Some Christmas traditions are eternal. A tree twinkling in the corner of a room, halls bedecked with boughs of holly (yeah, right) and some poor sod shuffling off this mortal coil in grisly fashion in EastEnders.
This year apparently sees Enders lifers Phil Mitchell and Ian Beale involved in a drunken car crash that someone fails to survive. It joins a formidable pantheon of Walford wallows in festive misery…
Cindy, Incidentally (1997)
Pregnant with her hubby Ricky’s baby, Bianca Butcher had a termination after discovering the child had spina bifida. The Walford vicar, Alex, gave her a pep talk then snogged Kathy Beale. The shock return of Cindy Beale, who had previously tried to kill hubby Ian, was almost an afterthought.
Tiffany is alone now (1998)
A year later, all was well as Bianca gave birth to a healthy baby on Christmas Day! Things were slightly less festive for her best mate, Tiffany, whose husband Grant Mitchell was arrested for trying to do her in.
Frank incensed (1995)
With a depressed Frank Butcher having vanished without trace, his missus Big Pat had moved in with rival car dealer Roy Evans. Discharged from a psychiatric hospital, Frank turned up in Albert Square on Christmas Day… with hilarious consequences!
Murder most Fowler (2006)
Walford matriarch Pauline Fowler, a woman whose glares could curdle milk at 50 paces, was found brown bread in the snow in Albert Square. Her hubby Joe had bumped her off. No reasonable jury would convict.
Sharing Sharon (1994)
Phil Mitchell was knocking off Sharon, the wife of his brother Phil, and naturally the penny dropped on Christmas Day. Years later, this storyline was an inspiration for Ryan Giggs.
Beaten Max (2007)
What says Christmas more than a whole family sitting down to watch a shock video of Dad secretly snogging his son’s wife? Max Branning was the culprit. Did his missus, Tanya, forgive him? Not really – she drugged him and buried him alive in a coffin in the woods.
Dyer hard (2014)
Last year’s Christmas special was a corker, as Danny Dyer as Mick Carter discovered that fiancée Linda had been raped by his half-brother Dean. Dyer was proud of his performance: “I took insanity to a new level,” he told Radio Times. “I got to show every bit of range I’ve got as an actor.” Which, to be fair, didn’t take very long.
Car crash TV (2002)
Sobbing by his bedside in Walford General, Sonia was utterly broken as love of her life Jamie Mitchell died after being run over by a joy-riding Martin Fowler. Could she ever forgive Martin? Well, yeah – she married him.
Arch enemies (2009)
EastEnders pantomime villain Archie Mitchell breathed his last in the Queen Vic on Christmas Day as somebody bashed him on the bonce with the bar’s bust of Queen Victoria. The whodunit went on for weeks until the killer was revealed as – Ta da! – Stacey.
The original, and still the best. Thirty million people tuned in on Christmas Day 1986 as Dirty Den presented Angie with a particularly bespoke Christmas present – divorce papers. She was so devastated that she went off and married Brian May. Now that is grisly.
Loaded freelance reporter Ian Gittins writes about music for several newspapers and websites. He is also a best-selling author who specialises in ghostwriting autobiographies. Follow him on Twitter at @iangittins