save Christmas once a year. In one instance, she accidentally injures an old friend of her aunts', who turns out to be a clean-shaven Santa, having shed his winter pounds, and must fill in for him. In another, a magical remote control erases Christmas from existence, and she must engender enough Christmas spirit to restore it before time runs out. Santa is again a key factor in this one.
  • Saturday Night Live did a "Santa is sick" parody Christmas special, "The Night Hannukah Harry Saved Christmas".
  • The straight-to-video Sesame Street film, Elmo Saves Christmas, which is actually a double-subversion, because the initial saving happens in the first twenty minutes; the rest involves Elmo's wish — for it to be Christmas every day — almost destroying Christmas again, but luckily he is shown in a Wonderful Life style series of Flash Forwards how things would pan out in the long run, and he ultimately saves Christmas again by taking back his wish.
  • Completely averted in "A Very Supernatural Christmas." Sam and Dean think at first that they're fighting a creature called "the Anti-Claus," like Black Peter, who punishes naughty people. In one scene, Sam points out how Christmas is just a bunch of pagan rituals smashed together with a Christian excuse for celebration, much to Dean's dismay. It turns out that they're up against a (married) couple of elderly Stepford Smiling pagan gods, whom they kill with Christmas tree branches. They saved innocent lives and maimed and mangled Christmas traditions while they were at it, but Christmas itself was never actually in danger.
  • Combined with the alleged Strawman Liberal "war on Christmas" here.
  • The TV movie The Night They Saved Christmas combines a visit to the Pole with the sabotage plot. The sabotage is unintentional on the part of oil prospectors who are dynamiting the nearby area and don't know/believe Santa and the gang exist, so the family of a company employee is brought to "North Pole City" so they can understand the problem and prevent the city from being destroyed.
  • The Christmas Episode of All That included a sketch in which Superdude rescues Santa from Milkman.


  • Sufjan Stevens' Songs For Christmas box set includes a comic strip by Tom Eaton, "It Was the Worst Christmas Ever!", in which Santa is suffering from winter depression, and Sufjan is called in to cheer him up with music. And completely fails. Just when it looks like Santa's depression will force everyone to cancel Christmas, Sufjan hits on the solution of feeding chocolate to Santa until he gets hopped up on sugar and caffeine.
  • Relient K's song "Santa Claus Is Thumbing to Town" subverts this by setting up a scenario where Christmas clearly needs saving, desperately... and then it just ends.

Newspaper Comics

  • Garfield parodies this regularly with specials Garfield is watching.
  • One storyline from Gene Deitch's Terr'ble Thompson (a short-lived fifties strip) featured Thompson trying to convince Santa Claus that kids still believe in him.

Tabletop Games

  • The basic premise of the roleplaying game Santa's Soldiers.
  • Subverted in an exceedingly horrible way in the Risus adventure A Kringle In Time, in which the only way to save Christmas is to kill Santa. Seven times.
    • ...and that's not even mentioning the Cranulon Replacement Baby Jesus, or the one that's actually a cleverly-disguised time bomb.

Video Games

Western Animation


 Von Ghoulish: I've always wanted to save Christmas, ever since I was a boy!

Grim: I always wanted to save Christmas with a vampire sidekick, ever since I was a little boy!

Cue (intentionally) cheesy musical number

  • Camp Lazlo: Santa wants to cancel Christmas to take a vacation, but Lazlo convinces him to take a short vacation at summer camp and return in time to finish the presents. Christmas is saved...right? Nope; Santa doesn't want to leave camp. Laz finally convinces Santa to go home. Saved! Except, while Santa was gone, Lumpus hijacked his home and servants. An epic battle ensues, with Lumpus armed with a walking lawn chair and Santa a tether ball. Lumpus is hit by a meteor at the last second, and Christmas is saved.
  • The Fairly Odd Parents does practically every Santa story in the book.
  • Family Guy:
    • In "A Hero Sits Next Door", Joe says he became wheelchair-bound as he tried to stop the Grinch. "Joe's Revenge" reveals that this was a fib.
    • In "A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas", Peter's primary motivation is to watch KISS Saves Santa.
    • In "Bango Was His Name Oh", one of Peter's many Noodle Incidents involved him doing this.
    • In the episode "Road to the North Pole", Stewie and Brian attempt to do this, because Santa is exhausted to near death due to the increasing demand for presents. Predictably, they fail catastrophically. Though they did save Christmas next year by convincing everyone in the world to ask for only one present.
  • The first Christmas episode of The Flintstones had Fred chosen to stand in for a sick Santa. The plot was repeated for a later TV special where Santa is injured at Fred's home, forcing Fred and Barney to complete his deliveries while Santa guides them at Fred's house by radio contact.
  • Subverted by Futurama, where the Planet Express gang tried to deliberately incapacitate the future's evil robotic Santa so everyone could have a normal Christmas Xmas instead.
  • In The Worst X-mas Ever of Invader Zim fame, Dib makes an attempt at this. Not saving Santa, mind you, just Christmas. He fails spectacularly.
  • One Johnny Bravo episode had Santa force Johnny to take his place after Johnny mistook him for a burglar and broke his arm. Another one featured Johnny rushing to the North Pole after forgetting to mail off his and his mother's letters to Santa.
    • The second has a Continuity Nod when Johnny tells him how he accidentally hit him last Christmas. Santa claims that he doesn't remember, but he gives him a punch in the face anyway since it sounded like he deserved it.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, evil sorcerer Daolong Wong abducts Santa Claus, and while the rest of the crew makes a rescue attempt, Gentle Giant Tohru acts as a stand-in.
    • Technically, Santa isn't abducted. Dalong Wong assaults the north pole workshop and the Chan Clan has to intervene before Wong can bust in and murder Santa.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door did this in "Operation: NAUGHTY", when the Delightful Children from Down the Lane stole Santa's toy-making equipment and framed the KND for it. Then the whole thing degenerates into a parody/homage of Marvel Comics' "Dark Phoenix Saga", with Numbah Three as Jean Grey, Santa Claus as Professor X and the elves as the rest of the X-Men.
  • Kim Possible‍'‍s "A Very Possible Christmas" used a unique twist. Plucky Sidekick (and good Jewish boy) Ron sets off to save the world on Christmas Eve, by himself, to give Kim her favorite night of the year with her family. It doesn't go too well, but the Possibles all go to rescue him from a crash landing near the North Pole, and spend Christmas together after all.
  • Powerpuff Girls, "Twas The Fight Before Christmas": Princess rewrites Santa's "naughty" and "nice" lists to make it look like she's been the only nice child this year, getting her the superpowers she's always wanted while the other kids of Townsville get coal, and the Powerpuff Girls rush to inform Santa of the mistake.
  • A bit of a variation occurs in The Real Ghostbusters episode "X-Mas Marks The Spot" where the Ghostbusters go back in time into the events of A Christmas Carol and accidentally capture the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future before they can reform Ebeneezer Scrooge. Upon return, the present has been changed to a very grim place. This forces some of them to go back and take the spirits' place for Scrooge, while other members go into their ghost containment unit to rescue the Spirits.
  • Both Christmas Episodes of the Super Mario cartoons did this. In the first one, "Koopa Klaus", Bowser attempts to ruin Christmas with a plan that involves kidnapping and impersonating Santa. (Di C recycled this plot for Christmas specials spun off from Inspector Gadget and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.) In the later one, "The Night Before Cave Christmas", Mario inspires the Christmas spirit to the cave-people in order to get them to be nicer to each other, and then has to save Christmas for them when Bowser decides to steal all the toys.
  • A Christmas episode of Ben 10 (yes, it takes place during summer vacation) has a variant: the Tennysons must make and deliver Christmas presents or be trapped in a bizarre time-defying Christmas dimension forever. Grandpa Max dons the beard and drives the sleigh, complete with a suspiciously stinky flying "reindeer".
  • After eighty years Mickey Mouse has finally gotten around to saving a direct-to-video episode of a preschool show. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa.
  • In one episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, after Ghost Planet exploded, fades to black. A line of text then appears, saying "Later... at camp", and then cuts to to Space Ghost, surrounded by a group of (live action) children, and says: "And so that kids is the story of how I saved Christmas". He then yells at them to get back to work. Then the episode ends.
  • X-Men had a truly bizarre episode: "Have a Very Morlock X-Mas", where Storm, Wolverine, and Jubilee encounter some rampaging Morlocks while they're Christmas shopping--and then discover that the Morlocks just wanted medicine because one of them was deathly ill. So Storm and Wolverine rush off to get the medicine, and Jubilee tells the ill Morlock girl that, yes, she believes in Christmas miracles.
  • Merry Madagascar begins when Santa and his sleigh crash-land on the island, giving the jolly gentleman a case of amnesia. So it falls to Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria — along with the ever-inventive Penguins — to deliver the presents and save Christmas.
  • In the Brandy and Mr. Whiskers episode "On Whiskers, on Lola, on Cheryl, on Meryl" Brandy and Whiskers have to take over the gift run after causing Santa's sleigh to crash.
  • Phineas and Ferb had Doofensmirtz use a device to make it so everyone in Danville was deemed naughty on Santa's list. Not only do the kids go out to prove everyone wrong and eventually fill in for him, but it turns out the whole thing was a Xanatos Gambit by Santa so everyone's wishes came true. In a hilarious subversion, Doofensmirtz is completely ambivalent to Christmas ("I have an intense, burning indifference!") In fact, he probably would have left it alone (going against all tradition) if he hadn't gotten a perfectly good plan as a gift (from Santa) and a bunch of carolers hadn't barged into his house and refused to leave until they got figgy pudding. (For those who are wondering, Doofensmirtz also got his wish, which was to hate Christmas.)
    • Heck, at the end, Santa explains that the main reason he caused it all to happen was that Phineas said his greatest wish was to be like him, so Santa gave him that very chance.
  • The Little Drummer Boy is probably the best known of the "Visiting The Nativity" variations.
  • In the Jimmy Neutron Christmas episode, Jimmy accidentally puts Santa out of commission and has to fill in for him by delivering the presents from his rocket. The warp drive conks out just before he can finish the deliveries, but Santa shows up at the last minute to finish the job.
  • The Earthworm Jim Christmas Episode used the "Santa's been kidnapped" variation. As listed on the quote page, Peter Puppy at one point lampshades the overuse of this trope.
  • The South Park episode "Red Sleigh Down" had the boys and Jesus rescuing Santa after he had been shot down over Iraq.
  • Sonic Christmas Blast, the last episode of The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, had Sonic and Tails racing to save Santa and Christmas from Dr. Robotnik, who had kidnapped the jolly old elf and had convinced Mobius to give HIM presents.

Web Comics

Web Animation

  • A variation in Clock Suckers where the main characters have to keep Santa and Mrs. Claus' marriage from falling apart. Mrs. Claus goes on to have sex with the Grinch, but Santa kills him with a baseball bat and they go back together.

Web Original


 Caboose: I did not even know the North Pole was in San Fransisco! This changes everything...

Tucker: Yeah, and I don't think Santa's outfit is a biker's uniform and a codpiece, Donut.

  • Doctor Steel takes over Christmas (and kills half of Santa's elves) in A Dr. Steel Christmas.
  • Somewhat subverted in Amateur Surgeon: Christmas Edition when moronic surgeon Alan Probe causes the destruction of Xmas when he collides his private jet with Santa's Sleigh, further crashing into the North Pole. Alan goes to save the holiday by fixing his mistakes with, you guessed is, back alley surgery.
  • Back when the M&Ms official website featured skits starring the M&M characters, one story had Red and Yellow briefly assuming control of Santa's sleigh during his fainting spell (as seen in the TV commercial the story was a follow-up to).
  • Dragon Ball Abridged turned The Tree of Might movie into this. In this version, the heroes had to stop the titular tree from sucking all the Christmas Joy from the earth.
    • Goku spent the majority of the abridged Lord Slug movie believing it was another Christmas special, until Lord Slug set him straight.

Real Life

  • The NBA managed to end their 2011 lockout just in time to start the season on Christmas Day, keeping several "Christmas Day game" traditions intact.


  • One of Stan Freberg's Dragnet parodies involved Joe Friday taking a Scrooge-esque character named Grudge to the North Pole, to demonstrate to Grudge that Santa is real (despite there being no law that says one must believe in Santa). Once Grudge believes, he gets all the presents that were piling up for him during his time of non-belief.