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The Best Ever Eastenders Christmas Specials

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    Brits and Americans agree on the main tenets of modern Christmas: it’s a month-long alcoholism free-pass where your parents buy you things you refuse to buy yourself (socks, a practical fleece, novels that don’t have ‘Hilarious! - Glamour’ on the front) and everything, from carrots to coffee, has to be cinnamon flavoured.

    But imagine trying to explain Christmas Eastenders to an American. “Oh yeah, after you’ve got the whole family together and given the kids presents and got the timings right on this complex dinner with all the trimmings and there’s finally a festive mood in the air – you gather everyone round the telly and watch a show where people are also having Christmas dinner, but theirs is miserable and dysfunctional with a strong likelihood that someone will get murdered or at the very least die of a terminal illness.”

    They would be horrified. Yet Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Trevor shoving Little Mo’s face into her gravy or Max boning his son’s missus. It’s a national tradition. Perhaps there’s something oddly comforting about a big spoonful of misery on the most saccharine day of the year. Any family can put a brave face on when you’re getting presents, but the real test of your mettle is whether you can watch a character you love meet their untimely demise, while your aunty cries and farts at the same time.

    So if there are any Americans reading this wondering what British Christmas is about, please watch the following clips and know that we all love the most miserable day of the year.


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    Jamie dies in hospital

    It’s weird to think what a heartthrob Jamie Mitchell was back in the early 00s, looking, as he did, like Aaron Carter if he worked in a minicab office. But no one could deny his raw sex appeal as he died in Sonia’s arms: his bum fluid hanging in a bag above him, jacked up to the nines on painkillers, and wanging on about some drug-induced dream where he was hanging out with a bunch of old biddies. Jamie, forever playing hard to get, finally tells Sonia he loves her after their messy break-up, then pops his bloody clogs. What a tease.

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    Max and Stacey’s affair

    Ok so back story: Stacey’s a sweet-but-mouthy girl who looks like she's just been turned away from a nightclub for wearing pink velour sweatpants with “Babe” on the back, Bradley is her naive ginger husband who is like a less cool Mark from Peep Show. Their marriage works because Stacey knows that Bradley has given her stability and unconditional love, and Bradley is aware he’s punching wildly above his weight. One problem: Stacey has been boning Bradley’s dad, Max, this whole time.

    So Christmas Day, everyone’s opening presents and Lauren, Max’s daughter, gives Bradley and Stacey a DVD of their wedding and the whole family sit down to watch. But oh snap, it’s secret footage of Max snogging Stacey on the morning of the wedding. You know when you’re about to fall over and there’s like a whole second where you can see it happening but there’s nothing you can do. This is like that second stretched out for five minutes. Max, Stacey and Lauren all know what’s about to happen but the horror unfolds in such slow motion there’s nothing anyone can do. I still have to watch through my fingers today.

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    Pat finally pegs it

    God this really was a downer, New Year’s Day and one of the Square’s most iconic characters (to the point that still, to this day, all earrings are judged on a scale of how Pat Butcher they are) dies in her bed – her estranged son barely getting in a goodbye before she goes cold. To add insult to injury straight after this, the BBC showed Adele’s Royal Albert Hall concert. On New Year’s Day! What a way to twist the knife in the nation’s comedowns.

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    Little Mo beats Trevor to death with an iron

    This is about as feel-good as Eastenders over the holiday gets: a wife who spent years suffering domestic abuse at the hands of her psychopathic husband finally getting her own back and clobbering him to death with an electric iron. The genuine feeling of elation we felt when Mo finally got her own back is quite worrying; I remember there being audible cheers at my house as Trevor lay there, as if Mo had just won the 800m vengeance hurdles.

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    Dirty Den serves Angie with divorce papers

    I wasn’t actually alive when this one aired, but as it’s one of the most watched TV moments in British history, I’ve seen it on countless clip shows – normally followed by the editor of Loaded or Jayne Middlemiss going “the whole nation held its breath.” Watching it now, in the age of live episodes and whodunnits and the rest of it, what’s especially remarkable about it is how little there is to it – no big pub reveal, no secret videotape – just a truckload of acting from Leslie Grantham as he reveals to his wife that he knows she faked a life-threatening illness. Even the divorce papers themselves look unconvincing; you wouldn’t hand over legal documents in a cream A5 envelope, would you? It would definitely be A4 – probably manila. Still, Den’s cold dead eyes make the whole thing intensely believable.