Christmas is always a dramatic time in Walford. When December hits, you can guarantee that one of the residents of Albert Square will declare that this year “will be the best Christmas Walford has ever had!” and jinx everyone. From affairs to deaths, Walford has seen it all; here’s just a couple of the most memorable episodes.
Christmas 1986 – Den serves Angie the divorce papers
“This, my sweet, is a letter from my solicitor, telling you that your husband has filed a petition for divorce.”
It’s an infamous EastEnders line, and earned the soap its biggest viewership ever. 30.1 million people watched Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) serve his troubled wife Angie (Anita Dobson) divorce papers, after months of Angie lying to her husband that she was dying of terminal cancer. Landlord Den wasn’t exactly a saint, neither; he had been having an affair with Jan Hammond (Jane Howe). The Christmas cliffhanger was seen by over half of the UK, the biggest audience a soap has ever received, and the BBC would kill for rating figures like it today.
New Year 1998 – Frank runs down Tiffany
New Year is perhaps the only time more unlucky than Christmas in Walford, particularly in 1999. Poor old Tiffany Mitchell, played by Martine McCutcheon, fled her husband Grant (Ross Kemp) into the path of Frank Butcher’s (Mike Reid) car as it drove round the square. Though many a current EastEnder has survived more dramatic crashes, Tiffany died instantly, on the cold concrete outside the Queen Vic. Although, it did allow McCutcheon to go onto bigger, better Christmas things, making a name for herself as PM’s girlfriend Natalie in Love Actually five years later.
Christmas 2005 – Kat and Alfie leave the Square
Kat (Jessie Wallace) and Alfie (Shane Richie) may have been in and out of EastEnders like a yo-yo (they are currently the stars of Mayflower Theatre’s pantomime), but in 2005 the Christmas episode was all about them and their first departure from the show. It goes to show that it’s not all doom and gloom in Walford over Christmas, as the troubled couple finally reunited after a troubled year to travel America together. The nation cheered as ‘Kalfie’ kissed in the snow in front of The Queen Vic – in the same spot Tiffany Mitchell died, actually. Though, this is the world of soap, and they returned miserable and separated in 2010 to run the very same pub.
Christmas 2007 – Max and Stacey’s affair is revealed
One of Walford’s most explosive Christmases ever came in 2007, when Max Branning’s (Jake Wood) affair with his son’s wife Stacey (Lacey Turner) came out in dramatic fashion with all the family present. Needless to say that when Max’s daughter Lauren (Madeline Duggan) played a video of Max and Stacey kissing on her wedding day to Bradley (Charlie Clements), nobody was too happy – the fallout saw Max’s wife Tanya (Jo Joyner) attempt to bury him alive several months later. Nine years later, this Christmas sees both Max and Stacey at the forefront of the drama once more, as Max returns to take revenge after being falsely imprisoned a year ago.
New Year 2010 – The baby swap
New Year’s 2010 saw EastEnders’ most harrowing plot ever kick off, to much controversy. After finding her infant son James cot dead, Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack) swapped him with Kat and Alfie’s newborn son Tommy during Walford’s New Year celebrations. The devastating scenes were one step too far for a lot of viewers, and the record number of complaints saw them wrap up the story four months later, with Ronnie returning Tommy to his parents and then leaving for three years in prison. She’s back now though, of course; though not for long, as Ronnie and her sister Roxy (Rita Simons) will bow out for good this New Year in tragic scenes…
Christmas 2014 – Mick finds out about Linda’s rape
The best Christmases in Walford involve a big family blowout, and 2014 was no different. The Carters celebrated their first year in the Queen Vic with one of the most dramatic episodes in EastEnders history. Mick (Danny Dyer) exploded on discovering that his loving wife Linda (Kellie Bright) had been raped by Dean Wicks (Matt Di Angelo), and when he furiously attacked him over Christmas lunch, his ‘sister’ Shirley (Linda Henry) revealed that Dean was in fact his brother, and she his mum. That’s one Christmas that takes the Mick!
This year, tune into EastEnders across the festive season as Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) battles liver failure; the Mitchell sisters make their explosive exits; and Mick’s son Lee (Danny-Boy Hatchard) has his dark secrets exposed.