Favorite Christmas Episode of M*A*S*H

By my reckoning there were three true Christmas episodes of M*A*S*H: “Dear Dad” (01×12), “Dear Sis” (07×15) and “Death Takes A Holiday” (09×05). There was also a Boxing Day episode, “‘Twas the Day After Christmas” (10×10) and a New Year’s Eve episode, “A War For All Seasons” (09×06). Which is your favorite? And who made the best Santa Claus: Hawkeye, B.J. or Colonel Potter?

Death Takes A Holiday” is one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H. The main storyline, which sees B.J., Hawkeye and Margaret working furiously to keep a mortally wounded soldier alive through Christmas, is intense but falls apart somewhat when looked at logically (would the soldier’s family really feel any better knowing he died five minutes after Christmas?) but it holds up well overall. What works best is the secondary storyline involving Charles and his family’s Christmas tradition. I’ve always found the line, “It is sadly inappropriate to give dessert to a child who has had no meal,” to be very profound and the scene in which Klinger brings Charles dinner and Charles calls him Max very touching.

Hawkeye as Santa Claus, from Dear Dad
Hawkeye as Santa Claus, from “Dear Dad”
B.J. as Santa Claus, from Dear Sis
B.J. as Santa Claus, from “Dear Sis”
Colonel Potter as Santa Claus, from Death Takes a Holiday
Colonel Potter as Santa Claus, from “Death Takes a Holiday”

Situations in which Charles is depicted in a positive light are almost always excellent. So while “Dear Sis” is properly a Father Mulcahy episode, Charles’s reaction to receiving his toboggan cap is my favorite part of the episode, followed closely by the camp singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” and, of course, Father Mulcahy slugging a soldier. “Dear Dad” is easily the most amusing of the three episodes. For example, Colonel Blake’s disastrous attempt at giving the 4077th a lecture on sex and reproduction is hilarious, as the following exchange proves:

Colonel Blake: “The union of Figure A, man, and Figure B, woman, is the most sublime expression of romantic love. However, only in the institution of marriage is it recommended that this expression take place.”
Trapper: “Uh, sir.”
Colonel Blake: “Mm-hm.”
Trapper: “What happens in the event that Figure A is attracted to Figure B and wants to get married but Figure A is already married to, say, Figure C and Figure B is engaged to Figure D? But Figure A can’t keep his hands of Figure B because she’s got such a great figure.”
Colonel Blake: “Uh-huh. Well, according to the Army he’s got to forget her.”
Hawkeye: “That figures.”

I’m torn between Hawkeye and Colonel Potter as the best Santa. Hawkeye’s bushy eyebrows really stick out in my mind but Colonel Potter brings a certain amount of gravitas to the role.

12 Comments

  • Teddy says:

    Well, it really depends on each ones’ taste. All of them are special in their way, so I guess it would be hard to pick a favourite, I’d go with “Death Takes a Holiday”, because of the emotional impact. And a Merry Christmas to all you M.A.S.H. fans out there !

  • Chai says:

    My personal favorite is ‘Dear Dad’

  • PinkPagoda says:

    They all are great in their own way. I love the Santa descending from the helicopter to the wounded soldier, and the statement “And you thought there was no Santa Claus” between the soldiers in the field.

    I too love Charles when you find his inner kindness.

    I think Potter makes the best Santa, though he has a sadness about him in this episode.

  • TrapperJoe says:

    I too think they all are enjoyable in their own way.

    “Dear Dad” is a great episode…Henry’s lectures are always hilarious, and Hawkeye dressed as Santa headed to the front lines is brilliant, strange, hilarious and scary if I were to be in Hawkeyes shoes.

    “Death Takes a Holiday” is a nice episode, but very sad, and I agree, whether the man died on Christmas day, the day before, or the day after…that family would always be reminded of his passing by the holiday season in general.

    “Dear Sis” is not only my favorite Christmas episode, but one of my favorite episodes period, maybe in my top 10.

    So many great moments, seeing Father Mulchay tending bar, while also using that time as a mach confessional, cutting through Charles’ outer layer to see the genuine kind person deep down.

    I always crack up when Igor announces the meal to Col. Potter – “turkey on shingles, with cranberry sausage.”

    I love seeing the spotlight on the Father and I understand his feelings of usefullness, or being in the way…when really he is vital to that camp, and then the final shot of him going about his business, walking through the snow is just wonderful.

    I hope everyone here had a great Christmas as well.

  • For myself, it’s “Dear Dad” (1×12) and “Dear Sis” (7×15).

    And I think someone should correct Charles about his description of “Boxing Day”; Boxing Day is sort of the Canadian equivilant to America’s “Black Friday”… also, it’s an excuse to make a “holiday” out of taking down Christmas decorations, and putting them back in their boxes (hence the name Boxing Day).

    • Also, I’ve never seen Colonel Potter play Santa Claus, but that must have been interesting… Hawkeye didn’t really get the chance to be Santa since he was rushed out to perform field surgery, meanwhile all we really saw of B.J. was him dropping into the Mess Tent, and later telling Hawkeye he doesn’t cover up his mustache for anybody or anything.

  • roger says:

    And if you really want to get technical, just after midnight December 26 in Korea would still be Christmas morning in the US.

    • theroger says:

      but the tv show was filmed in California, the soldier’s family was in Kansas, and with the time zone difference and being in a pretend acting situation makes none of it really matter

  • Allen Basom says:

    For me, the best christmas episode was the one where we saw the softer side of Winchester. I’m not sure which one that was but I always loved the juxtaposition between Charles’ anonymous gift giving at the orphanage and the caviar that he publicly gives to the christmas party. The best scene in the episode was Klinger teaching the korean kid to say “blech!”

    Also after having lost my dad over the summer, the episode “Death Takes A Holiday” is a very emotional one for me that I have trouble watching.

    • Brian says:

      I love that one too. It is “Death Takes a Holiday.” I was just searching for it and found it so I wanted to let you know the name. Merry Christmas!