For many viewers, the annual Horton family Christmas is as important as their real-life Christmas celebrations.
The Horton tree trimming, the Christmas miracles, and the focus on family and love makes it feel like we're spending the holiday with close friends.
Unfortunately, though, Christmas felt like an afterthought on Days of Our Lives during the week of 12-23-19, leaving many long-time viewers disappointed.
Christmas Eve came close to being the kind of family story that viewers long for, but it didn't quite make it.
Some of the elements were there.
JJ got out of the hospital just in time to join the family, Julie worried that the party would be a flop only to learn that everyone was coming after all, and Jack and Jennifer were excited to put their ornaments side by side on the tree for the first time in years.
But the whole thing had a rushed quality to it as if the writers wanted to get through Christmas and back to the drama, that made the whole thing fall flat.
Part of the problem is that the JJ storyline has been missing pieces from the beginning.
JJ's addiction to some sort of generic pill never fully made sense and was used as a plot point to get Kristen back to Salem and provide viewers with exposition about what had happened to Haley during the missing year.
And the resolution was no different.
On Christmas Eve, JJ told his family that he had become addicted to opioids after he punched a wall and needed painkillers for his hand, they told him they loved him, and he decided to leave the hospital so they could all celebrate Christmas. The end.
Imagine what a powerful Christmas story this could have been, had it been written properly.
First of all, opioid addiction is a serious problem in most of America, and DAYS should be applauded for trying to address it...except they didn't address it at all.
They just gave JJ a random pill addiction and at the last minute threw in that it was opioids to make it appear topical.
If instead, we'd been with JJ on a journey in which he initially rejected painkillers because of his past problems with substance abuse and his mother's painkiller addiction, only to finally give in because of the pain and then end up spiraling downward into a serious addiction problem, that would have been an amazing story that would have earned Casey Moss a well deserved Emmy nod.
And incidentally, opioid abuse does not make people violent, so DAYS can stop suggesting that the drugs led to JJ trying to kill Kristen any time now.
The end of this story was no better than the beginning, either.
If JJ had been under a care of a medical team and his family had resigned themselves to spending Christmas in the hospital with him, but the doctor signed off on his medical release at the last minute so he could join the family, that would have been a Christmas miracle type story that left viewers with warm feelings.
JJ: I wish I didn't exist.
Jennifer: No! Don't ever say that.
Jack: Listen to me, Jack Patrick Deveraux. You are our son, our miracle baby, and we love you.
JJ randomly deciding to "find a doctor" to sign off on his release lacked that emotional impact, especially because the doctor was entirely off-screen so there was no conflict to overcome. He just did it.
And then once he got home, he faded into the background, cheating viewers out of the compelling story of him trying to put aside his pain to be with his family on Christmas even though he was still filled with shame and the feelings leading to his drug use were starting to come back.
Most of Christmas Eve was taken up by two decidedly Grinchy women: Eve and Gabi.
The pre-Christmas scenes between Gabi and Chad were obnoxious.
Whatever Chad thinks of Gabi, he was wrong to tell his young children that she was Scrooge or to bring them into this conflict in any major way.
And it was equally wrong for Gabi to go to the Christmas party with her smug attitude.
The only time she was bearable was the two minutes she and JJ got before JJ got converted back into an extra. She was genuinely concerned about him, expressing a softness that is not seen often enough.
It's shocking that ex-schemer Julie doesn't see through Gabi one bit, though maybe she just doesn't want to see because Gabi did save her life.
Anyway, Gabi's obnoxiousness was dwarfed by Eve crashing the party to rant and rave before leaving again.
The Eve nonsense was another example of something that could have been a genuine Christmas story, but instead missed the mark.
In years gone by, someone like Eve would have crashed the party and shocked everyone by being there only to thank Abigail, and everyone would have put their animosity aside for the rest of the day because of the holiday.
Instead, Eve made some ridiculous speech about how Jack and Jennifer put her in jail on purpose before swearing vengeance...and announcing she was leaving town forever. Why was that a necessary addition to the Christmas festivities?
All of that negative energy sucked time away from the traditional tree trimming, which is the best part of any Horton Christmas.
The hanging consisted of a rushed montage during the last few minutes of the Christmas Eve episode, and the only thing that seemed remotely Christmasy was Julie explaining to little Thomas who his great-grandfather was.
Days of Our Lives even skipped the traditional Christmas speech, where Maggie or Julie summarizes the year and emphasizes how grateful they are that they are all here to celebrate, to squeeze in more time for Gabi and Eve to do their thing.
Brady: Did Holly open her Christmas gifts?
Nicole: She put Santa to shame. It looked like the North Pole exploded in there.
The rest of the week was devoted to Christmas, but Christmas Day got the short end of the stick.
The high point of Christmas Day wasn't the reading of the Christmas story, which was so short that it was almost an afterthought. Instead, there were some nice scenes between Kayla and Roman as they discussed her feelings of guilt over moving on with Justin.
Roman and Kayla have a beautiful brother/sister bond that is not shown enough on-screen, but this conversation could have taken place on any day of the week.
Plus, Roman didn't point out the obvious, which was that if Kayla feels like she's cheating on Steve with her new man, she's not as ready to move on as she keeps insisting.
Anyway, the majority of the hour was devoted to the Stefano/Steve silliness.
This campy nonsense also could have happened on any ordinary day. The only reason for "Steve" to play Santa on Christmas would be if the Christmas miracle was the real Steve escaping from somewhere to reunite with Kayla.
Hattie getting out of jail so she could bother John, Marlena, and Roman wasn't nearly enough of a Christmas miracle, though her interactions with Roman were comedy gold.
Roman: I'm sorry I didn't get to talk to you at the Christmas party. I just don't know what in the hell happened to my Santa suit.
Hattie: I'd rather see you in your birthday suit.
Salem is overrun with doppelgangers at the moment, and she's the only one who is tolerable.
But of course, she got thrown into the Stefano/Steve nonsense almost as soon as she came back to Salem as if that story wasn't ridiculous enough.
Weirdly, the day following Christmas felt more Christmasy than the big day itself, largely due to the Xander/Sarah scenes.
Xander surprised Sarah in Boston not only with a visit but with ordering a meal full of her favorite foods and giving her homemade cookies he had helped Maggie bake.
Now THAT was a Christmas-like thing to do. Why couldn't that have been juxtaposed with the reading of the Christmas story instead of all this nonsense?
Of course, Sarah still lacks anything resembling a backbone.
She was perfectly happy to have a romantic meal with Xander...until Eric texted her about the doctors having news. Then she told Xander to go home so that Eric wouldn't be angry.
Sarah is acting like a battered spouse, which would be fine if Eric was written as a villain.
Instead, we're supposed to think that she's making this wonderful sacrifice for the good of her child even though what she's doing is selfish. She simply doesn't want to have to deal with the conflict between Eric and Xander so she's appeasing Eric.
And Xander had an ulterior motive of sorts, too. While his desire to be with Sarah and Mickey was genuine, he also wanted to find out whether Ciara broke into his lockbox, and he ended the date by doing just that.
I'm not sure how I feel about that.
On the one hand, it ruined the mood, though less so than Sarah telling Xander to take a hike for Eric's sake.
But on the other, Ciara has become almost insufferably stupid, so it's good to see her get caught in her web of lies so easily.
Ciara's attempt to prove that Ben was innocent of Jordan's murder would be a compelling story if it were written intelligently, but so far that hasn't happened.
Ciara's Christmastime visit to Ben/Will was ridiculous. No prison would allow a visitor to spend time with two prisoners at once, nor to switch prisoners with another visitor.
Plus Will should have felt a lot more slighted than he did since the only reason Ciara visited him at all was to cover up her intention to visit Ben.
Anyway, Ben and Ciara's visit was more of the same conversation that's been going on for the past month. Ben doesn't want Ciara to put herself in danger for his sake, but Ciara doesn't want Ben to be executed for a crime he didn't commit.
We got the point a long time ago, but the writers seem unwilling to move on. Enough already.
Too bad John didn't offer his help to Ciara, which might have helped this story.
John is a seasoned ISA agent who has been involved in many undercover operations and is on good terms with Victor, which would have added another layer to the drama if he was helping Ciara investigate Victor.
Instead, the only one helping Ciara is Justin, and he's mostly acting as Ben's lawyer and standing up to Victor about Kayla, neither of which adds much to this story.
In any case, Ciara is not very good at detective work and likely will end up in trouble. It's also likely that Xander had nothing to do with Jordan's death, since she's so focused on proving that he did.
Kate stuck her nose into Sonny and Evan's business again. The only one of the three of them who came out of this story looking good was Sonny.
Kate is too much of a busybody and Evan is too weak, always eager to leave so that Kate won't be upset. That wasn't attractive when Gabi used to try to run away from Julie when she was dating JJ, and it isn't any more attractive now.
Hattie: Hey, handsome!
Hattie: I'm just greeting my new boss. So when do I start?
Roman: You are real eager to get going, huh?
Hattie: Yep. I wanna roll up my sleeves and help put this place on the map.
Roman: I didn't know we were off the map, but okay. Did you see Kate up there?
Hattie: I sure did. Kate and I came to an understanding. Wink wink. I know everything. But don't worry. My lips are sealed.
Roman: Your lips are sealed? About what?
Hattie: I can't tell you.
Kate's scenes with Roman, Stefano, and Hattie were a lot more entertaining, despite the silliness of the Stefano storyline, and now she's going to have to keep tabs on Hattie and keep Roman from finding out the truth.
Hopefully, that'll keep her too busy to mind everyone else's business, but I woudn't count on it.
Finally, Kristen and Lani's plan looks like it's about to be undone by a lot of jealousy.
Lani's reaction to overhearing Gabi and Eli's lovemaking session was to break the window of the new Gabi Chic store.
I hope nobody in Salem calls this "excusable" and "understandable" like they did when Abby broke a window because she was angry that Chad wasn't with her.
Somehow rejection by a lover is considered a valid reason to commit vandalism, but when JJ's serious mental health issues in 2013 culminated in him breaking a window after learning that his father had once raped his aunt, he was treated like a criminal.
Plus, the idea of one of Salem's former top cops not having any self-control is disturbing, to say the least. Hopefully, she didn't do anything like that to suspects while armed!
Kristen wasn't much better, stalking Brady and Nicole and looking like she was ready to murder someone because Brady moved on a year after she disappeared and supposedly committed her life to God.
What did you think, Days of Our Lives fanatics?
Was the Salem Christmas to your liking, or did it feel lacking to you?
Do you love or hate this Steve/Stefano story?
And what were the high points for you on Days of Our Lives during the week of 12-23-19?
Hit SHOW COMMENTS and share your thoughts!
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Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.