M*A*S*H episode
“Death Takes a Holiday”
SSN09 199death
The doctors, Hawkeye and B.J., along with Margaret, scramble to try to delay the death of a mortally wounded soldier, to make sure he doesn't die on Christmas Day, in "Death Takes a Holiday" in Season 9 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H.
Season 9, Episode # 5
Number (#203) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) G.W. Bailey
Jeff Maxwell
Kellye Nakahara
Keye Luke
Sally Imamura
Yoshi Hoover
Perren Page
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: Z-408
Writer(s) written by Mike Farrell (teleplay/story), John Rappaport and Dennis Koenig (story), with Thad Mumford, Dan Wilcox and Burt Metcalfe
Director Burt Metcalfe
Original airdate December 15, 1980
IMDb logo IMDB Death Takes a Holiday
Episode chronology
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"Father’s Day" (Z‑405) "A War for All Seasons" (Z‑409)

(broadcast order)

(broadcast order)

"Taking the Fifth" (Z‑407) "A War for All Seasons" (Z‑409)

(production order)

(production order)

Season 9 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

Death Takes a Holiday was the 5th episode of Season 9 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 203rd overall series episode, Written by Mike Farrell, John Rappaport, Dennis Koenig, Thad Mumford, & Dan Wilcox, and Burt Metcalfe and directed by Farrell, it originally aired on December 15, 1980.


The 4077th plans a Christmas party for a group of orphans. Everyone contributes generously except Winchester. The others think he is a Scrooge. In the midst of the party, a mortally wounded soldier arrives. Hawkeye, B.J., and Margaret must delay his death so that his children won't have to remember Christmas as the day their daddy died.

Full episode summaryEdit

It's Christmas time again. The surgeons and staff are throwing a Christmas party in the mess tent, and the children from the local orphanage are coming to join in the fun. But there is bad news. The supply convoy with their turkeys has been attacked. The MASH decides to put together a dinner with the food parcels they have received from home, and Klinger is assigned to scrounge for donations. Margaret donates her cookies, Potter his sugar-cured ham, and B.J. donates an expensive box of fudge from Peg. Charles, however, is only willing to part with a can of oysters.

Everybody in camp thinks Charles is a Scrooge, but, in keeping with his family's tradition, under the cover of darkness that night, Charles drives to the local orphanage and donates several packages of chocolate bars which he had received from home. The orphanage headmaster, Choi Sung Ho (Keye Luke), is greatly appreciative of Charles' generosity and wants him to meet the children, but Charles insists on remaining anonymous. He tells the headmaster that the annual Christmas gift to the needy is a family tradition, and part of the tradition is for the act to be done secret to prove that it is a true act of charity.

The Christmas party takes off without a hitch. Colonel Potter dresses as Santa Claus and the children are having fun but Hawkeye, B.J., and Margaret miss out on the festivities when a mortally wounded man arrives in a jeep, having been shot by a sniper. In the pre-op, they learn that the man is a loving husband and father. His wounds are too severe for him to recover, but B.J. is determined to keep him alive so his children won't remember Christmas as the day their daddy died. 

Meanwhile at the party, Charles learns that Choi has sold the candy on the black market and angrily confronts him over the betrayal. However, Choi explains that he has sold the candy to buy much needed rice and cabbage. While the candy would have brought the children a few moments of happiness, the food was enough to feed them for a month. Suitably chastened, Charles retires to brood in his tent, but Klinger has overhead the conversation and brings him dinner, hinting that he knows and appreciates Charles' secret generosity.

The situation in pre-op is not going well, and the wounded soldier ultimately dies just after 2325 hours, but Hawkeye moves the clock forward and announces that the time of death is 5 minutes past midnight on December 26. Margaret reflects on having to falsify a record. Mulcahy, who had joined them earlier, says that Christmas should be thought of as a time of birth. "That will be a first for me." Margaret says. But Hawkeye and B.J. remind Margaret that war is full of firsts, and lasts.

As the four of them leave pre-op, they are greeted by Col. Potter, still in his Santa suit, and a young Korean boy with a plate that holds the last four pieces of B.J.'s fudge. Potter says that Santa knows they've been very good boys and girls, and sends his young "elf" over to give them the fudge. They each take a piece and "toast" each other with it, wishing each other a "Merry Christmas."


  • A sliding Time episode..December 1952 was in The Late Captain Pierce (TV series episode) as Winchester came to MASH 4077 after this would have been impossible for Winchester to have celebrated Christmas in MASH 4077!

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit