‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17: Will There be a Christmas Episode? How the Show Has Covered Holidays in the Past

With 16 seasons under its belt, Grey’s Anatomy has depicted its fair share of holidays. But in 2020, everything’s different — including the timeline. Despite multiple December episodes (a rarity for the network series), it’s not Christmastime in Grey’s world. But there’s one past method the series could use to make it happen.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 16 was cut short

Most seasons of Grey’s Anatomy are 24 or 25 episodes long. That was supposed to be the case for Season 16. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to ABC shutting down production on the hit TV series in March 2020, as they were filming episodes 21 and 22.

“We are disappointed that we don’t get to complete our storytelling this season,” tweeted showrunner Krista Vernoff. “It’s not where we planned to end, but it’s beautiful & the questions that linger we will answer next year.” The writers began to construct season 17, continuing existing storylines while incorporating the new reality of the pandemic.

Season 17 began in Spring 2020, with coronavirus

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Grey’s Anatomy employs a loose timeline, with seasons often jumping ahead in time to keep things relatively on track with the real world. But to properly showcase what doctors have gone through during the pandemic, season 17 had to depict the events of the spring, even as it aired in the fall.

The action picks up shortly after it left off. In the two-part season premiere, there are “flashbacks” to weeks earlier, before the pandemic began. Still, most of the story shows the reality of hospitals in April 2020, as coronavirus cases skyrocketed. Since then, the time has continued to pass week over week.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ has shown progression via holidays before

In the past, Grey’s Anatomy has used holidays to show the passing of time. In Season 11, following Derek Shepherd’s death, Meredith disappears for months. The first half of the two-part episode, “She’s Leaving Home,” goes from Easter through Christmas, while the second goes to Valentine’s Day.

More recently, the season 15 episode “Girlfriend in a Coma” employs a similar tactic to bring the delayed story to the present day. It begins with Christmas, as a woman in a coma wakes up. She improves through New Year’s Eve but codes on Groundhog’s Day. On Valentine’s Day, she dies.

Highlighting the holidays could send home a strong message

Chris Carmack as Link and Caterina Scorsone as Amelia in 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 17
Chris Carmack as Link and Caterina Scorsone as Amelia in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17 | ABC

Though the story seen in the first few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 has taken place earlier in 2020, there’s an obvious way to show the passage of time while also bringing holidays into the mix. And if this is the method the writer’s employed, they may have a very specific reason to highlight this time of year.

The real-life pandemic continues to rage in the U.S., with death tolls spiking across the country as hospitals once again reach capacity. And, as has been stressed by health officials, this is, in part, due to festive gatherings. Using a Christmas setting to encourage viewers to remain socially distant during the holidays would be a very Grey’s Anatomy thing to do.