This episode does not start with any kind of show opening (besides no opening sequence, no "Ahh" choir, no "The Simpsons" chorus, and the usage of the trademarked Simpsons logo instead of the in-show variant), with the exception of Treehouse of Horror episodes. The title is shown (The Simpsons Christmas Special) and then the episode begins.
This is the only episode of the series version of The Simpsons to air in the '80s. The Simpsons shorts aired from April 19, 1987 to May 14, 1989. This is also the only episode to air in 1989.
This episode was nominated for, but did not win, a Primetime Emmy Award in the categories of "Outstanding Animated Program (for programming one hour or less)" and "Outstanding Editing for Miniseries or a Special".
The DVD commentary revealed that the creators got letters of praise for heightening the awareness of the abandonment of racing dogs, who are often thrown out onto the streets when their owners decide the dogs are no longer profitable, even though they did not know it was a serious problem while they were working on the episode.
When Lisa is doing her tribal dance at the school's Christmas pageant, many people were curious as to why she is not wearing anything from the waist down besides a hula skirt. Years later, the DVD commentary for this episode revealed that Lisa is actually wearing a yellow leotard, and is in fact not naked.
Although it was the first to air, it was technically supposed to be the eighth episode; the first episode production-wise was intended to be “Some Enchanted Evening”, but due to animation problems from South Korea that resulted in that episode to be postponed until the season finale, this episode ended up being the first.
Matt Groening said that he was inspired to do the "Christmas of Many Lands" sketch by an oral report he gave when he was in the second grade. Groening, whose grandmother is from Russia, gave a report on how Russian children are greeted by "Grandfather Winter" and given gifts from him, and how due to differences in the Julian and Gregorian calendars the Russians celebrate their Christmas in January.
If you listen closely, you can hear the song "Santa Baby" by Madonna played inside Moe's Tavern.
Todd sounds very different in this episode.
Marge was the first to speak in this episode, making her the first to speak in the whole series in release order.
On the airings of August 21, 2014 and November 24, 2016, also the first day of the "Every. Simpsons. Ever." Marathon on FXX, this was the first episode of Season 1 through early Season 20 (ending with Lisa the Drama Queen) to be broadcast in high definition widescreen instead of standard definition fullscreen.
However, on FXX reruns of the episode, the Spanish dub credits has them superimposed over the scene where the Simpsons are looking at the Flanders' house decorations. This does not affect marathon or Sunday airings, as it shows the Spanish dub credits over a black screen.
This was also the first episode of Season 1 through early Season 20 on FXX to be completely remastered and color-corrected from the episode's original negative film reels into high definition.
This episode and the series version of The Simpsons both turned 5 years old on December 17, 1994, 10 years old on December 17, 1999, 15 years old on December 17, 2004, 20 years old on December 17, 2009, 25 years old on December 17, 2014 and 30 years old on December 17, 2019.
The music piece heard when Marge gets surprised by Bart getting a tattoo is Dramatic Impact 2 from Ren & Stimpy.
When Marge reveals the Christmas money from her hair, her necklace changes from red to white. This was a very common animation goof that appears very often in later episodes.
When Bart is getting the tattoo, it takes seven minutes to be branded. Real-life heart tattoos take at least four hours to be done.
Homer did not buy any presents for Lisa. This is obviously because all what Lisa wanted for Christmas is a pony, but Santa can't fit a pony into his sleigh. It might be possible that Homer bought Lisa some presents off-screen.
When Homer walks out of Circus of Values with his purchases, he bumps into Flanders, and all the presents scatter everywhere. Watch out for a red present with a green bow that goes flying near the left hand side of the screen. As soon as it hits the ground it turns into a pink box with a white bow wrapped around it, with no shot changes. Other presents move around and change colors, too.
Lewis' skin changes from black to yellow when Milhouse dares Bart to pull Santa's beard off.
While having breakfast, all of the Simpsons' glasses of orange juice keep disappearing and reappearing throughout the scene.
Bart yanks Homer's beard off in the mall, and Homer then takes Bart into Santa's workshop. When they are inside Santa's workshop, Homer's beard is back on, despite the fact that he didn't put it back on; he let it fall to the ground when Bart pulled it off.
When Marge is talking on the phone to Patty and Selma, they mention something that sounds like they said that Homer is ugly. Marge then puts down the phone wire that she was curling around her finger, which mysteriously disappears. It is easier to see this when you are watching the episode on The Complete First Season DVD, because you can go frame by frame slow motion through the scene via the DVD remote (which is not possible in broadcast), but you can temporarily see that the phone wire disappears when Marge puts it down. It is at the very end of the scene when Marge talks to Patty and Selma on the phone, because right when the phone wire disappears, it stays like that for a second, then it fades into the scene with Homer decorating the outside of his family's house.
When Homer finds out that he has no Christmas bonus, the background behind Homer is the kitchen, but then it cuts to Marge (with Homer in front of her) and the background behind her is the kitchen, too.
When Homer has been informed about the Christmas money being spent on Bart getting his tattoo surgically removed, he leaves the house. When he opens and closes the door to leave, the wreath on the door is white with a red bow. When Homer then turns to look his Christmas decorations, the wreath is now green.
Just before the kitchen goof, Marge comes through the door and you see that she has arrived in the living room from the sitting room, which has a piano. The piano has a musical book on it, but when the shot changes to Marge turn the jar upside down, the book of musical notes has disappeared.
When Mr. Burns comes on the P.A. system, Homer starts to eat a donut. He takes a bite and after that, the donut stays the same size even though he takes two more bites. Additionally, when Mr. Burns says that there will be no Christmas Bonuses, everyone's donuts disappear.
When Homer is putting up Christmas lights around the outside of the house, he falls from the roof. You can then hear Lisa and Bart sarcastically clap, but you can see they both have their hands by their side, and no one is clapping.
When Milhouse, Bart, and Lewis are talking about the fake Santa, Milhouse's eyebrows go from blue to black to blue again.
When Homer walks up the front drive, you can see the road and there are no markings on it, but when he turns to look at his house, there are orange lines running down the road.
If Barney were really Homer's friend, he would have shared his money.
After Homer brings Santa's Little Helper home, Homer and Marge hug, but the background behind them is upside down. There is a picture hanging upside down, and there is a lamp which seems to be hanging from the ceiling. Eventually, the background is right side up again in the next shot.
The copyright year in the end credits is 1990, but this episode aired in December 1989. It was possible that this episode was supposed to air on December 17, 1990 as the thirteenth and final episode of season 1 after the 1980's, episodes produced in 1989 like "Bart the General" and "Some Enchanted Evening" have the same problem.
Goldfinger: Bart is strapped to a table with a laser beam moving towards him.
Gift of the Magi: Homer doesn't get his Christmas bonus and says to himself, "Oh, well, thank goodness for the big jar." Marge used her money to remove Bart's tattoo and says to herself, "Oh, well, thank goodness for Homer's Christmas bonus." This was similar to how in this short story by O. Henry, a man sells his watch to buy his wife an expensive set of combs and his wife has her hair cut, selling the remainder to a wigmaker, in order to buy a gold chain for her husband's watch.
The title of this episode is a reference to “The Christmas song”, also known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”.