The best ever Christmas soap moments

Stacey, Bradley and Lauren Branning Mk I sit down to watch a lovely video about adultery

Stacey, Bradley and Lauren Branning Mk I sit down to watch a lovely video about adultery - Credit: BBC

Tis the season for death, divorce, disaster, illicit kisses and freak weather - in Soapland, at least

Trish dies in Emmerdale

Trish dies in Emmerdale - Credit: ITV

As we know, Christmas is the most magical time of the year – it's also the most stressful time of the year, particularly if you live in Walford, Weatherfield, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks, Erinsborough or Summer Bay and particularly if you're planning a festive wedding or a quiet family Christmas. TV Editor Stacia Briggs picks 10 of the most shocking, surreal or devastating festive moments from Soapland.

Memorable Christmas moments from the soaps:

1) Dirty Den and Angie's divorce (EastEnders, 1986): The Granddaddy of them all and the benchmark for anyone striving for a truly miserable Christmas, 30.2 million people tuned in to watch Den Watts hand Angie the divorce papers after finding out that she'd been lying about only having six months to live (in lying terms, this is a really difficult one to pull off). 'Happy Christmas, Ange…' said Den, shortly after telling her he'd overheard her confessing her 'big black lie' to, of all people, a waiter on the Orient Express.

2) Doctor Clive's Dream (Neighbours, 1986): From the sublime to the ridiculous, this was an example of Neighbours scriptwriters smashing down the fourth wall and presenting an episode that mimicked taking hallucinogenic drugs. Although not quite as mind-bending as Bouncer's Dream sequence (never bettered), Doctor Clive's festive dream came a close second. While refereeing a boxing match between Mike and Shane for the heart of Plain Jane Superbrain, the good doctor was knocked out and while unconscious found himself in pantomime land surrounded by familiar faces dressed as characters: Clive was Santa, Mike and Shane were Tweedle Dum and Dee and Paul Robinson was a caped villain. Like a Stilton dream.

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3) Plane crash (Emmerdale, 1993): This was Emmerdale's first big-budget storyline and included the festive deaths of four characters and the destruction of the village at a time when there were lots of rumours that the Yorkshire-based soap was being axed. Archie Brooks was the first to die, engulfed in flames from a ball of fire, Leonard Kempinski died in a car crash, Eric Pollard's wife Elizabeth was found dead (although everyone still suspects that Eric, and not the plane crash, killed her) and Mark Hughes died after being crushed by rubble. Chris Tate was also crushed and lost the use of his legs. As an added New Year bonus, Mick Johnson from Brookside was seen reading a newspaper on January 5 1994 with the front page headline 'AIR DISASTER TOLL RISES – Village Mourns As Many Die'.

4) Jamie Mitchell dies (EastEnders, 2002): It may seem unlikely now, but back in 2002, Sonia had managed to bag a Beckham-a-like, Jamie Mitchell, who was Billy Mitchell's nephew but had been treated like a son by Phil until he betrayed him over his daughter Louise (does this sound familiar?). The couple had just got engaged and were about to embark on a fairytale romance when Jamie, laden with flowers for Sonia, was hit by a car driven by teenage tearaway Martin Fowler. It seemed as if he'd pull through, but he died in hospital in an incredibly depressing deathbed scene. 'We were meant to be, Sonia…' he said, seconds before he slipped away to a better place (playing Justin Timberlake in Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes).

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5) Tram crash (Coronation Street, 2010): What says 'happy birthday, Coronation Street!' better than a devastating tram crash that caused the death of two characters (Ashley Peacock and Molly Dobbs), destroyed Dev's shop and The Kabin, prompted an emergency marriage between a critically-injured Peter Barlow and Leanne Battersby and caused Fiz Stape to go into premature labour with daughter Hope. Molly Dobbs was trapped under debris and Sally Webster sat with her while she waited for help – realising she was dying, Molly confessed to her affair with Kevin and told Sally that Kevin had rejected her and that the only thing she didn't regret was baby Jack. In storyline terms, it was like every Christmas coming at once.

6) Clare bumps off husband Max (Hollyoaks, 2006): Clare is one of Hollyoaks' ultimate villains, making Grace Black look like a feckless amateur. In a hugely convoluted murder plot, she manipulated husband Max into taking cocaine at which point he immediately had a heart attack because soap operas have a duty to foghorn the fact we should Just Say No. To help him recover, she then took him to a cottage in the Lake District before locking his little brother in the car, throwing his coat into an icy lake and claiming that he'd gone under the water and was drowning. He then jumped into the water and started to drown himself until his estranged best friend turned up, saved him and then landed Clare with a timely conk on the nose. Christmas is all about mince pies, mistletoe and murder, isn't it?

7) Beth and Margaret kiss (Brookside, 1994): It may have been off our screens for 13 years, but Brookside broke new ground when it sealed the romance between Beth Jordache and Margaret Clemence with the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss on Christmas Day. It catapulted Anna Friel and Nicola Stephenson's careers into the spotlight and met with controversy – in fact it was such big news that an American news channel sent a crew to Liverpool to film the aftermath of 'that kiss'. Thankfully, gay couples on British soap opera are now established and accepted by the majority of viewers.

8) Max and Stacey's affair is uncovered (EastEnders, 2007): When Lauren Branning discovered that her dad Max had been having an affair with her brother's wife, Stacey Slater, she decided that it needed to be revealed in style: after Christmas dinner and before charades. Max had encouraged Stacey to leave his son Bradley on their wedding day – filmed footage from the day caught them sharing their secret on camera and sharing a last clandestine kiss. After seeing the footage as she edited the wedding video, Lauren uploaded it on to a disc and left it under the Christmas tree to be watched on the big day. She then changed her mind about the big reveal, but it was too late: the entire Branning family watched it on-screen at the same time as we did.

9) Freak storm (Emmerdale, 2003): Just after Christmas, a freak storm hit the village and saw Ashley Thomas and Louise Appleton stranded on the roads and Tricia Dingle caught up in the deadly wind and rain. Tricia's husband Marlon had had a one-night stand with his cousin Charity when Tricia was away and when she found out, she planned to leave him. He begged her to stay, writing a list of 101 reasons why he loved her. As she headed to the Woolpack, lightning struck an oak tree causing Tricia to trip and then another bolt hit the pub, causing a roof collapse which led to the window falling on the hapless Dingle. Critically-injured in hospital, Marlon had to make the agonising decision to switch off her life-support machine.

10) Hilda Ogden bows out (Coronation Street, 1987): One of the soap's most iconic characters, played by Jean Alexander, Hilda left the nation in tears when she left the famous cobbles while singing Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye after 23 years in Weatherfield. Her last full day on the Street was on Christmas Day which she spent with Kevin and Sally Webster, to whom she'd sold her house at a ridiculously low price, reflecting on days gone by. She then called in at the Rovers and was thrilled to find a surprise party waiting for her, proving to a modest Hilda how loved she actually was. More than 26 million people tuned in to bid Hilda goodbye.

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