Arnold's Christmas is the first ever half hour episode and holiday special of Hey Arnold!.
When Arnold draws Mr. Hyunh's name in the boarding house's Secret Santa, 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.
Arnold attempts to locate Mai Hyunh 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 snow boots. Without the critical item he refuses to give the boys any information about Mai.
Meanwhile, Helga searches the city frantically for a perfect present for Arnold, but is unsuccessful due to his fixation on to complete Mr. Bailey's shopping list. Learning of the final item she rebukes his quest and faith in Christmas. However, when given a pair of the popular snow boots by her mother, she is able to get Mr. Bailey to search the records through an impassioned speech on Arnold needing a Christmas miracle.
On Christmas Day, Arnold is downtrodden over not getting Mai and her father back together. Mr. Hyunh as a result has no secret Santa present, and is understanding, but depressed. At that point the door bell rings and Phil answers it, only to find Mai Hyunh. Mai comes in and is reunited with Mr, Hyunh. Standing in the snow, far out of sight, Helga wishes Arnold a Merry Christmas, after Gerald tells Arnold that perhaps a "Christmas Angel" was looking out for him.
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, along with one of the best animated Christmas specials (from a TV-show) ever.
- This is the first episode to relate to a real life event such as the Vietnam War.
- Though it was a Christmas Special, it originally aired two weeks before Christmas Day, a recurring trend with many holiday specials as years went on.
- The character of Mr. Bailey may possibly be a reference to George Bailey - the protagonist played by actor James Stewart in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life. Stewart was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in this film, now turned into a holiday favorite.
- Unlike most other Christmas specials, especially non-animated ones, nobody in this episode sings a Christmas carol. Although Big Bob and Miriam sing half of the chorus of "Jingle Bells" and there are a few instrumental jazz versions of carols; including "Jingle Bells" over the closing credits.
- Also, unlike most other Christmas specials, Santa Claus isn't featured or even mentioned in this episode.
- Grandma plays "Yankee Doodle Boy" on the piano.
- Although it is never explicitly stated in this episode, Mr. Hyunh is from Vietnam. Various clues give this away such as him mentioning the "war in the North". The Vietnam War started when the North section of Vietnam became communist and declared war on the South half, which was capitalist. The scene when Hyunh gives Mai to the American helicopter leaving the city mirrors the real life famous image of the helicopter taking refugees out of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) after the South was conquered by the North. Hyunh mentions he had to wait 20 years to come to America. It wasn't untill liberalization of the Vietnamese Communist Government in 1995 (20 years after the Fall of Saigon) that people could leave the country.
- Vietnamese translations: Mai says "dad" to get My. Hyunh's attention and he later says "My goodness, I missed you so much" the rest is inaudible.
- The inscription on the Federal Office of Information reads in Latin, "Cave, quivi sumus". In English, this loosely translate to "Watch out, we are bringing"
- According to Mr. Hyunh, candy is bad for his stomach.
- This is one of two episodes where Olga doesn't cry (the other being Helga on the Couch).
- Stock footage from "Snow" is used.
- Mr. Bailey would also appear in Hey Arnold! The Movie.
- This episode is sometimes also referred to as "A Hey Arnold Christmas."
- This episode never aired on The Splat until Christmas of 2016 making it the seventh special to have a rerun on the block.
- Steve Lowtwait has said that this episode was one of the most endearing things that he has ever worked on.
- This episode begins a running gag in which Grandma gets her holidays mixed up, since she celebrates Thanksgiving on Christmas, Independence Day on Thanksgiving, and Groundhog Day on April Fools' Day.
- It is unexplained how Mr. Bailey knew Arnold and Gerald were 9 years old.
- After Oskar was caught having written his name on all the slips, there is no scene showing that they have rewritten them.
- Arnold and Gerald meet Helga in the electronics store, but Arnold and Gerald are trying to find snow boots, not electronics.