The holiday season always tends to be memorable on “Saturday Night Live” and that has never been clearer than this week’s “SNL Christmas Special” on NBC, which presented a retrospective of the show’s best Yuletide sketches on Wednesday night. Whether it’s Adam Sandler introducing “The Chanukah Song” back in 1994, or Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig crooning “Santa’s My Boyfriend,” while trimming the tree in 2011, the comedy showcase has been front and center celebrating year-end festivities.
Here, courtesy of the overworked Streampix elves and our own extensive “SNL” archives, are our choices for the 10 Best Holiday sketches over the show’s historic 39-year history, in no particular order.
“Motivational Santa” (Season 19, Episode 9): The late, great Chris Farley resurrects his famed character Matt Foley, the in-your-face motivational speaker who “lives in a van by the river” as a department store Kris Kringle in this memorable Dec. 1993 sketch in a show hosted by Sally Field, with Adam Sandler performing “Santa Don’t Like Bad Boys.”
“The Chanukah Song” (Season 20, Episode 7): Adam Sandler first introduced this seasonal classic, his follow-up to his 1991 “The Thanksgiving Song” during a “Weekend Update” segment in Dec. 1994, where he first spouted the rhymes, “Tell your friend Veronica/It’s time to celebrate Chanukah/I hope I get a harmonica/On this lovely, lovely Chanukah,” all while outing Jewish celebrities, including David Lee Roth, Kirk Douglas, James Caan, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, “the late Dinah Shore-a… and all Three Stooges.”
“Christmas for the Jews” (Season 31, Episode 9): Darlene Love provided the vocals for this 2005 black-and-white Robert Smigel-penned claymation video that celebrates Christmas Eve “the night the Jews control the town,” where they can get into movies without waiting on line, eat in Chinatown, play Barbra Streisand music on the street all they choose, see “Fiddler on the Roof” with “real Jewish actors,” ending with the classic line, “Maybe next time they’ll learn how to hold their booze:”
“Santa’s My Boyfriend” (Season 32, Episode 9): Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig perform this sardonic seasonal ode to their illicit boyfriend in a cold open for the Dec. 2006 episode hosted by Justin Timberlake, wondering aloud when the big boy will ever leave his wife.
“I Wish It Was Christmas Today” (Season 28, Episode 8): Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, Tracy Morgan and Chris Kattan, two of them dressed as plushy animals, pop out of a gift box as mechanical toys to sing this pop-techno nugget as the closing number from this Dec. 2002 show hosted by Al Gore, who shamelessly locks lips with wife Tipper in the show’s notorious cold open. The skit was such a success, they returned in 2011 for a reprise.
“Glengarry Glen-Christmas” (Season 31, Episode 8): Alec Baldwin has been part of several memorable “SNL” holiday sketches over the years, including the 1998 NPR spoof, “Schweddy Balls,” but this biting satire on the corrosive David Mamet play (and subsequent movie) about cutthroat real estate salesmen is a real keeper, transported to the North Pole, where his head elf Winters Breath insists his underlings at Santa’s Workshop—including Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, Rachel Dratch and Amy Poehler—“always be cobbling.”
“D*** in a Box” (Season 32, Episode 9): This was one of “SNL”’s greatest digital shorts, starring host Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg as a pair of soulful, seductive ‘90s R&B crooners with the perfect gift for their respective lady friends, played by Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig.
“Bee Capades” (Season 1, Episode 8): In one of the first “SNL” “Home Movies,” the precursor to their “Digital Shorts,” host Candice Bergen— doing the honors “as a Christmas present to herself” for the second time within the first eight episodes—joins Chevy Chase and the “Bees” on the Rockefeller Center ice rink, featuring original cast members Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, Tom Davis and Al Franken.
“A Tony Bennett Christmas” (Season 38, Episode 9): Guest Alec Baldwin cranks out his ace impression of the legendary crooner, welcoming his brother Jerry (an equally unctuous host Martin Short) with Jay Pharoah as Kanye West.
“Weekend Update” (Season 26, Episode 8): Co-anchor Jimmy Fallon strums some pop-inspired songs about bad Christmas presents, parodying such then-hits as Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” (“Are you still open” It’s just past midnight/Wanted a TV dish/Not a singing fish”), David Grey’s “Babylon” (“Chugged egg nog/Xeroxed my ass/Peed on the couch…Got my Christmas party on”) and U2’s “Beautiful Day” (“Here’s what I say/It’s Christmas day/And I love Tina Fey”)