Christmas Comes But Once a Year (Mad Men)

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"Christmas Comes But Once a Year"
Mad Men episode
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 2
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Tracy McMillan
Matthew Weiner
Original air date August 1, 2010
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Public Relations"
Next →
"The Good News"
Mad Men (season 4)
List of Mad Men episodes

"Christmas Comes But Once a Year" is the second episode of the fourth season of the American television drama series Mad Men, and the 41st overall episode of the series. It was written by series creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner and Tracy McMillan, and directed by Michael Uppendahl. It originally aired on the AMC channel in the United States on August 1, 2010.

The episode opens in December 1964,[1] as Sterling Cooper Draper Price is hosting a Christmas party. As the company faces financial problems because of its limited client base and expensive new office space, Don Draper's private life becomes ever more chaotic. Critical reception of the episode was positive.


Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is planning a scaled-down Christmas party, but when Lee Garner, Jr., of the client Lucky Strike, which represents 73% of all SCDP billings, invites himself to the event, the company has to go all out. Joan puts the party together in hours, assisted by one of the girls, Megan. Garner gets drunk and makes increasingly offensive demands of the SCDP staff, ultimately publicly humiliating Roger Sterling by forcing him to put on a Santa suit. A more hopeful occurrence is the return of a sobered-up Freddy Rumsen, who brings along Pond's, a valuable new client, which he poached from J. Walter Thompson. He is opposed to Pete Campbell working on the account, though. In addition to not thinking well of Pete, Freddy was fired by Duck due to Pete telling him about Freddy's drunkenness.

Don Draper's life continues to unravel, as Dr. Faye Miller - a female psychologist from a hired consumer research company - brings to light his issues with his own past. She tells Don it always comes down to "what I want vs. what is expected of me," and tells him he'll be married again within a year. A drunken Don's encounter with Phoebe - a young nurse from across the hall - leads nowhere, but he later ends up getting intimate with his secretary Allison—a line he has never before crossed—which leads to awkwardness in the workplace.

Peggy Olson is initially happy about Freddy's return—it was due to his recommendation that Peggy began doing copywriting—but finds working with him difficult, due to his dated attitudes toward advertising and toward women, and she speaks to him harshly about how he is "old-fashioned". She has also come to an impasse in her relationship with her boyfriend Mark, who thinks she is still a virgin. After Freddy counsels her that a man won't respect (or by implication, marry) a woman who sleeps with him out of wedlock, but not sleeping with a man gives painful "blue balls", Peggy decides to sleep with Mark. Meanwhile, Don's daughter Sally is having problems accepting her father's absence, especially during the Christmas season. Glen Bishop, the neighbor's boy, has taken an unhealthy interest in Sally and ends up vandalizing the Francis residence, though he leaves Sally's room untouched except for a token in her room that indicates to her who the culprit was.


The title "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" is from the title of an original Stan Freberg song mocking the advertising industry on his 1958 comedy single, "Green Christmas" (Freberg's title is borrowed from the 1936 animated short of the same name).[2]

The episode was written by executive producer Matthew Weiner, who has written a number of episodes, and Tracy McMillan.[3] It was directed by Michael Uppendahl, who had directed three previous episodes of the series.[4] The episode also saw the return of Joel Murray in the role of Freddy Rumsen, for the first time since the season two episode "Six Month Leave".[5]

After the season premiere episode "Public Relations", series creator Matthew Weiner was displeased about the amount of disclosure that occurred before the episode aired, through the release of promotional clips. Consequently, the amount of information revealed about the second episode was severely reduced.[6] Pond's Cold Cream, the account brought in by Rumsen, is a real-life product by Unilever. This product placement was not meant to promote Pond's itself but was intended as a tie-in for a commercial for Dove soap, another Unilever product.[7] This commercial featured actors reminiscent of the characters from the show and ran during a commercial break of the episode's original screening. The deal between Unilever and AMC included six different spots, for six different products, running over the course of the season.[8]

Cultural references[edit]

During the Christmas party, references are made to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This piece of legislation was enacted on July 2, 1964 by the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was elected president in his own right in November that year.[9]


"Christmas Comes But Once a Year" had a total of 2.473 million viewers, and a 0.8 share of adults between 18 and 49.[10] This was a drop from the season premiere, which had a viewership of 2.918 and a 0.9 share.[11] The second episode aired directly after the premiere of AMC's third original series (after Mad Men and Breaking Bad), Rubicon, which was the station's most-watched original series premiere ever, with two million viewers.[12]

The fourth season of Mad Men opened to universal acclaim from critics, gaining a score of 92 out of 100 on the review aggregation site Metacritic.[13] Reviews for the second episode were positive, although somewhat more muted. James Poniewozik at Time appreciated the return of several characters that had been absent for a while, particularly Marten Weiner (Matthew Weiner's son) in the role of Glen.[14] Moira Macdonald, writing for The Seattle Times, found it "not an entirely satisfying episode", though she enjoyed little details, such as the subtle development of the relationship between Don and Peggy.[15] In the same vein William Bradley, writing for The Huffington Post, considered the episode good, "but not one of the classics, and a step back from the season premiere." Bradley warned against reading too much into Don Draper's decline, reminding readers that Weiner "likes to toy with expectations."[16]


  1. ^ Bradley, William (August 4, 2010). "'Mad Men Review: "Christmas Comes But Once a Year," Except for These Three Wise Guys". Huffington Post. 
  2. ^ "Christmas Comes But Once a Year (1936)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Matthew Weiner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Michael Uppendahl". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Joel Murray". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  6. ^ Friedman, Roger (July 30, 2010). "Mad Men: Creator Clamps Down on Clips and Spoilers". Showbiz411. Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  7. ^ Konrad, Alex (August 3, 2010). "Mad Men: Fictional product pitches, real ads". CNN. Fortune. Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  8. ^ Elliott, Stuart (August 4, 2010). "ADVERTISING; Commercials in 'Mad Men' Style, Created for the Series". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ Jensen, Jeff (August 7, 2010). "Countdown to 'Mad Men:' What Don Draper Could Learn From History... and Hannah Montana". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 8, 2010. 
  10. ^ Seidman, Robert. "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Glades Rises;' 'True Blood' Hits a 3.0 Adults 18-49 Rating & Much More". Retrieved August 3, 2010. 
  11. ^ Seidman, Robert. "Sunday Cable Ratings: True Blood, Entourage, The Glades, Kourtney & Khloe & More". Retrieved July 27, 2010. 
  12. ^ "'Rubicon' is AMC's Highest-Rated Original Series Premiere Ever". Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Mad Men reviews at". Metacritic. Retrieved August 2, 2010. 
  14. ^ Poniewozik, James (August 2, 2010). "Review of Mad Men, Christmas Comes But Once a Year". Time. Retrieved August 3, 2010. 
  15. ^ Macdonald, Moira (August 2, 2010). "Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog – Monday morning "Mad Men" mashup". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 3, 2010. 
  16. ^ Bradley, William (August 3, 2010). "Mad Men Review: "Christmas Comes But Once a Year," Except for These Three Wise Guys". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 4, 2010. 

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