Christmas is a time for merriment and being surrounded by loved ones — unless you're on the naughty list.
While some Christmas TV episodes are full of holiday cheer and laughter, some shows have over the years opted for a much darker, more Halloween-themed route. Santa Claus's malicious counterpart, Krampus, makes occasional appearances, and episodes that don't involve an evil Santa make up for it with ghosts, murder, and overall poor life choices. So take a break from your Gremlins marathon long enough to check out these dark, freaky, ho-ho-no Christmas-themed episodes. Hope you're on the nice list.
Season 3's “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” arguably one of the most well-known dark Christmas TV episodes, has Sam and Dean Winchester fighting what they believe to be Krampus — but ends up being two pagan gods who enjoy devouring humans and chastising people who swear.
Mulder and Scully pull a Fred and Daphne and investigate a haunted house on Christmas Eve in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas,” looking into a 100-year-old home where a husband and wife killed themselves in a suicide pact. The ghosts eventually trick the federal agents into thinking they shot each other, because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like gunshot wounds.
What could be scarier than snow that can actually think and assemble itself into vicious snowmen? That's what the Doctor has to deal with in “The Snowmen,” where on Christmas Eve in 1892 London, the snow feeds off the nightmares of a young girl, but the Doctor has conveniently decided to give up on saving the world. Welp.
In Season 3's “Amends,” the ancient force called First Evil emerges around Christmas time and plagues Angel with nightmares about Angelus's former kills, in hope that he will eventually murder Buffy. Fa-la-la la la...
An evil Santa Claus specter torments a workaholic named Larry in this Syfy series' episode “Secret Santa,” trying to make him disappear with the hope of taking his place.
An wicked Santa-like creature in “Twelve Days of Krampus” savagely beats and kidnaps naughty kids, hanging them from the tallest tree with plans to eat them on the winter solstice.
Tales from the Crypt
The scene: Christmas Eve, when a woman murders her husband and tries to hide the body. Because karma's a bitch in “And All Through the House,” she's soon terrorized by an escaped serial killer whose victims are older women. The woman manages to escape from his clutches and hides in her house, but her daughter, thinking he is the real Santa Claus, lets him inside. Dun dun dun.
Tales from the Darkside
In “Seasons of Belief,” a father and mother tell their kids a scary story on Christmas Eve about a monster called the Grither. According to the tale, just mentioning the Grither causes it to appear and destroy whoever uttered its name. Naturally, the story is actually true, so the kids' parents are murdered by the beast via snapped necks.
In “Presumed Guilty,” it's Christmastime in New York, and a man assaults a priest he believes molested and impregnated his sister years ago. During the police investigation, the squad learns that the crime goes higher up than they could've guessed.
“Truth Be Told,” an early Dexter episode, involves the Ice Truck Killer murdering a prostitute and dumping her at the base of a Christmas tree in a Santa's Cottage exhibit. The episode also deals with kidnapping — 'tis the season!
Asylum's “Unholy Night” gave us the best Christmas present we didn't know we needed: Ian McShane as a killer Santa figure who murders a girl's parents and winds up in Briarcliff. There, he's repeatedly caned and abused by Sister Jude, and later, he's encouraged to pick up his killing spree where he left off when possessed Sister Mary eggs him on with a Santa suit.
Courage the Cowardly Dog
Technically, there isn't a Christmas episode of this freaky cartoon series, but Season 4's “The Nutcracker” references the Christmas tale, so just go with it. After Courage, Eustace, and Muriel find a creepy toy nutcracker inside the city dump, they're terrorized by two large rats who chase them around while simultaneously dancing to tunes from The Nutcracker. Weird.