In the seven seasons of “New Girl,” where Zooey Deschanel portrayed the lovable Jessica Day, the show excelled in delivering delightful holiday episodes. From playing on timeless tropes to crafting unique traditions for its characters, “New Girl,” created by Elizabeth Meriwether, showcased the art of holiday storytelling.
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Airing on Fox from 2011 to 2018, the series begins with Jess seeking a new living arrangement after a tumultuous breakup with her long-term and lackluster boyfriend. Her roommates, a quirky group of men found through a Craigslist ad, gradually evolve into her closest friends. Jess’s boundless and eccentric generosity, especially during festive times like Christmas, endears her to the audience.
Continue reading for a ranked list of every Christmas and Thanksgiving celebration experienced by Jess, Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Winston (Lamorne Morris), Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), and Cece (Hannah Simone).
‘Last Thanksgiving’ (Season 6, Episode 7)
In this episode, Peter Gallagher makes a delightfully bizarre appearance as Gavin, Schmidt’s formerly absent father, who makes questionable attempts to seduce Jess. Despite the entertaining presence of Gavin, “Last Thanksgiving” falls short compared to other festive episodes of “New Girl.” The show often used Thanksgiving and Christmas to showcase significant moments of growth for its characters, fueled by Jess’s infectious holiday spirit. However, in this episode, Jess appears to backtrack.
At this stage, Jess is dating Robby (Nelson Franklin), the least compelling of her significant boyfriends in the series. Although Franklin brings humor to the role, the chemistry between Robby and Jess is nonexistent—a realization that dawns on Jess in this episode. While preparing to break up with him, an unexpected move by Gavin prompts Robby to deliver an impassioned speech that rekindles Jess’s attraction, feeling somewhat contrived. Eventually, they do break up later in the season upon discovering they are third cousins—a peculiar and somewhat forced conclusion to Jess’s last relationship before finding her way back to Nick, the love of her life.
‘Thanksgiving III’ (Season 3, Episode 10)
In essence, “Thanksgiving III” provides a dose of humor. Coach’s comments on Nick’s masculinity lead to the unconventional idea of a camping trip for Thanksgiving. Nick’s lack of preparation during the trip results in comedic chaos, with Jess consuming a dead fish and encountering various misadventures, including falling into a bear trap and falling ill.
However, the episode’s premise might have been more suitable for a regular day rather than Thanksgiving. It’s a stretch to believe that Jess, known for her passion for holidays, would choose anything other than a heartwarming turkey dinner during the Thanksgiving holiday.
‘Parents’ (Season 2, Episode 8)
In another addition to the lineup of notable guest stars portraying parents in “New Girl” holiday episodes, Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner join Season 2’s Thanksgiving as Jess’ mom, Joan, and dad, Bob. Jess orchestrates a scenario where she plans two separate dinners at the loft, pretending her parents are divorced. However, a mix-up forces them to spend time together, and surprisingly, the parent trap works, albeit partially.
Jess is thrilled that her efforts have reignited some spark between Bob and Joan, but her joy turns to heartbreak when they clarify that their bathroom makeout session was just that. Curtis and Reiner deliver hilarious performances, engaging with Jess’ roommates, especially Nick, who briefly falls for Joan. Additionally, Rob Riggle makes an appearance as Schmidt’s eccentric cousin, also named Schmidt. While “Parents” is an excellent episode, it ranks lower on this list due to the somewhat naive premise of the parent trap, even for the queen of naivete, Jessica Day.
‘Thanksgiving’ (Season 1, Episode 6)
The first Thanksgiving at the loft is foundational. It’s not only our introduction to crazy holiday Jess, but it gives Jess her first love interest since her breakup in the series premiere — and therefore ignites her sexual tension with Nick that so much of the series runs on.
Jess develops a crush on Paul (Justin Long), her fellow middle-school teacher, and brings him home for Thanksgiving. He’s just a big of a nerd as she is, which means he immediately irritates everyone, but they all come around except for Nick. Jess begs Nick to be nice to Paul, and be a good wingman (one episode after Cece pointed out that Nick may be into her), but he fails to, leading to a massive fight that ends in Jess screaming, “I want to have sex with him big time! You heard me! Big time! OK? I want to take him down to Chinatown and slice him off a piece of this pumpkin pie, OK? I want to do all the things that you do in a bedroom, with him, OK? I want to do it standing up and sitting down, and half-up and half-down, and the wiggly one, and the Bear Attack, and the claws in the head, and the one the figure skaters do, and the What’s for Lunch, and the Give Me That Hat. Let’s just say that I’m good. I’m really, really good. And I don’t care what you think!”
Paul hears every word, and it’s great. (Until he discovers the neighbor’s dead body and dinner is ruined.)
“Thanksgiving” also sets off the other great love story of “New Girl”: Schmidt and Cece’s. At this point, they’re nowhere near the romantic depth they eventually reach, but Schmidt’s control issues and rage in the kitchen end up working for Cece, and she goes out of her way to piss him off for fun, one of the great pastimes of the universe of this show.
‘LAXmas’ (Season 4, Episode 11)
The Christmas episode in Season 4 kicks off with a sense of optimism as the characters hope for a rare holiday free from the usual calamities (which are not uncommon for this group). Schmidt and Cece plan to visit their respective parents in New York, Nick and Winston are en route to Chicago for similar family visits, Coach has a solo vacation to Hawaii on the agenda, and Jess spontaneously decides to go to London to meet Ryan’s parents.
However, the episode wouldn’t be named after one of the most chaotic places on Earth if everything went smoothly. LAX is chaotic, experiencing numerous flight delays due to storms over the Midwest. Jess, in her problem-solving mode, devises contingency plans for everyone (even securing first-class seats for Nick and Winston). Yet, she struggles when Ryan, already in London, sends a picture of his family’s mansion, revealing his immense wealth. Overwhelmed and intimidated, Jess faces additional challenges from a quirky airline employee (Billy Eichner in his element), heightening her fear. In response, she fabricates a story to Ryan, claiming her flight was canceled.
In a brief phone call with Jess, Nick discovers the situation. Although he and Winston are already on board, they sacrifice their first-class seats and gather Cece, Schmidt, and Coach from their waiting spots in the airport to persuade Jess that she is deserving of Ryan.
This scenario echoes the No. 1 episode on this list — in fact, this episode might have ranked higher if the other one hadn’t already conveyed the same concept more effectively. Nevertheless, the way everyone comes together to support Jess and repay her for all she has done for them is heartwarming. Even if the episode concludes with Jess arriving in London only to discover that Ryan has returned to L.A. in the hopes of finding her there.
‘Thanksgiving IV’ (Season 4, Episode 9)
Holidays typically overwhelm Jess due to the pressure she places on herself to make them perfect for everyone else, but in “Thanksgiving IV,” her anxiety is centered around dating and breaking the rules. And it turns out to be more enjoyable!
Schmidt declares Thanksgiving 2014 as “Bangsgiving,” assigning each member of the friend group to bring a date for someone else. Jess is excited about the opportunity, hoping it will divert her attention from Ryan (Julian Morris), a teacher she recently kissed — a violation of school rules since she’s the principal. However, Coach, thinking the rules are absurd, brings Ryan for Jess anyway.
The event encounters some hiccups: Winston’s lunch-lady date triggers high school trauma, Coach feels threatened by his cop date’s superhuman strength, Cece’s date arrives after the party ends, Schmidt’s date calls him “sexy for a Jew,” Nick draws his own name and brings Tran (Ralph Ahn) instead of a date, and Ryan rejects Jess because he wants more than just a physical relationship. Despite these challenges, Winston and Coach resolve their issues. More importantly, Schmidt and Cece rekindle their flirtation, Nick meets Tran’s single granddaughter Kai (Greta Lee), and Jess realizes she’s ready for a relationship with Ryan, despite her fears.
This episode marks both Nick and Jess’ initial experiences with promising new connections since their breakup, setting the stage for their eventual reunion years later. Fortunately, there’s no need to wait years for Schmidt and Cece, who not only reconcile but also get engaged by the end of Season 4.
‘Santa’ (Season 2, Episode 11)
After ending things with Paul in Season 1 due to her unreadiness for another relationship, Jess’s casual partner Sam (David Walton) becomes the first person she is willing to commit to. However, when she opens up, he doesn’t desire anything more than a physical connection. Until Christmas.
The loft group embarks on a party-hopping spree to distract Jess from Sam, but they encounter him at one party, and then the next. Sam desperately wants to convey that he made a mistake, but facing renewed trust issues, Jess is skeptical, believing he only wants a physical relationship.
Meanwhile, Nick predictably feels threatened by his new girlfriend Angie (Olivia Munn), particularly her occupation as a stripper, leading him to self-sabotage and distance himself. In a moment of vulnerability, Nick and Jess share a warm conversation, encouraging each other to confront their fears. Nick realizes that he isn’t afraid of Angie’s job but of her confidence, prompting him to embrace it fully by giving her a public lap dance.
Jess overhears Nick acknowledging that she’s “the kind of girl a guy would come back for” and, following a whimsical encounter with someone resembling Santa Claus, gathers the gang to visit Sam at the hospital where he works, offering him a second chance. Despite security almost preventing them due to closing visiting hours, an impromptu serenade by Jess, singing “I don’t know the words” to the tune of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” persuades them to allow the visit.
Considering the entirety of “New Girl’s” run, Angie and Sam are arguably the most compatible partners for Nick and Jess, aside from each other. This, coupled with Schmidt’s lap dance, earns “Santa” a high spot on this list.
‘Christmas Eve Eve’ (Season 6, Episode 10)
In “Christmas Eve Eve,” Jess decides to surprise Nick with his long-distance girlfriend Reagan (Megan Fox) flown in as his secret Santa gift. However, the sweet gesture takes a sour turn when Nick independently decides to travel to Seattle for the same reason. While Jess attempts to convince him to stay without revealing the surprise, a heated argument ensues where Nick expresses frustration that nothing he does seems enough for her. Nearly in tears, Jess discloses the gift, prompting Nick’s instant regret. They eventually reconcile, but what remains unspoken is Nick’s astute observation that Jess has been “acting weird” since his last visit with Reagan — a subtle acknowledgment that, at least subconsciously, he’s sensing a renewed connection between them.
The gift exchange takes a bleak turn for Jess when she realizes she forgot to include her own name in the drawing, leaving her empty-handed while everyone else receives presents. However, with an assist from Robby, Nick orchestrates a heartwarming surprise by arranging for Darlene Love to perform “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” just outside the apartment. The scene is surrounded by elves as Reagan showers everyone with snow, dropping shredded receipts from the roof.
“The 23rd” stands out as a perfect episode from beginning to end. Placed one-third into Season 1, the group has developed a genuine fondness for each other, evident from the boys’ embarrassment in the cold open when Jess discovers they’re all wearing the roller skates she gifted them.
Justin Long reprises his role as Paul to fulfill a classic sitcom trope: expressing his love for Jess for the first time and receiving only a “Thank you” in response. Jess, still reeling from a recent long-term relationship, decides to take it slow and plans to address her feelings after the holidays. However, Nick mistakenly assumes that Jess has already told Paul she doesn’t love him and spills the truth, leading to an awkward balcony confrontation at Schmidt’s office Christmas party. Nick, unable to bear seeing Jess upset and harboring deep feelings for her, decides to take her to Candy Cane Lane—a beautifully decorated street of houses she thought she’d miss this year. Although they arrive too late, Nick’s uproarious screaming awakens the residents, and the entire gang joins in to illuminate the street. This marks the first time Jess feels assured of genuine love and community since her breakup.
Additionally, Winston’s peculiarly strong connection with Schmidt’s boss’s child kickstarts his era of becoming a nanny, adding a delightful twist to the episode.