The holidays aren't all presents and hot chocolate by the fire, as we all know (although those things rule). Sometimes it's hard to feel festive when you're fighting with your mom, your uncle's prying into your personal life, or your brother's new girlfriend is really, really annoying. And if you're home visiting family right now, you might be feeling one -- or ALL -- of these tensions.
No TV show did family tension better than "Gilmore Girls," which nailed each and every complexity of mother/daughter, husband/wife, and grandparent/granddaughter relationships there could ever be. In fact, the show's holiday episodes were often fueled by drama, which made them heartwarming and relatable at the same time (aka, the reason we love "GG" in the first place).
So if you're bored waiting for Santa to arrive, why not take a break from your own family and spend some quality time with the Gilmores. Here are all seven Christmas episodes, ranked by level of family tension.
“The Bracebridge Dinner” Season 2, Episode 10
As far as family tensions go, this episode of “Gilmore Girls” is relatively drama-free. Emily and Richard disagree over Richard’s decision to retire from his company (without consulting his wife), but other than that, everyone gets drunk, rides horse-drawn sleighs, and has a really fun time at the Independence Inn’s swanky theme dinner. Plus, the incredible chemistry between Rory and Jess starts brewing, which really sets the audience’s hearts a-flutter.
“In The Clamor And Clangor” Season 4, Episode 11
Besides the snow, “In The Clamor And Clangor” isn’t the most festive of “Gilmore Girls” holiday episodes, and nobody’s really all that pissed at each other, either. Lorelai gets mad at Luke for moving without telling her, but they resolve things in no time. However, the real problem arises when Lane finally confesses her secret rock and roll lifestyle to her mother, getting kicked out of the house in the process.
“That’ll Do, Pig” Season 3, Episode 10
The main tension here lies in the unexpected visit of the First Lorelai, aka Trix, aka Richard’s mother. Emily goes a little bonkers when her mother-in-law arrives, doing little to hide her distaste for the woman (who, tbh, isn’t a huge fan of her daughter-in-law, either).
Meanwhile, Rory attends the town’s annual winter carnival with both ex-boyfriend Dean AND current boyfriend Jess, and while things look peachy on the outside, Dean confronts Jess and threatens him behind Rory’s back. Yowza.
“Women of Questionable Morals” Season 5, Episode 11
In “Women of Questionable Morals,” Emily and Richard aren’t getting along, although a stray dog provides a bit of comedic relief, bringing the estranged pair together. Rory isn’t on great terms with her dad, as Christopher struggles to convince his daughter to give him another chance. Worst of all, Lorelai decides that she hates -- yes, HATES -- the snow, until Luke makes a decidedly romantic (and wholly unrealistic) gesture by building an ice rink in her front yard. Aww.
“Just Like Gwen and Gavin” Season 6, Episode 12
“Just Like Gwen and Gavin” is centered around Lorelai finding out about April, the pre-teen daughter that Luke never knew he had. As fans well know, April proves to be a major source of tension for Luke and Lorelai, eventually leading to their breakup. Not even the winter carnival setting can ease the stress here. Plus, Rory’s mad at Logan, and Zach is jealous of Lane’s friend Joe (until he realizes Joe is actually Lane’s uncle).
”Santa’s Secret Stuff” Season 7, Episode 11
This Christmas episode takes place post- Christmas, after Rory returns from spending the holiday in London with Logan. Lane is (very) pregnant with her twins, and basically has a full-on panic attack about the type of mom she’ll be (although as we all know, Lane’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom).
This episode is also particularly tense because it’s clear that Lorelai is harboring doubts about her marriage to Christopher -- while he’s totally holly jolly about everything, she’s writing secret letters about Luke and hiding it from him. Definitely not a huge surprise when they split later in the season.
Also Gigi is super annoying, so there’s that.
“Forgiveness And Stuff” Season 1, Episode 10
There’s a lot happening in this episode, but it’s still tons of fun (s/o to Lorelai jamming in her kitchen to The Waitresses’ new wave jam “Christmas Wrapping”). It’s the first time we witnessed the Gilmores coming together for the holidays -- in this case, the pre-holidays -- for an early Christmas celebration packed with plenty of drama.
Lorelai is pissed not only at Dean (remember when Dean and Rory fell asleep in Miss Patty’s studio after the Chilton formal?), but also at Emily, who disinvites her daughter to the family’s annual holiday party. In case that weren’t tense enough, Richard suffers a heart attack, and for a while the family’s unsure whether he’ll make it.
This episode also presents an early, key Luke/Lorelai moment: Luke comes to the rescue driving Lorelai to the hospital, and it’s immediately clear to the audience that he’s way, way more than just the dude who serves her coffee.
Lorelai’s fear and reluctance to see her dad sick is an emotional moment, highlighting their flawed relationship in a totally relatable way -- in the end, though, everyone makes amends, and it’s a memorable holiday, to say the least. It’s “Gilmore Girls” at its finest.