These are the 20 most dramatic Christmas moments in UK TV history

Published 19th Dec 2018
Updated 19 th Dec 2018

Festive scenes and episodes from EastEnders, Dr Who and Coronation Street have been named as the most dramatic Christmas TV moments ever, according to new research revealed today.

The poll of 2,000 British adults was specially commissioned to mark UKTV’s Drama channel’s festive schedule.

Nearly two thirds of Brits (64 per cent) voted the jaw-dropping EastEnders Christmas Day scene where resident bad boy, 'Dirty Den', surprises wife Angie with divorce papers after revealing that he knows she’s been faking a terminal illness as the most dramatic Christmas TV moment of all time.

The nation’s Top 20 most dramatic Christmas TV moments

1. EastEnders (1986) – After 19 years of marriage, 'Dirty' Den Watts surprises Angie by revealing that he knows she’s been fabricating her terminal illness. He then hands her his Christmas gift - divorce papers. 64%

2. Only Fools and Horses (1996) – Rodney and Del Boy become millionaires after an old pocket watch they own sells for £6.2 million. 61%

3. The Snowman (1982) – The morning after the return flying journey home, the sun has come out and the boy wakes up to find the Snowman has melted. 60%

4. The Vicar of Dibley (2004) - The nativity play is stretched to the limit when Alice Tinker's Virgin Mary goes into labour for real. 59%

5. Downton Abbey (2012) – Lady Mary returns early from Scotland, rushing to Cottage Hospital to deliver her healthy baby. Matthew soon joins her and meets his son and heir, but after he leaves to go back to Downton Abbey, he is killed in a car accident. 48%

6. Doctor Who (2005) - Newly regenerated 10th doctor, David Tennant, defeats killer Christmas trees. 44%

7. Call the Midwife, Episode 16 (2014) – Detonation of an unexploded bomb discovered by the convent. 43%

How to defrost a turkey or crown: how long it takes and methods explained - from fridge to microwave and water

8. EastEnders (2007) – Stacey and Max’s affair is revealed to the Branning family whilst watching a DVD, after Max’s daughter Lauren secretly films the pair kissing sharing a kiss. 43%

9. The Royle Family (1999) – Denise goes into labour in the bathroom on Christmas Day. 43%

10. Sherlock (2012) - Sherlock confesses to John to being a fraud, says his final 'goodbye' and then steps off the hospital roof to his ‘death’. 40%

11. Gavin and Stacey (2010) – Stacey reveals to Gavin that she’s pregnant after years of trying together for a baby. 39%

A defence of the Brussels sprout - written by a scientist

12. The Office (2003) - Dawn finally kisses Tim at the Christmas office party. 38%

13. Doctor Who, End of Time (2010) – Wilf breaks down as he begs the Doctor not to die, as the David Tennant Doctor hears the four knocks and cries, “I don’t want to go” before he regenerates. 37%

14. Coronation Street (2011) - As a last-minute replacement for Mary in the Bessie Street School nativity at Weatherfield Community Hall, Katy goes in for some extreme method acting by actually giving birth to a baby during the performance. The newborn then gets the appropriate name of Joseph. 37%

15. EastEnders (2006) – Pauline Fowler dies in Albert Square under the Christmas tree. 36%

16. EastEnders (1998) - Tiffany Mitchell is run over by Frank Butcher as she tries to flee her husband, Grant. 36%

5 ways to cut down your food waste this Christmas

17. Emmerdale (2016) Vicar Ashley forgets it’s Christmas Day as his vascular dementia worsens. 34%

18. Coronation Street (1987) – Hilda Ogden bows out after 23 years in Weatherfield in order to make a new life for herself as Dr Lowther’s housekeeper. 33%

19. Downton Abbey (2011) – Lady Mary tells Matthew about losing her virginity to Mr Pamuk and claims that she’s ‘impure’ for him to consider for marriage. Though surprised, he soon decides that it doesn’t matter as he loves her, and proposes to her. Lady Mary happily accepts. 32%

20. Victoria (2017) – Whilst walking in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Prince Albert goes ice skating and falls into the water, Queen Victoria fights to save him from the lake. 32%

30.1 million viewers

Only Fools and Horses came in close second, securing 61 per cent of the public vote, with their unforgettable 1996 festive episode where long suffering brothers, Del Boy and Rodney finally made their fortunes, becoming millionaires with the sale of an old pocket watch.

Rounding off the top three was the much-loved cartoon The Snowman, with the heart-breaking ending of The Snowman melting voted as the third most dramatic festive TV moment ever.

The EastEnders Christmas Day episode is one of the most watched British TV moments ever, with 30.1 million viewers. The poll topping scene marked the climax of the ongoing Angie and Den storyline that gripped the nation in 1986.

The historic TV moment will be available to watch this Christmas Day with the 1986 Christmas EastEnders episodes airing on Christmas Day at 7pm on UKTV Channel Drama. Viewers can also catch up at any time using UKTV’s streaming service at

Copyright ©2023 National World Publishing Ltd
Cookie SettingsTerms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy
crosschevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram