The Horton family Christmas is always a fan favorite. Traditionally, the characters put aside the high drama for one day, instead spending time with friends and family, hanging ornaments, and experiencing miracles.
In recent years, Christmas has stopped becoming the big deal it once was for our favorite Salemites, and that’s a shame. Family is supposed to be this soap’s backbone, supporting each other no matter what craziness the outside world throws at them.
Days of Our Lives returned to this tradition during the week of 12-19-22, offering several Christmas celebrations and the family coming together despite the tragedy of Abigail’s recent death. While Christmas 2022 was a low-key affair, it was still far more like what viewers love than many recent Christmases.
The first holiday after losing a beloved family member is always difficult, and Chad has been struggling with Abigail’s death for a while.
It’s hard to find the balance in these types of stories. Too much emphasis on Chad’s heartbreak would be depressing, while too little dilutes the impact.
Billy Flynn knocked Chad’s grief scenes out of the park. His pain and desire to give the kids a great Christmas despite Abigail’s absence were relatable and realistic, and I teared up a couple of times.
Tonight’s your dad’s big tree-trimming party. Your dad’s getting Thomas and Charlotte ready. I’ll bring them tomorrow so you can wish them a Merry Christmas. Christmas without you… I’m gonna do my best to make it okay for the kids because I know that’s what you would want. But for me? I miss you more every day, not less, like some people expect. They say it gets easier with time. Every day I can’t see your smile, hear your voice, feel you close to me… Like I said, I miss you more, not less.
Still, there wasn’t much of a story around this. Chad said his piece, Abigail appeared to him at the tree, and the credits rolled. It didn’t help that, in some ways, this all came out of nowhere.
While Chad was grieving deeply before Abigail’s killer was caught, most of his pain has been off-screen ever since. He’s bounced back and forth between being attracted to Stephanie and not ready to move on yet, and he’s been focusing on helping write press releases.
Chad suggested that he works a lot to keep his mind off Abigail, but there’s been little evidence of that up until this point, making his Christmas grief feel like a plot point rather than part of his storyline.
In addition, his children didn’t get much of an opportunity to grieve. Thomas told Sarah he missed Mommy, but that was a throwaway line in a scene whose point was to reveal to Sarah that Xander and Gwen have a secret.
Thomas: Why does Xander owe you?
Gwen: I didn’t hear you come in. Shouldn’t you be upstairs, getting ready for the party?
Thomas: I’m already ready.
Gwen: So I see. And don’t you look sharp indeed? Um, maybe you should be a good big brother and help little Charlotte get ready too.
Thomas: Grandpa Jack is helping her. Why does Xander owe you?
Gwen: Didn’t anyone ever teach you that it’s impolite to eavesdrop?
Thomas: I wasn’t eavesdropping. You were talking loud. What did you do for him?
Gwen: What did I do for Xander? I just did him a favor, that’s all.
Thomas: What kind of favor?
Gwen: My, you are persistent, aren’t you?
Thomas: If persistent means curious, then yep.
Thomas’ insistence on minding Gwen’s business was cute. I loved his assumption that persistent is another word for curious, and he definitely has inherited investigative instincts.
That poor kid, though. First, he stumbles upon “the Tooth Fairy,” and then he learns that Xander owes Gwen a favor. What kind of memories will he have when he looks back on his childhood when he’s older?
It didn’t seem to take much to please him this Christmas; despite Abigail’s absence, all he needed was the promise of dessert.
Gwen and Julie’s argument was Christmas 2022’s low point. Couldn’t these two women refrain from pettiness and insults until after the holiday?
They did not need to argue about whose dessert to put out. Offer them both and let people eat what they want. Problem solved.
Of course, it wasn’t about the dessert. Julie doesn’t want Gwen to be part of the family, and Gwen doesn’t want Julie to have the last word.
God knows Julie has plenty of reason to hate Gwen. Gwen’s done so much to ruin the Deverauxes’ lives, especially Abigail’s, that nobody understands why Jack keeps giving her another chance. He’s starting to look like Charlie Brown chasing Lucy’s football; he always thinks she’s finally learned her lesson, only to discover she’s done something else horrible.
Still, there was something cold and cruel about the way the writers handled Gwen’s presence at the Horton family party. Everyone else had an ornament with their name, even Xander, while Gwen stood off to the side, watching them all hang theirs.
Xander got an ornament because he married Sarah. Surely Jack’s daughter should get one too.
Nobody talked to Gwen or invited her to help them hang ornaments. There were a ton of missing Deverauxes; she could have hung JJ or Jo’s ornament for them.
Gwen brought her ostracization on herself, but making her stand in a corner watching everyone else participate in trimming the tree didn’t feel very Christmasy. And she lives at the Horton house, too.
Even Doug’s singing didn’t completely restore the Christmas spirit after that display of pettiness, which was one of the best parts of the Salem celebration!
Christmas 2022 seemed to be about surprise returns. Rex and Eli showed up without telling anyone they were coming, though Rex’s visit was more about moving the orchid storyline forward than anything else.
Eli’s visit was great; his empathy, rationality, and general attitude reminded me why I was sad he left Salem. It’s too bad he and Sal Stowers aren’t available for a spinoff involving Eli’s attempt to raise the kids himself while Lani is in jail; that would have made a compelling Beyond Salem story.
I’d also have loved Valerie to come to town for Christmas with Eli. She could have helped with the babies, caught up with Julie, and visited Abe.
Hopefully, Eli won’t disappear immediately after the holiday. He was always a good friend to Rafe, and I’d love his take on the whole Nicole mess. And how can Eli come to Salem and not have a scene with Abe?
Days of Our Lives built up to Christmas by having several other families celebrate early.
Kate and Roman were initially in the same boat as Julie and Doug: all of Kate’s children were out of town for the holiday. Unfortunately for Kate, Lucas and Philip are locked up, and her other children don’t visit Salem often.
Rex showing up might have been more emotional if he hadn’t been in such a rush to get Kate’s blood. That made it feel like he was only there to do a job, not to see his mother for Christmas!
That’s all set up for Round 2 of the poisoning storyline, but considering how sad Kate was that her children were absent, Rex could have spent more time with her before jumping to the blood draw.
Also, did he take Kate’s blood at one of the tables in the Brady Pub? Ew!
Meanwhile, Kristen took Rachel Christmas shopping while Li tried to impress Ari with his Santa suit.
Ari and Rachel were rude to adults, but at least Gabi told Ari to cut it out. While Li is awful, and I can’t wait for him to be exposed, there was no reason for Ari to roll her eyes and complain about how many boyfriends Gabi had when he was trying to do something nice for her for Christmas.
I’ll also never understand the tendency of some Salemites to have extensive conversations with people they hate. Chloe is far from the first to waste time arguing with their worst enemy, and she won’t be the last. But why on Earth do people stand around letting others insult them?
Rachel’s turned into a mini-Kristen, lashing out at Chloe and demanding her way all the time. Brady should never have let Kristen blackmail him; he wasn’t putting Rachel first by allowing Kristen back into her life, no matter what he says.
Eric’s plan to “kidnap” Rachel is stupid.
First, if Brady gives Eric permission to take Rachel on a trip, there’s no kidnapping. As Rachel’s father, who has custody of her, Brady has the right to consent to the trip.
This is also so out of character that it’s hard to sit through. Eric’s angry that his life has fallen apart and doesn’t want to be a doormat anymore, but is this the answer?
It feels like Eric has turned into Sami, and it’s not entertaining. Enough already.
Similarly, Sloan’s whining about how Chanel and Paulina “wronged” her needs to stop. Why is there always someone who justifies their bad behavior by telling the same sob story over and over about how someone else caused horrible things in their life?
It was obnoxious when Gabi told anyone who would listen about how Abigail stopped her from being able to have more children, and Sloan’s whining is just as bad, if not worse.
Paulina needs to get a restraining order against this idiot and be done with it. Sloan has no right to go to Chanel’s home to accost Paulina, and she definitely shouldn’t be allowed to get away with making threats.
Why is everyone acting like Sloan’s untouchable when she’s been breaking the law and doing things that should get her disbarred since her first day in Salem?
The biggest pre-Christmas story was the bombing and its aftermath.
Eric and Rafe rushed to the hospital, shaken when they heard Nicole was caught in the explosion. They both gave up when EJ was in her room, deciding that he was her boyfriend and she wasn’t worth fighting for.
This is more of the same nonsense that led to Nicole and Eric kissing in the first place. The whole world seems determined to decide for Nicole who she’s dating and how she feels.
Nicole was caught in a similar situation after the fire in the warehouse. She was trapped in a room, and Brady had to drag Eric out of the burning building without her. Yet Eric didn’t seem to remember this when he made his two-second visit.
It’s too bad Nicole doesn’t mention that to EJ. The firefighter told Eric that Nicole’s body was missing, but there was no way she could have survived, which is exactly what a different rescue worker told EJ about Susan.
EJ and Nicole will end up together, bonded to one another by this traumatic experience, but it didn’t have to be that way. If Rafe or Eric had decided after the explosion that life is too short not to fight for the woman you love, this could have been a different story.
Surprisingly, Ava headed out of Salem soon after the blast. She began claiming to see Charlie everywhere and even accused Tripp of being Charlie — but was she faking her illness to get out of trouble?
Ava has been hallucinating, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility for her to exaggerate her symptoms and pretend to believe Tripp and others were Charlie. That earned her a ticket to Bayview, and if serial killer Ben can come back from Bayview cured and not serve a day in jail for his crimes, Ava certainly can too.
Although she claimed Susan was dead, I’m still not convinced — but it’s less likely Ava is stashing her somewhere if Ava’s not in Salem. And what’s going to happen with Xander’s secret now that Ava isn’t in town to threaten to expose his involvement in her scheme?
At least with Ava out of town, Charlie’s ghost has no reason to stick around. Tripp also needs a better storyline than defending his mother. He was starting to slip back into the version of himself that held Kayla hostage, and nobody needs that.
I’ve often complained about how Days of Our Lives handles mental health issues, but they did a great job with Justin’s encouragement of Bonnie.
While her PTSD isn’t accurately depicted, Justin’s compassionate response was perfect. He encouraged Bonnie to get help, told her that PTSD is real, and reassured her that needing mental health treatment was nothing to be ashamed of.
Well done! Let’s have more moments like this and fewer stories about people who get violent because of mental health problems.
Over to you, Days of Our Lives fanatics. Hit the big blue SHOW COMMENTS button, and let us know your thoughts. And for even more Days of Our Lives chat, check back on Sunday for the latest Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion.
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Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.