21 Unexpected Christmas Heroines From Your Favorite Films & TV Shows

When it comes to holidays, Christmas is basically the perennial damsel in distress. It’s how we’ve ended up with countless pop culture narratives about how Christmas needs saving every year. What’s underappreciated, though, is the amount of badass Christmas heroines in TV and film that work so hard to make the season bright. It may not always be in the dramatic fashion we’ve seen from, I don’t know, red-nosed reindeers, but it’s definitely worth some serious snaps.

But what marks a Christmas heroine? It helps to have thoughtfulness, to know how to execute the perfect gift or curate the perfect grand gesture. Or maybe it’s about a willingness, even a reluctant willingness, to compromise for the benefit of someone else’s holiday. Or sometimes it’s simply a matter of writing a well-timed letter. I guess there are all sorts of ways for a girl to really own a Christmas special. Today, for your amusement, I'm going to examine most of them.

So from the cartoons that kept you smiling in your youth, to the CW dramas that complicated the holidays as a teen, to all the movies that please at any age, these are best fictional females who embody the Christmas spirit.

1. Sandy Cheeks In SpongeBob Squarepants' "Christmas Who?"

The first Spongebob Christmas special is saved by that killjoy Squidward as a technicality. However, it's Sandy who educates Spongebob on the joys of ~*Chriiiiiistmas*~ which subsequently inspires him to bring the holiday to the people of Bikini Bottom.

2. Susan Walker In Miracle On 34th Street

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This cynical cutie-pie gets converted into believing in Santa Claus throughout the course of the film. She finally writes a letter to the could-be-Santa, could-be-crazy (honestly I was never fully certain) Kris Kringle toward the end of the film. This spark eventually gets the mail carriers to redirect all the Santa letters to the court room, and the rest is history.

3. Lucy Van Pelt In A Charlie Brown Christmas

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For only a shiny nickel, Lucy helpfully sorts through Charlie Brown's existential Christmas crisis by giving him some direction. Go be the director of the holiday play, Charlie Brown. Create one of the most timeless Christmas specials of all time.

4. Monica Geller In Friends' "The One Where Rachel Quits"

Phoebe is suddenly against the cruel treatment of Christmas trees, specifically how they're sent straight to the chipper when they're no longer deemed fresh. And yes, it's both Joey and Monica who save the reject trees, but what neat freak undoubtedly ended up cleaning out pine needles from her apartment in the months to follow? Just saying.

5. Kate McCallister In Home Alone

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It's fair to argue that Mama McCallister loses points for forgetting her son in the first place, because how, and also, how? In spite of this, she goes through a legitimate odyssey (involving a traveling polka band, no less) in order to reunite with her son for Christmas. She is the picture of maternal love (uh, that is until she loses sight of him again in the next movie).

6. Ann Perkins In Parks And Recreation’s "Citizen Knope"

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What do you get the most thoughtful giver in town? It's no shock that Leslie Knope is a first-class Christmas heroine. However, Ann pulls a miracle this year by gifting her bestie a gingerbread town hall with the help of the rest of the department. Thank you, Ann.

7. Michelle Tanner In Full House’s "Arrest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

Incidentally I think this GIF is from one of the other 8,000 Full House Christmas specials, but I'm talking about the one where Uncle Jesse and Michelle get locked up with an old novelty store owner after Michelle tries to exchange her latest in a long line of terrible gifts. And I guess if anyone would warm the heart of a lonely Mickey Rooney, it would be this catchphrase-spouting bastion of cuteness.

8. Cady Heron In Mean Girls

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Though Mean Girls isn't technically a Christmas film, I have to credit Cady for making the Plastics' "Jingle Bell Rock" performance their best one yet. It doesn't hold a candle to Damian's rendition of "Beautiful" or Kevin G's rap, but don't let them know that.

9. Helga Pataki In Hey Arnold's "Arnold’s Christmas"

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She gives up her prized Nancy Spumoni boots to help Arnold find Mr. Hyunh's daughter. That's a pretty huge holiday sacrifice made on behalf of her football-headed crush.

10. Cindy Lou Who In Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas

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While the cartoon will always be eons better, the live-action film gives little Cindy Lou Who a lot more agency. And really, you have to admire the tiny tot for trying to include the Grinch in the Whoville festivities, even if it backfires horrendously for a hot sec there.

11. Summer Roberts In The O.C.'s "The Chrismukkah That Almost Wasn’t"

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Summer Roberts saved Chrismukkah. It's amazing how only a few thousand lights can help smooth over a dramatic yuletide love child reveal.

12. Judy Haynes In White Christmas

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She also causes a whole hot mess when she announces a fake engagement in the hopes that it'll push her sister toward Bing Crosby (oh, the romantic complications of vintage flicks). However, it's Judy's fake letter to Wallace and Davis that gets the snowball rolling on this classic, ultimately leading to the foursome traveling to Vermont and putting on a show to honor the boys' former General.

13. Mrs. Parker In A Christmas Story

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Ralphie's mom is the tireless unsung heroine of this film for a variety of reasons (just look at her efforts to put on that snow suit). However, she shows extreme coolness by not telling Ralphie's Old Man about the stream of profanities Ralphie put out mid-fight with old Yellow Eyes. It's a sweet reminder that during this time of the year we should cut everyone a little Christmas slack.

14. Pam Beesley & Karen Filipelli In The Office’s "A Benihana Christmas"

Speaking of cutting people slack, it was totally ballsy of Pam and Karen to challenge Angela's Christmas party after years of seasonal tyranny, and yet there was so much good will toward women when they wave their white flag and decide to merge the competing parties.

15. Sally From The Nightmare Before Christmas

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I think Sandy Claws puts it best: "She's the only one who makes any sense around this insane asylum." Seriously, Sally is the only one brave enough to tell her delusional Pumpkin King love interest to maybe cool it on the cultural appropriation, and failing that, single- (technically double) handedly try to save old St. Nick.

16. Lisa Simpson In The Simpsons' "She Of Little Faith"

An unconventional pick both because it's just one of many Simpsons' holiday specials and Lisa spends the core of the episode rebuking Christmas and Christianity in general. However, Richard Gere steers her to respecting other's religions and feeling free to celebrate with her family. And when Lisa returns strong of her own convictions but willing to honor her mother's, it's a big win for both Simpson women. Too bad she still ends up pony-less.

17. Vanessa Abrams In Gossip Girl’s "Roman Holiday"

Make no mistake, Vanessa was the worst part of that show. However, when it comes to gift-giving, she takes the candy cane — not only getting Dan's awful amateur essay published in the New Yorker, but helping a clueless Serena build a snowy sex haven. How thoughtful.

18. The Hero Girl In Polar Express

It's super weird that so few characters get a proper name in this movie, right? Anyway, this chick definitely lives up to her moniker, defying Polar Express protocol to deliver hot chocolate to the lonely Billy (who gets a name) and maintaining that brave face throughout the rest of the film.

19. Britta Perry In Community's "Regional Holiday Music"

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Oh my god. We can thank Britta for saving Christmas by, well, Britta-ing it with her awkward, terrible singing and dancing at the Christmas pageant. Really, it is a disaster to behold.

20. Jovie In Elf

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By contrast, the delightfully deadpan Jovie also helps saves Christmas through song, summoning the courage to belt "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and bolster Christmas spirit. The difference, of course, is that Jovie is played by Zooey Deschanel, and therefore sounds like an earth angel.

21. Mary Bailey In It’s A Wonderful Life

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What can I say? Little Mary Hatch is the perfect companion to that do-gooder George Bailey, a woman so selfless she gives up her honeymoon money just to keep the town afloat... and years later, keeps her husband from being jailed by asking the townspeople to repay that kindness. You deserve the moon. You deserve everything.

Images: New Line Cinema (1); Giphy (14); YouTube (7)