"The Simpsons" first aired on December 17, 1989, which means 25 years of laughs and Maggie still can't talk. It all started with a Christmas episode and a dog. “Simpson Roasting on an Open Fire” was directed by David Silverman and was the only episode written by Mimi Pond.
Homer, Marge, and Maggie attend Bart and Lisa's Christmas pageant at Springfield Elementary School.
Later, at home, Marge writes a letter for the family's Christmas cards while Homer is getting out the Christmas decorations, and Bart and Lisa are writing their Christmas wish lists.
After Marge finishes writing the letter, Bart and Lisa show her their wish lists; Lisa wants a pony, and Bart asks for a tattoo. They then receive a phone call from Marge's sisters, Patty and Selma, who are coming to visit for Christmas (much to Homer's dismay).
When Marge, Bart, and Lisa go Christmas shopping at the mall the next day, Bart sneaks away to the tattoo store, where he tries to get a tattoo of a heart with the word "Mother" written across it. Discovering this, Marge interrupts the process at "Moth" and immediately takes him to a nearby laser removal clinic.
She has to spend the family's Christmas money (which she had saved in a big jar) getting Bart's tattoo removed, assuming that Homer's Christmas bonus will cover future costs. Meanwhile, at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Mr. Burns announces that the unskilled workers, including Homer, will not be receiving a Christmas bonus this year. Homer sighs, hoping that Marge's big jar of money will be enough for the Christmas presents.
When Homer returns home and hears about the loss of the family's Christmas money, he decides not to tell Marge his own bad news. Instead, he tells her that he is going to do the shopping himself and goes to buy cheap presents from a variety store which sells nothing over five dollars. Homer tries to be optimistic about the dismal presents he is buying, but while leaving the store, he runs into his neighbor Ned Flanders and enviously notices the plentiful amount of presents in fancy packaging that Ned has already bought for his family.
At Moe's Tavern, Homer meets his friend Barney Gumble dressed in a Santa outfit. On Barney's advice, Homer secretly takes a job as a mall Santa. When he arrives home that night, Marge tells him that her sisters have now arrived. Patty and Selma point out the fact that the Simpsons don't have a Christmas tree, so Homer hurries out and steals a tree from a Christmas tree farm outside of town.
On Christmas Eve, Homer is working as Santa at the mall. Nearby, Bart and his friends Milhouse and Lewis are watching, commenting on how gullible the children are. Milhouse dares Bart to tear off Santa's beard and Bart agrees, not knowing that Santa is really Homer. Bart cuts ahead in line and, upon reaching Santa, grabs Homer's fake beard. Bart is shocked at this, and an angry Homer escorts him inside Santa's workshop, where he explains his situation to Bart.
Homer receives his paycheck and is dismayed to see that, after deductions, it is only for thirteen dollars. While a depressed Homer sits down to figure out what to do with the paycheck, an excited Barney tells Homer that he is going to the Springfield Downs to place a bet with his earnings. He invites Homer to come along with him, ensuring a win on a dog named Whirlwind; Homer is reluctant, but with encouragement from Bart, Homer agrees to gamble the paycheck and takes Bart with him to the track.
Despite Barney's recommendation, though, Homer decides to instead bet on a last-second entrant named Santa's Little Helper, believing it to be a sign. Santa's Little Helper, however, comes in dead last (in fact, he does not even make it to the finish line),and his owner abandons him. The dog follows Homer and Bart, who eventually decide to keep him. When they return home, Homer plans to tell the family about his misfortune, but they think he brought the dog as a gift and everyone has a merry Christmas.