Friends is one of those rare shows that was huge during its initial run, but somehow has become even bigger through the power of nostalgia. Friends is also an uncomplicated show, so you can turn it on for some lighthearted fun, and the next thing you know, you’ve binged watched all 10 seasons in two days. Because Friends is such an easy show to binge watch, it’s also a great TV series to watch with friends when you’re not watching the most popular Christmas movies streaming now. The Friends Thanksgiving episodes may be the series’ biggest holiday episodes, but the Friends Christmas episodes are also must-see TV.
These episodes occurred almost every season, so they were just as vital to Friends’ episodic traditions as the Thanksgiving shows. I ranked them based on iconic series moments, how much they followed the holiday theme, and overall funniness or enjoyability of the episode. Now, let’s rank the best Friends Christmas episodes!
10. “The One With The Ross’s Step Forward” (Season 8)
In this episode, Ross (David Schwimmer) doesn’t know how to handle it when his girlfriend Mona (Bonnie Somerville) suggests that they make a couple’s Christmas card. This sends him spiraling into trying to define where their relationship is headed. Meanwhile, Monica (Courteney Cox) hates Chandler (Matthew Perry)’s boss, Doug (Sam McMurray), and doesn’t want to have to spend more time with him. And, pregnant Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) becomes extremely horny due to hormones.
“The One With the Ross’s Step Forward” had some funny moments, especially with Rachel’s story, including when Rachel and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) are briefly tempted to sleep together. This kind of foreshadows what happens in later episodes. Overall, this episode is just kind of meh, especially because the focus is on Ross and Mona, a couple viewers already know won’t last more than a few more episodes.
9. “The One With Christmas In Tulsa” (Season 9)
Chandler is stuck working in Tulsa during the holidays. While there, he starts to reminisce on past Christmases and moments with Monica. Meanwhile, Monica worries that Chandler may be tempted to hook up with his co-worker Wendy (Selma Blair).
“The One with Christmas in Tulsa” is more of a flashback/clip-show episode than new content. It is a sweet episode for fans of Monica and Chandler moments, because it acts as a reminder of why they’re such a lovable TV couple. However, it doesn’t give the other Friends characters much to do. It’s also the final Friends Christmas episode, as Friends Season 10 didn’t air one. It’s kind of disappointing for the Friends Christmas episodes to end with one that’s mainly a clip show.
8.“The One With The Inappropriate Sister” (Season 5)
Thanks to Monica’s meddling, Rachel finally gets a date with her crush, Danny (George Newbern), but the romance quickly fizzles when Rachel sees the awkward semi-incestuous relationship he has with his sister. Still on sabbatical, Ross can’t relax so he channels that energy into trying to help Joey write a screenplay like “those Good Will Hunting guys.” Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) volunteers as Santa’s elf to collect money for charity.
Besides Phoebe’s volunteering storyline, “The One with the Inappropriate Sister,” barely feels like a holiday episode. It has plenty of funny moments, but just doesn’t have enough of a holiday tone to rank higher on this list.
7. “The One With Phoebe’s Dad” (Season 2)
Phoebe learns that her mother lied to her about the guy in the picture being her father. She then consults her grandmother (Audra Lindley) about her real dad. Monica and Rachel are tight on money, so they decide to tip this year with cookies, which has a mixed response. There is also still tension between Rachel and Ross because of his infamous list.
“The One with Phoebe’s Dad” was the official, first entirely Christmas-focused, Friends episode. It has a satisfying mixture of funny moments and heartfelt ones, like when Joey and Chandler accompany Phoebe to meet her dad. It’s also an episode that reminds us that Phoebe has been through a lot of hardship.
6. “The One With All The Candy” (Season 7)
Monica decides to make candy as a way to meet her neighbors, but her candy becomes too popular. Rachel and her assistant, Tag (Eddie Cahill), are secretly dating, but they risk being outed when a joke and flirty evaluation accidentally get sent to human resources. Ross buys Phoebe a bike.
Friends Season 7 gave fans to two episodes that could be considered Friends Christmas episodes. David Schwimmer directed “The One with all the Candy.” It’s a cute episode that makes us all want to try some of Monica’s candy, and we are treated to an only semi-depressing look into Phoebe’s past.
5. “The One Where Rachel Quits” (Season 3)
Encouraged by Chandler and Joey, Rachel decides to quit being a waitress, but now she needs to find a new job ASAP. Ross accidentally breaks the leg of a Brown Bird, Sarah Tuttle (Mae Whitman), so he volunteers to sell cookies to help her win a trip to Space Camp. Phoebe doesn’t like seeing Christmas trees go unsold, so she makes Joey’s job at a Christmas tree-seller even harder.
“The One Where Rachel Quits” has a lot of heartwarming moments, such as Joey, Chandler, and Ross turning Joey and Chandler’s apartment into a Space Camp for Sarah, to Monica and Joey buying all the dead trees and decorating Monica’s apartment with them to make Phoebe happy. It’s also fun to see a very young Mae Whitman and Kyla Pratt in this episode.
4. “The One With The Monkey (Season 1)
The Friends crew make a pact to not bring a date to their New Year’s Eve gathering, but they slowly all start to break it.
The majority of “The One with the Monkey” surrounds the upcoming New Year’s celebration, but it starts pre-Christmas. This is such a key Friends episode that despite being more New Year’s Eve-focused, I ranked it high. The episode introduced two important recurring characters: Marcel the Monkey, and David (Hank Azaria), one of Phoebe’s ex-boyfriends that she really loved. It also featured some fan favorites like Fun Bobby (Vincent Ventresca) and Janice (Maggie Wheeler).
3. “The One With The Girl From Poughkeepsie” (Season 4)
Ross begins a relationship with a woman who lives all the way in Poughkeepsie. Monica hires Joey just to fire him, so she can scare her employees into showing her more respect. Rachel agrees to let Chandler set her up on a date with someone from his job. Phoebe wants to write a holiday song for her friends, but finds it hard to rhyme all their names with holiday-themed things.
“The One with the Girl from Poughkeepsie” has so many memorable moments, such as Monica dancing with tomato sauce on her chef’s jacket to Chandler being a terrible wingman. However, I believe the most standout thing about this episode is Phoebe’s catchy holiday song.
2. “The One With The Routine” (Season 6)
Janine (Elle MacPherson) makes one of Ross and Monica’s biggest dreams come true by inviting them to join Joey and her as dancers on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Meanwhile, Joey wants to use the fake New Year’s Eve celebration to kiss Janine and find out if she likes him, too. Back at home, Rachel and Phoebe convince Chandler to go along with them as they search for the presents Monica got them.
Monica and Ross are hilarious together in “The One with the Routine,” especially when viewers see the infamous dance. Phoebe, Rachel, and Chandler are equally funny on the hunt for the presents. Rachel also has one of the best lines from any Friends Christmas episode when she says “whatever Linus. I’m opening mine,” after Chandler gives a big speech about not opening the presents before Christmas.
1. “The One With The Holiday Armadillo” (Season 7)
Ross has Ben (Cole Sprouse) for the holidays and wants to use this opportunity to teach him about Hanukkah, but Ben wants Santa Claus. Ross tries at the last minute to find a Santa costume, but they only have an Armadillo one. Phoebe’s apartment renovations are ready, but she fears Rachel loves living with Joey too much to be her roommate again.
When you think of Friends Christmas episodes, likely “The One with the Holiday Armadillo” immediately pops into your head. The sight of Ross dressed as an Armadillo is unforgettable. It’s made even better with Chandler as Santa Claus and Joey as Superman.
All of the Friends Christmas episodes are currently available to stream on HBO Max.
Stream Friends on HBO Max.
Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I’m not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.