Christmas was a varied experience for the characters of The Big Bang Theory. Leonard Hostadter’s family presented papers on Christmas, Penny’s family trimmed the tree every year, and Sheldon Cooper’s home was so decked out with lights and inflatable lawn decor that it induced “neighborhood wide seizures.”
Sheldon would rather celebrate the birth of Sir Isaac Newton (December 25th on the Julian calendar) than Christmas, citing early church manipulation of dates to coincide with pagan winter solstice celebrations. He also finds the Grinch a “relatable, engaging character,” stating that when the Grinch saved Christmas and caved to social convention, the event was “a buzz kill.”
Watch a clip of Sheldon at Christmas time here, as Penny and Leonard trim the tree – or as Sheldon calls it, a “spider infested fire hazard.” He insists upon the inclusion of a bust of Sir Isaac Newton in the decor, and at the end of the scene, Leonard exclaims, “Happy Newtonmas!”
Here is another clip (from a different Christmas) in which Penny gives Sheldon his Christmas gift – a used (and autographed) napkin from Leonard Nimoy. With it, Sheldon realizes that he can clone his own Nimoy. In return, he presents Penny with an armful of gift baskets and still feels that his gift is no where near comparable to what she has given him (from “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis”).
Penny: Hey Sheldon, are you and Leonard putting up a Christmas tress?
Sheldon Cooper: No, because we don’t celebrate the ancient pagan festival of Saturnalia.
Howard Wolowitz: Gather round, kids, it’s time for Sheldon’s beloved Christmas special.
Sheldon Cooper: In the pre-Christian era, as the winter solstice approached and the plants died, pagans brought evergreen boughs into their homes as an act of sympathetic magic, intended to guard the life essences of the plants until spring. This custom was later appropriated by Northern Europeans and eventually it becomes the so-called Christmas tree.
Howard Wolowitz: And that, Charlie Brown, is what boredom is all about. (From “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis”)
And the following bit of dialogue illustrates why Sheldon had so many gift baskets to give Penny in the second clip above:
Penny: [after the tale of Saturnalia] Okay, well, thank you for that, but I got you and Leonard a few silly neighbor gifts, so I’ll just put them under my tree.
Sheldon Cooper: Wait! You bought me a present?
Sheldon Cooper: Why would you do such a thing?
Penny: I don’t know. ‘Cause its Christmas?
Sheldon Cooper: Oh, Penny. I know you think you are being generous, but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation.
Howard Wolowitz: Don’t feel bad, Penny, it’s a classic rookie mistake. My first Hanukkah with Sheldon, he yelled at me for eight nights.
Penny: Now, hey, it’s okay. You don’t have to get me anything in return.
Sheldon Cooper: Of course I do. The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve given me. It’s no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.
Penny: Okay, you know what? Forget it. I’m not giving you a present.
Sheldon Cooper: No, it’s to late. I see it. That elf sticker says, “To Sheldon.” The die has been cast. The moving finger has writ. Hannibal has crossed the alps.
Howard Wolowitz: [Raj then whispers into Howard's ear then they both laugh] I know. It’s funny when it’s not happening to us.
Penny: [Exasperated] Sheldon, I am very, very sorry.
Sheldon Cooper: No. No, I brought this on myself by being such an endearing and important part of your life.
[Turning to Howard and Raj]
Sheldon Cooper: I’m going to need a ride to the mall.
Howard Wolowitz: It’s happening to us.
Will Sheldon ever change his opinion of Christmas? Stay tuned here to find out!