Think witches don’t celebrate Christmas? Think again. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is back on Netflix with a special holiday episode to yule-tide us over until the rest of season 1 returns in April. However, “merry and bright” aren’t exactly the words I’d use to describe the Spellman family’s traditions. Christmas, or the Solstice, as these witches call it, is actually a time when the mortal world is most vulnerable to dark forces. That’s why this special Christmas episode begins with an ominous warning.
As Zelda (Miranda Otto) explains to Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), Hilda (Lucy Davis), Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), and kidnapped baby Letitia, their yule log must stay burning to keep the demons away, but Sabrina has some inner-demons already plaguing her. Ever since she discovered that her mother is still in limbo, Sabrina has become determined to help her resolve any unfinished business on earth. She’s also aching for some less-supernatural mother-daughter bonding aka boy advice aka Harvey (Ross Lynch).
Where there’s a witch, there’s a way, I believe the expression goes. She turns to the Weird Sisters in hopes that they’ll join her in another risky ritual involving the thin veil between life and death, and despite how that went last time, they’re all in. All Sabrina needs is Mrs. Wardwell’s (Michelle Gomez) book of the dead, which she readily hands over, but privately worries that Sabrina’s mother could say something detrimental to Sabrina’s newly-minted allegiance to the Church of Night.
Sabrina hasn’t forgotten about her mortal friends, but they’re not quite ready to join her in on her witchy hobbies which include literally talking to dead people. Their priorities are festive in the mortal way. Susie (Lachlan Watson) proudly announces that she’s playing Jingles The Christmas Elf at Santa’s playland. This is something she’s wanted for a while, but as Sabrina is congratulating her, she spots Harvey in the distance.
They’re still friends, allegedly, which is why Sabrina gives him his Christmas present: enchanted colored pencils whose tips never wear down. He accepts it uncomfortably, and I can’t help but notice he did not get her anything in return.
Despite Rosalind (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie’s best efforts to keep their distance from witchy antics, Susie ends up smack in the middle of a serious dark force. Rosalind visits her pal at her new elf gig, and gets a weird premonition about Susie, Santa, and the wax figures in the playland. Sure enough, we cut to the end of the night, and Santa aka Mr. Bartel reveals the wax figures look so realistic because they’re real children he’s captured — and Susie’s next.
Surprisingly, things seem to be going much better for Sabrina. She and the Weird Sisters are in the midst of their seance when her mother appears, having confirmed that she and her father did die in a plane crash on flight 2331. Sabrina asks her mother why she’s in limbo and if there’s anything she can do to help, but suddenly the mood changes. There’s a interference and her mother says it’s not safe. She disappears, and the reason is clear: Someone extinguished the yule log.
The Spellman household isn’t the only one in turmoil. The next morning, Susie’s father realizes she never came home, and calls Rosalind for help. Rosalind had a bad feeling ever since stepping into Santa’s playland, and now her premonition is confirmed. She heads to Sabrina’s to get some magical assistance, but they’re battling demons of their own. Literally.
The lapse in the yule log permitted Yule Lads — the “impish spirits of children” that have traveled down from the mountains — to enter the Spellman residence and cause havoc. Their mother, Gryla (Heather Doerksen), controls them, but she’s equally as tricky. Her own child was eaten by witches, so she fills the hole in her life by adding orphans to her family. They must summon her to free their house of Yule Lads, while keeping baby Letitia safe and undetected.
Once Gryla arrives, Sabrina's aunts bargain with her to call off her pesky Yule Lads, but her one request is simple: she wants to get lit with the ladies! Meaning, she wants to drink gin with them. Once they’ve all enjoyed their stiff drink, Gryla summons the Yule Lads away — right as baby Letitia lets out a wail. Shit.
Gryla can tell that Letitia does not rightfully belong to Zelda, and the spirit of Sabrina’s mother suddenly manifests to help settle the score. They must place Letitia in a circle, and Gryla and Zelda pull on either arm. Whoever manages to pull her out of the circle gets to keep her. Unfortunately, Zelda can’t bring herself to hurt the baby and gives up quickly, ceding the baby to Gryla. Once Gryla takes off with both the baby and her Yule Lads, Sabrina and her mother reveal it was all a trick. Letitia is safe with them — Gryla has an enchanted teddy bear, and the spell will wear off by the time she’s far away in the mountains.
As soon as one problem is fixed, however, another comes knocking. As in, Rosalind is literally knocking on their door asking for help to find Susie. She reveals she’s been captured by Mr. Bartel, and Hilda reveals “Bartel” is actually the name of a Yule demon. Unfortunately, the Solstice is demons’ time to shine, so witches can’t interfere. Gryla, however, can.
While she’s probably peeved at being tricked, her anger at those who hurt children supersedes any grudge. She swoops in to rescue Susie, and Hilda erases Susie’s father’s memory so it’s like the whole ordeal never happened.
That’s quite enough drama for one holiday season, and Zelda isn’t keen for any more. That’s why she decides to give Letitia to Dezmelda, the wood witch from earlier in season 1. Sabrina’s mom has also made a decision: She’s ready to move on into the afterlife. The only reason she stuck around in limbo was to keep an eye on Sabrina, but now she sees that her daughter has a loving family and support system. As for the Harvey problem, her mother gives a cryptic response: "I followed Edward along the Path of Night as much as I could, but I wouldn't lead anyone else down it." (The answer seems to satisfy Sabrina, but I'm still a little confused.)
It doesn’t sound like Harvey would go down that path even if Sabrina asked. When he approaches her on Christmas Eve, he tells her not to involve him in any more magic. He gives back the enchanted pencils, and leaves.
But at least all the other drama has sorted itself out. Now, as Hilda says, they just have to get through Witch Epiphany — wait, what? April can’t come soon enough.