First up on the list is a fairly new Christmas special (given the number of decades these have been made)… might I present Master Spongebob Squarepants!
The special first aired in 2000, and besides the usual denizens of Bikini Bottom, it introduced the audience to Patchy the Pirate and Potty the Parrot. Although they’ve since departed a little from the old-fashioned children’s special format (Patchy echoes the tradition of the station weatherman in a wig for the children’s hour), it made a strong, funny, establishing moment for the characters. Answering viewer mail, he gets a question about whether Spongebob enjoys Christmas, and the episode begins.
Sandy the Squirrel tells Spongebob about Santa Claus, and the little sponge gets the whole town excited and ready for Christmas– everyone except Squidward, who refuses to believe in Santa Claus. Christmas Eve comes, and the town stays up all night singing Christmas songs, waiting for the elf (or genie, as Patrick thinks he is), to arrive. Unfortunately, they’ve missed the point about how Santa only comes when you’re asleep, so when he hasn’t shown on Christmas morning, the crowd turns on Spongebob and leaves.
Squidward tries to make fun of Spongebob, but his conscience gets to him when the sponge gives him a homemade clarinet anyway. To make up for his bullying, Squidward puts on a Santa suit to try and cheer Spongebob up– it works too well, for now he has to give gifts to everyone in town. When he has nothing left but the shirt on his back (and his new clarinet), questioning his sanity, Squidward gets a note from and sees the real Santa Claus flying back to the North Pole. “Oh, yeah,” he decides. “I’m insane.” Patchy and Potty take it from there.
This is an utterly charming episode. Firstly the music is a lot of fun, and the characters even acknowledge how ridiculous some of it is (listen for Mr. Krabs’ cackling), although if you’re sensitive about fruit cake jokes, this is not a special for you. The usual irredeemable Squidward does a good deed, and while the denizens of Bikini Bottom don’t have a great epiphany about Christmas not being about materialism (new), at least Mr. Tentacles showed that he had a soul. And it was a believable moment when he realized how wrong he was to be so mean to Spongebob; impersonating Santa seemed like the next logical step.