Christmas specials are some of the best additions to a long-running series. Be it a genre show or your average drama or procedural, there’s a novelty to these episodes that keeps folks coming back to them every holiday season. With 327 episodes and 15 seasons under its belt, it’s no wonder that Supernatural has at least one holiday episode, and it sure is a doozy! The eighth episode of Season 3, titled “A Very Supernatural Christmas” premiered just a few weeks before Christmas 2007 as “A Special Presentation” event, complete with an intro reminiscent of the ’80s specials that the Winchester brothers likely grew up watching via reruns.
Starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as Sam and Dean Winchester, Supernatural usually follows these brothers as they hunt demons, ghosts, monsters, and other creatures across the back roads of America. Only this time, the threat is Christmas itself — or, rather, some monsters who have purposed the holiday season for their carnivorous appetites. So light up the tree and salt the windows, because it’s time to revisit the Supernatural holiday special that we can’t help but love.
‘Supernatural’s Christmas Special Makes Holiday Horror Exciting
The horror genre has a longstanding tradition of making holiday terrors. Movies like Black Christmas, Krampus, and Violent Night are enough to hold fans of the genre over until the new year, and Supernatural leans into that halfway through its third season. While not all attempts at holiday horror are particularly inspired, “A Very Supernatural Christmas” seamlessly blends the threat of “Anti-Claus” with the Winchester’s own traumatic family history. Twice we see the “Anti-Claus” monster attack and kill adults right in front of little kids, and each time it’s tough to watch.
Written by future showrunner Jeremy Carver, there’s so much to love about “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” Aside from the time we get to see Sam and Dean celebrate Christmas (which is a particular highlight), we get to see the Winchesters turn tradition on its head and use the very things that make up the Hallmark holiday to kill the beasts attempting to thwart it. At one point, the boys even break into a fake Santa’s trailer hoping to take out the supposed “Anti-Claus” only to realize that he’s not their guy and awkwardly exit singing a subpar version of “Silent Night.” But fake Santa aside, there’s still a real threat out there.
According to series creator Eric Kripke, he loved Christmas specials so much growing up that he’d decided he wanted to make one of his own on Supernatural, complete with as much blood and guts as he could manage. “What I really rub my hands together in glee about is that we are far and away the most violent Christmas special in the history of television,” Kripke told TV Guide back in ’07. “As we researched legends for the show, we came across this worldwide one about an anti-Claus — if God has the Devil, then Santa Claus has this creature.”
The Monsters in “A Very Supernatural Christmas” Brutally Embody the Holiday
But as it turns out, the monsters behind the “Anti-Claus” aren’t related to Saint Nick after all, but are rather pagan gods – or possibly, two halves of one whole pagan god named Hold Nickar, who, after the advent of Christ, were no longer worshiped. Instead of taking hundreds of human tributes annually, the Christian church ran them out of town so that they now barely take two people every year. Of course, two people a year is still a problem, and that brings Sam and Dean to a snowless Ypsilanti, Michigan to hunt down the X-mas killers.
Hilariously, these pagan gods, for as much as they hate Jesus, absolutely love the pagan lore associated with the Christmas season. While it’s up for debate how much Christianity took from paganism when it comes to their most famous holiday, the Carrigans (played perfectly by Spencer Garrett and Merrilyn Gann) utilize every tradition they can think of in their rituals, and act as if they’ve stepped right out of a 1950s Christmas card. This fun blend of tradition with ritual and grisly horror could only work on a show like Supernatural.
Though, just because the Carrigans look like something you’d see in a Christmas special (you know, one that isn’t a Supernatural episode) doesn’t mean they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Aside from dressing up as a killer Santa Claus, they ritualistically prod and cut at Sam and Dean until an untimely (or, timely for the Winchesters) interruption keeps them from their goal. Since these things can only be killed by evergreen stakes, the Supernatural Christmas special ends with the Winchesters stabbing the Carrigans with their own Christmas tree, which is probably one of the funniest (and certainly the most ironic) deaths on the show.
‘Supernatural’ Shows How the Holidays Are Hard, Especially for Hunters
The B-plot of this episode is a series of flashbacks to 1991 Nebraska where a young Sam (Colin Ford) and Dean (Ridge Canipe) celebrate Christmas on their own. In these moments, we learn why the holiday season is such a hard time for Sam, whose innocence is stripped away when he forces Dean to tell him the truth about monsters and their family business. Regretfully, Dean does, and it changes Sam’s entire world.
But not everything here is doom and gloom. We also learn that the trademark amulet that Dean wears throughout the show’s early years was first given to him by Sam that very Christmas, who was grateful that, unlike their father, his older brother didn’t lie to him. Turns out, this amulet (later nicknamed the “Samulet” by fans) would be used eight seasons later as a beacon for God, err Chuck (Rob Benedict), himself.
The episode ends with Sam and Dean celebrating their first Christmas together in years. With Dean’s trip to Hell underway (he sold his soul in the previous season’s two-part finale), the brothers don’t have much time left before he’s meant to die. So, instead of ignoring the holiday, Sam chooses to honor it this year, making memories with his brother that he was no doubt grateful for during the time between Seasons 3 and 4.
‘A Very Supernatural Christmas’ Wasn’t ‘Supernatural’s Only Holiday Episode
Believe it or not, “A Very Supernatural Christmas” isn’t the only holiday special in the series. In the show’s final season, Jeremy Adams (not to be confused with this episode’s writer Jeremy Carver) wrote the episode “Last Holiday,” where the Winchesters are introduced to a wood nymph in their secret bunker who feels a lot like Marge Carrigan, come to think of it. Except, this creature isn’t evil. As she helps the Winchesters find more meaning in life, she also forces them to celebrate the holidays, all of them.
“Last Holiday” may not be as “Christmas special-y” as “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” but it’s a fun nod to the fact that, after this Season 3 episode, the boys never really celebrate the holiday again. So, as they make up for lost time, the Winchesters recognize the value of getting together with their loved ones and enjoying the years they have left (ironically, Season 15 was the show’s last).
Supernatural isn’t a show exactly known for its commitment to annual Christmas episodes, but “A Very Supernatural Christmas” stands out among a sea of other specials as one of the most gruesome, and most heartfelt. If you love holiday horror, and you’re ready for your heartstrings to come undone, then this is the Supernatural episode you need to revisit this December.