Mr. Feeney reads the class A Christmas Carol and discovers that Cory and Shawn really don’t get it because they keep expecting the Grinch to show up. He asks Topanga to switch seats with Cory (which she tries to do through transcendental meditation because she used to be New Age, remember) who describes A Christmas Carol as going to cool places with ghosts when you’re mean.
Topanga tries to explain to them the historical origins of Christmas and it’s evolution from the winter solstice tradition. (Uh-oh, I said Christmas, evolution, and solstice in the same sentence. I feel like someone isn’t going to like that.)
Cory is so certain that he’s getting a basketball for Christmas that he’s saved up money to buy his gift a gift, a $5 net (that’s $8.46 in today’s money, for those of you keeping track at home).
Meanwhile, poor little Morgan has been traumatized by a trip to the mall to visit Santa. Apparently, there was a mean elf and Santa had a heart attack right as Morgan was asking him for her present. So she thinks she killed him. (He’s actually alive, in the hospital, and intubated.) Yikes. People spend years in therapy for this kind of stuff.
When Cory arrives home from school, he immediately runs to the tree to see if there are any new presents to shake. AHHH WHAT A WONDER TIME OF LIFE THIS IS! He can’t wait to head over to Shawn’s because Shawn has been bragging about all the gifts under his Christmas tree. That’s when Cory’s dad tells him that Shawn’s dad lost his job, and Cory realizes that Shawn may be having a Christmas more on par with Tiny Tim’s than his own. (So I guess he did learn something from the book.) Cory decides to give Shawn one of the presents from under their tree since he’s no Scrooge.
But when Cory gives Shawn the basketball, Shawn realizes he’s feeling sorry for him and he doesn’t like it. Cory says, “Christmas is about charity. You should be thanking me.” Mr. Feeney overhears from next door and tells Cory that “a true gift is given with no expectation” and that Cory “gave the gift to get the thanks.” He gives Cory the example of friendship as a true gift.
In a surprising turn of events, the mean elf shows up at the house to return their money since Morgan wasn’t able to take a photo with Santa. He also tells her father that he thinks she’s a demon child because Santa had a heart attack when she sat on his lap. Wow, harsh!
Meanwhile, at school, Shawn is embarrassed because he doesn’t have any money to contribute to Mr. Feeney’s Christmas gift. The little shit collecting the money at school, Minkus, says that he can’t put his name on the card without him contributing to the fun, even if he doesn’t have the money, so Cory tells him privately that Shawn lent him $5 which he had forgotten to return. Thus, Shawn is included and Cory’s gift is anonymous. The class gives Mr. Feeney a nice thick dictionary because they obviously think he has no interests outside of school.
When Shawn thanks Minkus for including his name on the card even though he didn’t contribute Minkus tells him not to thank him since Cory contributed the money that he owed Shawn. Realizing that Cory’s not a terrible person out for charity only to feel good about himself, he stops by Cory’s house to give him a basketball net.
At the end of the night, Mr. Feeney stops by the house dressed as Santa and tells Morgan that he is okay and that Mrs. Claus undercooked his figgy pudding, so none of this was Morgan’s fault. This makes Morgan feel better, but now she wants to know why Santa looks like Mr. Feeney!!
Very Special Holiday Lesson: Mall Santas are always a bad idea. You’re not helping other people when you’re focused on making yourself look good.