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Arnold's Christmas is the first ever half hour episode and holiday special of Hey Arnold!.

Synopsis

When Arnold recieves Mr. Hyunh's name in the boarding house's annual Secret Santa draw, he decides to make it the most special Christmas ever for the lonely boarder, and tries to reunite Mr. Hyunh with his long-lost daughter. Meanwhile, Helga agonizes over what would make the perfect present for Arnold.

Plot

School is out for the kids of P.S. 118 due to the holidays and everyone is in a frenzy to go home. Phoebe and Helga then discuss what the two love most about Christmas. Phoebe says she enjoys how the city is transformed by the decorations, while Helga says she is only interested in how presents she'll receive. They soon stop and Helga then reveals what she wants the most for Christmas: Nancy Spumoni Signature Snowboots. Unfortunately, Rhonda tells the greedy Helga that all stores in the city are sold out, but this does not deter Helga, who is determined that she will get those boots.

While exiting a store, Arnold asks Gerald what he is giving his family for Christmas, to which he says he is giving them all ties. Arnold then convinces Gerald that Timberly has no need for a tie considering she is a "4-year old girl." Arnold then explains that every gift you give should be unique and should mean something. Convinced, Gerald decides to give Timberly a toy and his uncle the tie intended for his sister. As the two friends depart, Helga spots Arnold and goes on a mission to find the "perfect gift for her beloved."

Meanwhile at the boarding house, the boarders are assigned a Secret Santa (but have to draw again when Oskar tampers with the names as a "Christmas Joke"). Arnold's Secret Santa is shown to be Mr. Hyunh has to get a present for Mr. Hyunh, who is normally very forlorn during this time.

While engaging in a snowball fight, Gerald suggests to Arnold that he should get Mr. Hyunh a tie for his gift, but Arnold believes that is not "special" enough. So Gerald suggests that he should just ask him straight-up, to which Arnold agrees. Arnold is then awkwardly trying to find out what Mr. Hyunh wants for Christmas without exposing himself as his "Secret Santa." Arnold soon hears the story about Mr. Hyunh's lost daughter:

20 years ago, Mr. Hyunh lived in a small village in South Vietnam with his toddler daughter named Mai. Despite his optimism, he was well aware of the war in the North growing closer and closer to his village, that he knew eventually the two had to leave home for a better life in America. During the mass chaos of refugees trying to escape the country, the U.S. soldiers could only make room for one more passenger on the helicopter. So Mr. Hyunh allowed Mai to escape to America for a better life, separating the family indefinitely. According to Mr. Hyunh, it took him about 20 years for him to immigrate to America and specifically chose this city since he heard the soldier say that he was taking Mai to that specific city. Unfortunately, the two have yet to meet and Mr. Hyunh's only desire is to see his daughter again to know that she is safe and happy.

Meanwhile, Helga is in a toy store ready to buy a skateboard for Arnold, only for Stinky to sadly say that Arnold already has that type of skateboard and hopes Helga's Christmas doesn't bite.

Arnold and Gerald attempt to locate Mai through government records, but is rebuffed by the city archivist, Mr. Bailey. Eventually he and Gerald work out a deal; they do all Mr. Bailey's Christmas shopping and he will give him the information. They nearly complete the list, but fall short in getting a pair of Nancy Spumoni Signature Snowboots. Without the critical item, he refuses to help the boys in their search despite all the stores in the city being sold out of the boots.

Helga eavesdrops on Arnold and Gerald, who is distraught that they failed in their mission to find Mai. However, Gerald assures Arnold that his effort alone was what Christmas was really all about. Helga then takes the discarded list and sees the missing item they were looking for. Once she is back home to seeing Big Bob, Miriam, and Olga singing Christmas carols and drinking eggnog, Helga returns back to her moody disposition. Seeing Helga's long face, Miriam then allows Helga to open only one present: the Nancy Spumoni Signature Snowboots, which Miriam stood in line for over 18 hours to get for her daughter. Helga thanks her mother, and tries the boots on while dancing in the snow. When Helga drops Mr. Bailey's shopping list, Helga get a short "Moral Dilemma" soliloquy. Arnold is laying on this bed. Helga approaches Mr. Bailey, who is ready call a taxi straight home. Helga offers her boots to Mr. Bailey, but he disagrees considering it is very late and he is expected to be home right now. After Helga convinces Mr. Bailey that doing this search on Mai Hyunh would make Arnold believe in miracles, the two then go back inside the building and look up the missing woman.

On Christmas Day, Arnold is downtrodden over not getting Mai and her father back together. Mr. Hyunh is revealed to not receive a Secret Santa present, but understands. Arnold starts to tell Mr. Hyunh of what he is trying to do, but then the door bell rings and Phil answers it, only to find Mai at the door. Mai comes in and is reunited with her father. Arnold cannot comprehend on what just happened, but Gerald tells him that it was a "Christmas Miracle" that needs no explanation, and maybe a "Christmas Angel" was looking out for him After Arnold dismisses this, Helga is seen outside the boarding house wishing Arnold a Merry Christmas.

Reception

This is one of the most acclaimed episodes of the show, and it remains a fan-favorite many years after its debut. It is often considered one of the best and most emotionally powerful episodes in the entire series, and is also regularly included in listings of the best animated holiday episodes or specials.

See also