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

The cover to the storybook adaptation

"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 cover to the 1997 VHS release.

The special was made available on VHS by Paramount Home Video on October 13, 1997. The tape also included another episode from the show's first season, "Snow", as a bonus cartoon.

The special made its DVD debut on the Hey Arnold!: Season 1 manufacture-on-demand DVD set released by 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.



Voice actor/actress Character
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

Note: Iggy, Sheena, Nadine, and Ruth P. McDougal appear, but do not have speaking parts.



External links

Nicktoons "The Santa Experience" • "Son of Stimpy" • "Doug's Christmas Story" • "Rocko's Modern Christmas!" • "Gone Shopp'n" • "A Scooter For Yaksmas" • "Arnold's Christmas" • "Gift Hoarse" • "Let It Snow" • "A Very CatDog Christmas" • "Have Yourself a Thornberry Little Christmas" • "Christmas Who?" • "Christmas Every Day!" • "An 'Even Steven' Holiday Special" • "Babies in Toyland" • Merry Nickmas shorts • "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever" • "A Rocket X-Mas" • "Holly Jolly Jimmy" • "The Finster Who Stole Christmas" • "A Robot for All Seasons" • "When Santas Collide" • "The Fright Before Christmas!" • "Merry Wishmas" • "It's an Udderful Life" • "The All Nighter Before Christmas" • "A Doomed Christmas" • "A Very Brrr-y Icemas" • It's a SpongeBob Christmas!A Fairly Odd Christmas • "Baconmas" • "A Magix Christmas" • "Huggle Day" • "Happy Chalawunga!" • "A Crustmas Story" • "11 Louds a Leapin'" • Albert • "It's Christmas, You Dorks!" • "Bunsen Saves Christmas" • "Bramley Holiday" • "A Very Casagrandes Christmas" • "Season's Cheatings" / "A Flipmas Carol" • Untitled third SpongeBob Christmas specialA Very Loud Christmas!
Live-action shows and movies "Christmas" (YCDTOTV) • "X-Mas Eve" • "Ride, She Said" • "Christmas" (Roundhouse) • "The Gift" (The Secret World of Alex Mack) • All That Episode 225 • "O' Christmas Pete" • "Merry Christmas, Kenan" • "Starwalk" • "The Mystery of the Mice That Roared" • "A Very Canine Christmas" • "A Little So'em So'em for Christmas" • Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh • "iChristmas" • "The Naked Brothers Band Christmas Special" • "Telling Amanda" • "The Good, the Bad and the Ickie Doll" • "Big Time Christmas" • "A Christmas Tori" • "Epic Christmas" • "How to Rock Christmas" • "See Dad Run Christmas Into the Ground" • "The Gift of the Maggies" • Santa Hunters • "Santa's Little Harpers" • "Winter Thunderland" • "The Thank You Mask" • "Christmas Danger" • "A Reggae Potato Christmas" • Nickelodeon's Ho-Ho Holiday Special • "The Gift" (Make It Pop) • "Jingle Bell Rock" (School of Rock) • Tiny Christmas • "Holiday Punch" • The All-Star Nickmas Spectacular • "Down Goes Santa" • "Friendiversary" • All That Episode 1134
Nick Jr. Christmas at Eureeka's Castle • "Mr. Cook's Christmas" • "A Gullah Gullah Christmas" • "Blue's Big Holiday" • "Merry Christmas, Little Bill" • "A Present for Santa" • "Blue's First Holiday" • "Blue's Holiday Wishes" • "Christmas Wishes" (Holly Hobbie & Friends) • "Diego Saves Christmas!" • "Christmas" (Yo Gabba Gabba!) • "Save the Reindeer!" • Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure • "Great and Grumpy Holiday" • "The Super-Special Gift" • "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve" • "Santa's Little Fixers" • "Christmas" (Hi-5) • "Happy Holidays, Mr. Grumpfish!" • "A Very Awesome Christmas" • Peter Rabbit's Christmas Tale • "Pups Save Christmas" • "Wally Saves the Trollidays" • "A Very Guppy Christmas" • "Monster Machine Christmas" • "Have a Very Mutty Christmas" • "Santa's Little Genies" • "Christmas 2.0" • "Best Christmas Ever" (Sunny Day) • "The Knight Before Christmas" (Nella the Princess Knight) • "Rusty Saves Christmas" • "The Sugar Plum Fairy!" • "Merry Woodsmas" • "Ryan's Merry Playdate" • "A Top Wing Christmas" • "Happy Hoofmas" • "A Pirate Christmas" • "Pups Stop a Bah-Humdinger" • "Blue's Night Before Christmas" • "The Guppies Save Christmas!" • "Ryan's Christmas Time Special!"
Ren & Stimpy's Crock O' ChristmasRugrats: Holiday ClassicsNick HolidayNick Jr. Winter WonderlandDora's ChristmasMerry Nickmas
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.