|“||Can't you see? It's not about snow boots, it's not about flashy, expensive presents, or getting yours before the other guy gets his! It's about showing people you really care about 'em! And most of all, it's about a funny little football-headed kid with a good heart but no sense of reality whose entire world view is at stake!||”|
— Helga's epiphany
"Arnold's Christmas" is a special half-hour Christmas episode of the Nickelodeon animated series Hey Arnold!, produced as the twentieth episode of the show's first season (though it ended up airing as the eighteenth). It originally aired on December 14, 1996, premiering as part of a special Christmas-themed edition of SNICK (which also included the premiere of the Kenan and Kel episode "Merry Christmas, Kenan"). Craig Bartlett, the show's creator, and Francesca Marie Smith, who provided the voice of Helga Pataki, have both stated it to be one of their personal favorite episodes of the show.
The episode begins right as Christmas vacation has started for the students of P.S. 118. While on a walk with her friend Phoebe, Helga talks about how she thinks Christmas is all about presents and then notices a display case showing off what she wants most for Christmas - a pair of Nancy Spumoni snow boots. Rhonda points out to Helga that she'd have a hard time receiving these snow boots, as the stores are pretty much sold out of them, but Helga is certain that she will be receiving them because she has been dropping hints about it to her parents for weeks. Shortly afterward, Helga notices Arnold walking by and soliloquizes about how she secretly loves him and wants to find the perfect gift for him.
Meanwhile, at the boarding house where Arnold lives, he and the rest of the boarders assign each other a Secret Santa. In Arnold's case, he has to get a present for Mr. Hyunh. Arnold notices that Mr. Hyunh always seems very sad around Christmastime. When Arnold tells his friend Gerald about it, Gerald suggests he ask Mr. Hyunh about it so he can find out what would be a good present for him. Arnold goes to talk to Mr. Hyunh, who tells him about his lost daughter Mai, whom he had given to be saved by American rescue soldiers during a war back in his home country. After twenty years, Mr. Hyunh had come to the city to be reunited with Mai, but he has never been able to find her.
Christmas Eve comes, and Arnold decides to search the city to find Mai, since reuniting her with her father would be the perfect present for him. Accompanied by Gerald, Arnold goes to the Federal Office of Information to find out where to find Mai. They talk about it to the supervisor, Mr. Bailey, who initially refuses their request. Mr. Bailey then gets a phone call from his wife and he mentions that he hasn't been able to do his Christmas shopping. Arnold and Gerald work out a deal with Mr. Bailey; they do all of Mr. Bailey's Christmas shopping for him, and he will try to find Mai.
Arnold and Gerald manage to buy almost all of the items on Mr. Bailey's shopping list, with the last item being Nancy Spumoni snow boots. While looking for that last item, they run into Helga, who, unbeknownst to them, is still trying to find the perfect present for Arnold. During this, Arnold accidentally drops the shopping list; Helga picks it up and notices the snow boots are on the list. Arnold and Gerald, unfortunately, are not able to find a single pair of Nancy Spumoni snow boots in any of the stores. Without that last item, Mr. Bailey refuses to find Mai. Arnold mopes about the fact that he couldn't reunite Mr. Hyunh and his daughter, unaware of Helga eavesdropping on him and finding out why he was searching for the snow boots.
Helga goes to her home, where her family is already celebrating Christmas. To her surprise, her mom presents her with a pair of the Nancy Spumoni snow boots. Helga goes outside to try them out, but then remembers that Arnold was desperate to find these for Mr. Bailey. After some moral agonizing over this, Helga brings the snow boots to Mr. Bailey just as he's closing up his office, and gets him to search the records though an impassioned speech on Arnold needing a Christmas miracle.
On Christmas morning, Arnold is still downtrodden over the fact that he could not reunite Mai with her father. Mr. Hyunh is understanding, but depressed. At that point, the doorbell rings and Phil answers it. Arnold and Mr. Hyunh are stunned to discover Mai at the boarding house doorstep. As Mr. Hyunh and his daughter are reunited, Arnold is puzzled as to how this miracle happened, and Gerald suggests that maybe he has some sort of Christmas angel looking out for him. Outside, far out of sight, Helga wishes Arnold a Merry Christmas.
The special made its DVD debut on the Hey Arnold!: Season 1 manufacture-on-demand DVD set released by Amazon.com on August 21, 2008. It appeared again on the retail version, released by Shout! Factory on August 9, 2011, and later repackaged as part of their Hey Arnold!: The Complete Series set in 2014. The episode was also included, along with "Arnold's Thanksgiving" from the show's third season, on Shout! Factory's Out of the Vault Christmas compilation DVD, which was originally released as a Walmart exclusive on October 6, 2015.
Following the show's video rights returning to Paramount in 2018, the episode was again included on Paramount's Hey Arnold!: The Ultimate Collection box set (which was essentially a re-release of Shout! Factory's Complete Series set, but with the addition of the two Hey Arnold! movies and new bonus features), released on November 20, 2018.
- Although Mr. Hyunh never directly says that he is from Vietnam (all he says is that "an invader came from the north"), he does say in "Snow" that he is from there. As for where he was evacuating Mai, it is presumed to be during Operation Frequent Wind during the Fall of Saigon from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam, where many Vietnamese were hoping to escape with the U.S. forces to avoid facing the wrath of the approaching NVA and Viet Cong forces.
- Mai Hyunh oddly would not appear in any later episodes after this, only being mentioned in two episodes in the show's fifth season, "Chocolate Boy" and "Family Man". However, she did eventually have a cameo in Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie.
|Toran Caudell||Arnold Shortman|
|Francesca Marie Smith||Helga Pataki|
|Jamil W. Smith||Gerald Johanssen|
|Tress MacNeille||Grandma Gertie|
|Dan Castellaneta||Grandpa Phil|
|Maurice LaMarche||Big Bob Pataki|
|Kath Soucie||Miriam Pataki|
|Olivia Hack||Rhonda Lloyd|
|Christopher P. Walberg||Stinky Peterson|
|Anndi L. McAfee||Phoebe Heyerdahl|
|Baoan Coleman||Mr. Hyunh|
|Hiep Thi Le||Mai Hyunh|
|Vincent Shiavelli||Mr. Bailey|
|Dom Irrera||Ernie Potts|
|Steve Viksten||Oskar Kokoshka|
- Hey Arnold! Wiki: Arnold's Christmas
- Nickipedia: Arnold's Christmas
- "Arnold's Christmas" at TV.com
- "Arnold's Christmas" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Arnold's Christmas" at the Big Cartoon DataBase