This is my favorite Christmas special. Of anything. Ever. Period.
This episode is Patchy’s first appearance, he has a segment at the beginning of the episode that’s like four or minutes long, and one at the end too. I won’t comment on them because quite frankly Patchy manages to both annoy and bore me so I always skip his parts. Sorry.
Now then, the actual episode. It begins with SpongeBob seeing Sandy putting up Christmas lights in her treedome. He mistakes the lights for a fire and runs to her rescue, though of course she’s fine. SpongeBob has never heard of Christmas before, it’s not something they celebrate under the sea, so Sandy tells him what it is and SpongeBob is enamored with the idea.
Sandy doesn’t show up at all for the rest of the episode. She’s never even mentioned after this scene, and there’s no explanation given for her absence. I’m just getting this out of the way here because I think it’s the one non-Patchy related thing that bothers me about this episode. The explanation I came up with for myself is that Sandy went to spend the holidays in Texas, hence why she isn’t around after this. But come on, the episode should have given us an explanation. Given what happens later in the episode, it’s just weird that we never see Sandy again.
Anyway, SpongeBob spreads the word about Christmas and Santa and all that, and everyone is on board with the holiday except Squidward. He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to celebrate a holiday where “a jolly prowler breaks into your home and leaves gifts”. I mean, I guess it does sound odd when you put it that way. So, Squidward refuses to participate in Christmas at all. The whole town writes letters to Santa and sends them to the surface, except Squidward. SpongeBob tries to get him to join in, but Squidward insists that he doesn’t believe in Santa and he wants no part in any of this. Because if your Christmas special is going to feature a grump who learns a lesson and has their heart grow three sizes, Squidward is a perfect fit for that role.
The whole town (except Squidward) stays awake waiting for Santa to show up on Christmas Eve, and he never shows up. Everyone feels cheated, but no one is more dejected than SpongeBob. Squidward doesn’t help the situation when he comes outside to gloat. There’s something particularly vicious about Squidward’s gloating here, it’s really mean. So much so, that even the show calls him out for it. During Squidward’s gloating, they superimpose a picture of a donkey over him, complete with braying. I remember when I was a kid, I felt really smart and mature for understanding that joke.
Despite how mean Squidward is being, SpongeBob still wants him to have the gift he made for him. Yeah, SpongeBob made Squidward a gift. So that he wouldn’t feel left out when Santa came. And even though Santa didn’t show up and no one got a present, and Squidward has been nothing but unpleasant, SpongeBob still wants him to have it. There will never be a character more pure than SpongeBob. It just won’t happen.
The gift SpongeBob got Squidward is incredibly nice, too. He carved a clarinet from driftwood, and etched Squidward name into it. And there’s a button that plays a chime if you press it. So now Squidward feels like…
… Sure, yeah, “jerk” is totally the word I was thinking of too.
Squidward realizes that all SpongeBob wanted was to spread some Christmas cheer. In his letter to Santa, all SpongeBob said he wanted was for Santa to visit Bikini Bottom. So, Squidward decides to dress up as Santa and give SpongeBob some reassurance. It’s a very heartwarming scene and definitely the nicest thing Squidward does for anyone on the show, though it comes on the heels of one of the meanest things he does on the show.
The rest of Bikini Bottom catches wind that “Santa” is here, and they all gather around Squidward’s house, expecting to get presents. Squidward wants to keep up the charade for SpongeBob’s sake, and he ends up giving away everything he owns to the Bikini Bottomites. Everything except his new clarinet, of course. All so that SpongeBob wouldn’t be sad.
The episode ends with Squidward getting a letter, supposedly from the real Santa, thanking him for his help. Then we see the real Santa flying over Bikini Bottom, and Squidward is the only one who sees this, apparently. Squidard dismisses it as a hallucination, but I like to think it was real and that in return for what he did, Santa replaced all of the stuff Squidward gave away.
Few things get me into the Christmas spirit as much as this episode does. It’s the perfect blend of silly and heartwarming, and while the whole “curmudgeon learns a lesson on Christmas” story isn’t exactly a new idea, they manage to make it not feel too stale or cheap.
Because the thing is, Squidward was proven right. Santa didn’t show up, and the entire town lost their spirit because of it. Their Christmas joy was entirely reliant on the idea of Santa. Squidward could have left things as they were and been satisfied that he was right, but he didn’t. He took things into his own hands instead, because he realized how sincere and pure SpongeBob’s belief in this holiday was.
For a long time this was the only Christmas episode this show had, up until season 8 when we got It’s a SpongeBob Christmas!. I do love that one too, but there is something special about Christmas Who?. It packs more emotional punch, and it features Squidward’s sincerest gesture in this show.