Favorite Christmas Episode of M*A*S*H

The following is an expanded version of a post originally written on December 24th, 2010.

Do you make an effort to watch a Christmas episode of M*A*S*H around December 25th to celebrate the holiday and the series we all love?

There were three episodes of M*A*S*H set during or around Christmas: “Dear Dad” (Season One; originally broadcast December 17th, 1972), “Dear Sis” (Season Seven; originally broadcast December 18th, 1978) and “Death Takes A Holiday” (Season Nine; originally broadcast December 15th, 1980).

(During its eleven seasons on the air, no first-run episode of the series actually aired on December 25th. However, a repeat of “Lil” was broadcast on December 25th, 1978.)

In addition to the three episodes listed above, there was also a Boxing Day episode, “‘Twas the Day After Christmas” (Season Ten, originally aired on December 28th, 1981). and a New Year’s Eve episode, “A War For All Seasons” (Season Nine; originally aired on December 29th, 1980).

(For the record, AfterMASH also had a Christmas Eve episode, aptly titled “All About Christmas Eve” and broadcast during the show’s first season on December 29th, 1983.)

I was hoping to have time to rewatch “Dear Dad” this week but just couldn’t fit it in. I did watch it again back in January for an Episode Spotlight, and I rewatched “Dear Sis” in June for another Spotlight. We’ll see if next year I get around to reviewing “Death Takes a Holiday.”

Below you’ll find my thoughts on the three Christmas episodes of M*A*S*H. Which is your favorite (if you have one) and who do you think made the best Santa Claus: Hawkeye, B.J. or Colonel Potter?

“Dear Dad” (Season One; 12/17/1972)

This is easily the most amusing of the three Christmas episodes, even if it does involve Hawkeye riding in a helicopter dressed as Santa Claus to treat wounded soldiers under fire, which is pretty serious. It’s a bizarre scene but that’s the point and I think it works well.

Image of Hawkeye dressed up as Santa Claus
Hawkeye as Santa Claus, from “Dear Dad”

Colonel Blake’s disastrous attempt at giving the 4077th a lecture on sex and reproduction is hilarious. An excerpt:

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.”

You can find my January review of this episode here. In the comments, a number of people called this their favorite Christmas episode of the series and a standout episode from the first season.

“Dear Sis”

Situations in which Charles is depicted in a positive light are rare but always well done. So while “Dear Sis” is properly a Father Mulcahy episode, the highlight is watching Charles receive his beloved toboggan cap.

Image of B.J. dressed up as Santa Claus
B.J. as Santa Claus, from “Dear Sis”

The camp singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” is also a nice moment. And who doesn’t love seeing Father Mulcahy slug a soldier? You can read my June review of this episode here. The comments were mixed with a few people liking it and others not so much.

“Death Takes a Holiday”

Death Takes A Holiday” has long been one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H. The main storyline sees B.J., Hawkeye and Margaret working furiously to keep a mortally wounded soldier alive through Christmas so his kids won’t have to think of Christmas as the day their father died.

Image of Colonel Potter dressed up as Santa Claus
Colonel Potter as Santa Claus, from “Death Takes a Holiday”

It’s an intense episode 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 still holds up well. 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.

So, who made the best Santa? I’ve always been torn between Hawkeye and Colonel Potter. Hawkeye’s bushy eyebrows really stick out in my mind but Colonel Potter brings a certain amount of gravitas to the role.

7 Comments

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    Overall, Dead Dad is my favorite, as it find it has the most humorous moments.

    The scene “Toboggan Cap” scene in Dear Sis with Charles, Radar, & Mulcahy makes me tear up everytime I watch it. Just some outstanding, understated acting by those three.

    All 3 of the episodes are very good or above. As for the Santas I would probably make it a tie between Hawkeye and Potter. Potter is the most believable to me, while Hawkeye’s Santa repelling from a helicopter is definitely unique. I didn’t care for BJ’s Santa and I agree with Hawkeye that the moustache needs to be covered.

  • Tuttle4077 says:

    I think “Dear Sis” is my favorite. I, too, like the scene with the toboggan cap, and (thought I’m not Catholic 🙂 ) I also like the singing of “Dona Nobis Pacem” near the end. And you’re absolutely right, B.J.’s mustache needed to be covered while he was dressed as Santa.

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    ‘Dear Dad’ is my favorite. That was the first instance of someone writing a letter home and it’s interesting to see their perception of their fellow camp members.

  • TWoods says:

    Dear Sis and Death Takes a Holiday are my favorites, but I don’t know which one I enjoy more out of the two. There are elements from both I really like (the toboggan cap part, the excitement of the snow at the end of the episode and Charles’ family tradition, to name a few). But I’d say that Potter makes the better Santa…..and BJ definitely needs to cover the mustache!

    We do indeed pull out these two episodes every Christmas season, plus we watch A War for All Seasons, too. We enjoy the uniqueness of watching the camp go throw most of a year in one episode…..But that discussion is for a different time. 🙂 I hope this episode is in RJ’s “spotlight” soon if it hasn’t been already. Enjoy your holiday season everyone!

  • mspence says:

    Dear Dad is the one I remember the most although A War for All Seasons is one of my favorites despite the screwed up timeline. One thing, though-weren’t the holiday episodes a reminder of how much better the folks at the 4077th actually had it than, say, the soldiers or civilians they treated?

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    My favorite Christmas episode would have to be “Dear Sis”. I really loved the camp’s rendition of “Dona Nobis Pacem”. It really brings out the best in all the characters.

    Charles: You saved me, Father. You lowered a bucket into the well of my despair and you raised me up to the light of day.

    As eloquent a line ever uttered by anyone on the show

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