Soapland Christmas

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Oh, did you have to? No turning back? That's almost as bad as "nothing could possibly go wrong" or "this is going to be the best Christmas Walford's ever had".
The Doctor, "The Impossible Planet", Doctor Who

In Soap Operas, Christmas is a time of death, divorce, infidelity and violence. In British soaps especially, at least one person will end up dying, getting knocked down, or crying all alone on the happiest day of the year. That's the Spirit of Christmas for you.

On the other hand, having to be hospitable to relatives you secretly hate, graciously receiving presents you neither need nor want, and the certain knowledge you'll eating leftover turkey until Easter won't seem quite so bad by the closing credits.

See also Did I Mention It's Christmas? and Do They Know It's Christmas Time?

And, no, this has nothing to do with Christmas in Japan.

WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware.

Examples of Soapland Christmas include:

Coronation Street

  • 2008: On Christmas Eve, Tony strangles Jed Stone at Underworld after he tries to blackmail him about Liam's murder.He shoves the body in to a box while the staff have their Christmas Party. He comes on Christmas Day to find that he was just unconscious and offers him the best bribe of all (a free flat in Wigan!) to keep his silence.
  • 2009: Secret lovers Kevin and Molly prepare to run away from their prospective partners Sally and Tyrone. The plan is quickly aborted when Sally reveals that she has cancer and Kevin backtracks to support his wife in this difficult time.
  • 2010: Twice. For the programme's 50th anniversary special shortly before Christmas, Molly informs Tyrone that her baby isn't his and that she's been living a lie, Charlotte attacks John with a hammer and is killed by her own weapon, a gas explosion destroys a section of the bridge and buries various people, and a tram dives off the bridge and takes half the Street with it. All in one night.
    • For the actual Christmas storyline, the main drama was about the return of Tracy Barlow after being in prison for murder.

Doctor Who

  • "The Christmas Invasion" (2005, set in 2006): The Tenth Doctor's first adventure had him spending most of the day going through regenerative sickness, almost being killed by a giant tree, and then had his triumphant moment getting rid of the aliens spoiled by Torchwood shooting the alien ship down. And he has a huge falling out with his friend Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, which ends with him getting her sacked, destroying "Britain's Golden Age".
  • "The Runaway Bride" (2006, set in 2007): He had to face an ancient menace called the Racnoss whose offspring wished to gorge on life across the cosmos. Their web-shaped ship was mistaken for a giant decorative Christmas star by Londoners until it started zapping the city with bolts of electricity. This adventure immediately follows the loss of one of the Doctor's dearest companions and features an especially dark moment for him in which he kills a ton of alien babies and almost lets himself die along with them. Oh, and the Thames is drained.
  • "Voyage of the Damned" (2007, set in 2008): He vows to save everyone on the Starship Titanic and fails—in part because the good characters consider saving him a higher priority. Among the casualties is the woman he'd wanted for his next companion. At least he managed to keep that ship from crashing into the Earth. Beautifully lampshaded as everyone in London knows nasty things have been happening for the past two Christmases, so, this year, practically nobody's in central London for the nasty things to happen.
  • "The Next Doctor" (2008, set in 1851): The Cybermen escaped from the void and ended up in a past era, which the Doctor happens to be visiting. On the other hand that meant GIANT CYBERMAN ROBOT RAMPAGING THOUGH TOKY- ER, Victorian London!
  • "The End of Time" (Christmas 2009/New Year's Day 2010, set Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Boxing Day 2009): The Master comes back from the dead-ish and transforms every single human being but two into copies of himself, and the Time Lords hatch a plan to escape from the Time War. Both villainous sides eventually fail, and the Doctor's regeneration isn't even directly caused by either of them.

Joshua Naismith: Ladies and gentlemen! It seems help is at hand! Christmas is cancelled.

  • In the 2010 episode "A Christmas Carol" (set some time in the 44th century), Christmas was brought by a galaxy-class cruise liner crashing with Rory and Amy aboard, and the Doctor having to find a way to save them and everyone else aboard. Along the way he was able to save the soul of the old man Kazran who controls the planet's upper atmosphere, but through some very morally grey use of time-travel, and Kazran was forced to see the love of his life die.
  • In the 2011 episode "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" (set in World War Two and the year 5345) has the Doctor - alone without Amy or Rory, who believe him dead - meet up with a woman who's husband has just be killed, and she hasn't informed her two children yet. And then the four find themselves in a forest of sentient trees about to be wiped out with no chance of escape. Subverted, since Everyone Lives - the widow saves the trees, taking their souls through the time vortex to live amongst the stars, and in the process accidently saves her husband's life. She then convinces the Doctor to go to Amy and Rory, reveal he is alive, and he joins the pair for Christmas dinner. Seriously, the end of this episode is pure Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.


  • Christmas Day 1986: Dennis "Dirty Den" Watts hands divorce papers to his shocked wife, Angie. About 30.15 million people watched. The population of the United Kingdom at the time was about 57 million. The Trope Maker episode.
  • 1998: Grant gets arrested for attempted murder. His wife then gets run over during the New Year's Day special.
  • 2001: Trevor abuses Little Mo, forcing her face first into a pot of boiling gravy. He'd also raped her a couple episodes prior to that. The New Year's Eve special sees her bludgeon him with an iron.
  • 2002: Jamie Mitchell gets injured after being run-over by a joy-riding Martin. While he initially recovers just enough to declare his everlasting love to Sonia, put a ring on her finger, and kiss, he quickly and dramatically decompensates when Sonia's lips are still on his. All interposed with scenes of another couple's marriage. Manly Mitchell tears follow.
  • 2005: Averted this year. Alfie Moon leaves to travel the world, still having failed to reconcile with his estranged wife Kat. However, when a depressed and drunken Kat staggered out of the pub that evening, Alfie was waiting to take her with him. This was followed by the rest of the square's residents coming out for a merry Christmas Day snowball fight. Of course a week later, Dennis Rickman was stabbed to death moments before he and pregnant wife Sharon were due to leave Walford to start a new life.
  • 2006: Pauline Fowler fell out with her son and daughter-in-law, whose relationship she had broken up by pretending to have brain cancer, then died suddenly in the square.
  • 2007: Bradley Branning discovered that his father had been having an affair with his new wife Stacey.
  • 2008: Sean Slater learned he was not the father of his new wife Roxy's baby when he found paternity test results in his homemade Christmas cracker!
  • 2009: Archie Mitchell is murdered in the Queen Vic, sparking another endless "whodunnit" storyline.
  • 2010: The murderer of Archie Mitchell last Christmas is revealed to the Square to be Stacey Branning not her husband Bradley who was blamed after his death. Stacey then flees the country with baby Lily.


  • New Year's Eve 1993: A plane crashes, half the cast dies, and the village is showered with hundreds of dead bodies. Even cheerier than usual!
    • It's rainin' men...
  • 2003: A storm hits Emmerdale village, the other half of the cast dies.
  • 2006: Tom King is murdered.
  • 2010: Chastity Dingle has a wedding on Christmas Day at which she jilts and humilates fiancee Carl due to knowing about his affair with Eve. She also lies about being pregnant.


  • Christmas 2004: Dan Hunter gets out of jail after being framed for the serial murders committed by his brother-in-law. He reunites with his lost love, gives her what turned out to be an engagement ring - then gets blown up in a rally car accident moments later.
  • 2008: Louise is murdered by Warren on their wedding day after he discovered her plans to shoot him dead because he'd murdered her previous husband.
  • 2009: An episode aired at Christmas was set six months into the future, revealing that Calvin Valentine is murdered on HIS wedding day in May 2010 as he renews his vows to Carmel. Back in the present day, Zoe is knifed by Lydia on New Year's Eve after Lydia admits to being responsible for Sarah's death. The show had planned a Christmas storyline which would reveal that two characters had killed a child and were now living under police protection with new identities, but producers announced the plot had been axed due to outcry over the similarities with the real life case of James Bulger.

Other shows

Anime and Manga

Live Action Television

  • In the House episode "Merry Little Christmas", House refuses a deal (two month rehabilitation instead of jail) and subsequently detoxes, overdoses on pills and is left in a pool of his own vomit as Wilson leaves in disgust. He then attempts to take the deal but it's been removed since.
  • On The OC, Ryan's memories of Christmas aren't exactly happy, and after a series of bad things inevitably happens he declares that "if there's cops and crying, well then it must be Christmas!"
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Amends". Angel gets psychologically tortured by Satan into recognising his essentially evil nature, and is prevented from suicide only by divine(?) intervention.
  • The X-Files first Christmas episode (actually a two-parter) falls victim to this in the worst kind of way. The episode starts with Scully spending the holidays with her brother and his wife in San Diego. They're expecting a baby and are very exciting, unknowingly digging the proverbial knife deeper for Scully, who has just found out that she is unable to conceive. A mysterious phone call leads Scully to a muder mystery, in which the parents of a sick 3-year-old die in quick succession. The little girl looks an awful lot like Scully's sister, Melissa, who had been killed two seasons before. So, Scully has some DNA tests run. While they run, Scully tries to adopt the orphaned Emily, but is denied. When the tests come back and reveal that Emily is actually Scully's daughter, things get worse. The little girl has an incurable form of anemia, which would be bad enough except when taken to the hospital, an entire conspiracy involving surrogate mothers taken from the local nursing home and alien hybrids is discovered after Emily's blood burns an ER doctor. On top of that, Emily has a growth that's shutting down her body systematically. The final scene is her funeral, which happens just after Scully's sister-in-law gives birth to Scully's nephew. Quite possibly one of the most depressing Christmas episodes.
    • Their only other Christmas episode also has depressing themes, though is markedly less Tear Jerker and more comedic. The episode's premise is a lover's murder/suicide pact, which two ghosts are trying to get Mulder and Scully to re-enact.
  • In Space: Above and Beyond, Cooper Hawkes, an InVitro who until he joined the Marines, had been homeless with no family, described Christmas as being the one time of the year when he was even lonlier than usual. Meanwhile, the squad spends Christmas in a crippled transport drifting in space, with no means of calling for help or getting home[1]

Western Animation

  • The Moral Orel Christmas Episode was an utter Downer Ending with Orel thinking his Annoying Younger Sibling/Bratty Half-Pint brother Shapey was the Second Coming and going on a rampage with him, and then witnessing the first major hint that his parents despise each other. The special ends with Orel spending the last few minutes of Christmas looking up in hopes the God will save his day, but it is implied that does not happen. That one thing that could make it more depressing is that it is a taste of things to come.
  1. until the Chigs choose to give them information to help them get home rather than leave them to die.