The episode begins right as Christmas vacation has started for the students of P.S. 118. While on a walk with Phoebe, Helga talks about how she thinks Christmas is all about presents and then notices a display case showing off what she wants most for Christmas - a pair of Nancy Spumoni snow boots. Rhonda points out to Helga that she'd have a hard time receiving these snow boots, as the stores are pretty much sold out of them, but Helga is certain that she will be receiving them because she has been dropping hints about it to her parents for weeks. Shortly afterward, Helga notices Arnold walking by and soliloquizes about how she secretly loves him and wants to find the perfect gift for him.
Meanwhile, at the boarding house where Arnold lives, he and the rest of the boarders assign each other a Secret Santa. In Arnold's case, he has to get a present for Mr. Hyunh. Arnold notices that Mr. Hyunh always seems very sad around Christmastime. When Arnold tells his friend Gerald about it, Gerald suggests he ask Mr. Hyunh about it so he can find out what would be a good present for him. Arnold goes to talk to Mr. Hyunh, who tells him about his lost daughter Mai, whom he had given to be saved by American rescue soldiers during a war back in his home country. After twenty years, Mr. Hyunh had come to the city to be reunited with Mai, but he has never been able to find her.
Christmas Eve comes, and Arnold decides to search the city to find Mai. Accompanied by Gerald, Arnold goes to the Federal Office of Information to find out where to find Mai. They talk about it to the supervisor, Mr. Bailey, who initially refuses their request. Mr. Bailey then gets a phone call from his wife and he mentions that he hasn't been able to do his Christmas shopping. Arnold and Gerald work out a deal with Mr. Bailey; they do all of Mr. Bailey's Christmas shopping for him, and he will try to find Mai.
Arnold and Gerald manage to buy almost all of the items on Mr. Bailey's shopping list, with the last item being Nancy Spumoni snow boots. While looking for that last item, they run into Helga, who, unbeknownst to them, is still trying to find the perfect present for Arnold. During this, Arnold accidentally drops the shopping list; Helga picks it up and notices the snow boots are on the list. Arnold and Gerald, unfortunately, are not able to find a single pair of Nancy Spumoni snow boots in any of the stores. Without that last item, Mr. Bailey refuses to find Mai. Arnold mopes about the fact that he couldn't reunite Mr. Hyunh and his daughter, unaware of Helga eavesdropping on him and finding out why he was searching for the snow boots.
Helga goes to her home, where her family is already celebrating Christmas. To her surprise, Miriam presents her with a pair of the Nancy Spumoni snow boots. Helga goes outside to try them out, but then remembers that Arnold was desperate to find these for Mr. Bailey.
After some moral agonizing over this, Helga brings the snow boots to Mr. Bailey just as he's closing up his office, and gets him to search the records through an impassioned speech on Arnold needing a Christmas miracle.
On Christmas morning, Arnold is still downtrodden over the fact that he could not reunite Mai with her father. Mr. Hyunh is understanding, but depressed. At that point, the door bell rings and Phil answers it. Arnold and Mr. Hyunh are stunned to discover Mai at the boarding house doorstep. As Mr. Hyunh and his daughter are reunited, Arnold is puzzled as to how this miracle happened, and Gerald suggests that maybe he has some sort of Christmas angel looking out for him. Outside, far out of sight, Helga wishes Arnold a merry Christmas.
- Although Mr. Hyunh never directly says that he is from Vietnam (all he says is that "an invader came from the north"), he does say in "Snow" that he is from there.
- Francesca Marie Smith, the voice of Helga, has mentioned this as being one of her personal favorite episodes of the show (alongside "What's Opera, Arnold?" and "Helga on the Couch"). The series' creator, Craig Bartlett, has also stated this to be one of his personal favorites.
Home video releases
- Hey Arnold!: Arnold's Christmas
- Hey Arnold!: Season 1 (both versions)
- Out of the Vault Christmas