"I Won't Be Home for Christmas" is the thirteenth Christmas episode of The Simpsons, aired as the ninth episode in the show's 26th season.
The episode begins with Comic Book Guy and Kumiko Albertson watching the Cosmic Wars Special, with CBG expressing shock and outrage that the special actually gets worse the more he watches it, and Kumiko stating he has every right to be angry.
Homer plans to fulfill Marge's Christmas Eve wishes by leaving work on time and arriving home to celebrate Christmas with his family. However, after suffering a car accident on the way home, he stops for a quick drink at Moe's, and when he says it's time for him to get home Moe convinces him to stay there by honestly telling Homer how lonely and depressed he is. Homer loses track of time and when he finally gets home, Marge is enraged and kicks him out, saying she does not want him in the house on Christmas. Homer then leaves on an odyssey through a deserted and chilly Springfield, with Moe inadvertently compounding his sadness by being preoccupied with karaoke when Homer shows up to try and talk to him, and to add insult to injury, Homer's car gets towed with his cell phone frozen inside it.
Meanwhile, Marge becomes depressed without Homer, but tells Bart and Lisa that she does not plan to forgive him. At that point, Moe, having found Homer's wallet that he left in the tavern, climbs down the 742 Evergreen Terrace chimney and tells Marge the truth about why Homer was out late on Christmas Eve. Marge immediately tries to call Homer and ask him to come home, but as he lost his phone, she ends up going out to look for him. Homer ends up at the miserable local movie theatre to watch a depressing Life is Beautiful-type of film about other lost souls like Kirk Van Houten, the Crazy Cat Lady, and of course Gil.
After Marge searches through the city and Homer ends up at a depressing party for mall workers, they each have epiphanies: Homer says that being without his family at Christmas is much worse than being with them, and Marge says that she shouldn't always assume Homer is doing stupid things for no reasons. The two finally find each other at the party, reconcile and look forward to a Happy New Year.
- The opening sequence is a subtle rework of the opening from the previous season's Christmas episode, "White Christmas Blues". Among the changes:
- As the clouds part at the beginning, Barney as Santa in a sleigh pulled by reindeer lead by Santa's Little Helper (as Rudolph) is replaced by the Rich Texan in a convertible pulled by buffalo.
- As Bart snowboards away from the school, two polar bears play catch with Groundskeeper Willie. In the previous version, Bart's landing revealed Grampa under the snow, with a sign "Still warmer than nursing home," seemingly having been buried by Willie, who is shoveling snow nearby. Additionally, the newer version deletes a number of Christmas trees and buildings in the background.
- The sign in the background as Homer works is changed from "94 days till March 28, actual birth of Christ" to "31 days until Greek Orthodox Christmas."
- Gerald already has the "defective" stamp on his head, but Maggie gives him a present rather than him being taken away.
- Instead of "Good King Wenceslas," the band plays "Jingle Bells," and when Lisa pops back in the door, snow falls on her.
- Moe now stands at the door to his bar happy, with an ice "Venus de Milo" instead of standing there grumpy and alone.
- Patty and Selma were originally Dr. Seuss characters, but are now hockey players.
- As Bart passes the Chinese restaurant with Jewish characters Krusty, Dolph and Krusty's agent visible through the window, Rabbi Krustofsky is no longer seated at the table. Per his death in the season premiere, "Clown in the Dumps", he is now seen hovering nearby as a ghost, along with the ghost of Joan Rivers.
- While Lou, Dr. Hibbert and Carl appear celebrating Kwanzaa in season 25, Snake is seen holding up a sidewalk Santa in season 26.
- As Marge drives herself and Maggie home in the sleigh, the Snow Monster is added to the sharp right turn.
- They are then chased down by Mr. Burns and Smithers in a sleigh pulled by Burns' guard dogs. In the season 25 version, the Crazy Cat Lady appears in a shopping cart pulled by her cats, which distracts Burns' dogs. The version in this episode also adds the Sea Captain in a boat on skis being pulled by belly-sliding penguins.
- As the camera quickly pans across numerous characters over to the Simpson house for the family's return home, the previous version had Edna as an angel with wings (and her coffee mug). This was removed for season 26.
- Martin, dressed as Elsa, was supposed to be in the couch gag but was removed. He was added, however, as Ice Princess Martin skin, to The Simpsons: Tapped Out, with the Ice Castle. In the game, he references the couch gag in the episode, asking to be Elsa in it, but Lisa says that she will be Elsa.