Divorce, death and destruction: Soap's most memorable Christmas storylines

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Step aside, Your Maj, you may well have a corker of a speech lined up for Christmas Day, but we all know what the real main event is when it comes to telly - catching up with our favourite soaps.

All year the residents of Walford, Weatherfield and Emmerdale are gearing up for the most compelling episodes of the year, whether they're funny, feel-good or packed with shocks.

Coronation Street
Coronation Street gets ready for Christmas (Peter Byrne/PA)

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without everyone lining up on the sofa to see what jaw-dropping events will befall our favourite soap families, so in anticipation of what might be lurking in the stocking for viewers this year, we take a look back at some classics.

EastEnders

To be honest, if we lived in Albert Square, we'd probably book ourselves onto a Christmas cruise each December as the festive period is far from being the most wonderful time of the year in that corner of London.

Of course, the classic episode that springs to mind whenever we think of Christmas Day soaps is Den Watts serving wife Angie her divorce papers at the Queen Vic in 1986. The landlady had lied about being terminally ill, but a livid Den revealed he'd found out the truth as he handed her a solicitor's letter with the words "Happy Christmas, Ange".

Hot on the heels of that one was the Christmas when the Brannings settled down as a family to open presents, only for Lauren to have wrapped a video exposing Max for having an affair with his son Bradley's true love Stacey Slater in 2007. For added festive cheer, Max was dressed as Santa.

A real Christmas cracker of a year was 2008 when Sean Slater got an unexpected surprise in his cracker around the dinner table, a DNA report telling him that Amy was not in fact his biological daughter with Roxy Mitchell.

But even that seems positively warm and fuzzy compared to some of the December 25 instalments we've had, including Pauline Fowler dying alone out in the snow, Jamie Mitchell croaking it after being hit by a car Martin Fowler was driving, and domestic abuser Trevor Morgan pushing wife Little Mo face first into her turkey dinner when she was late home.

After watching Larry Lamb in the I'm A Celeb jungle this year, we're also feeling all nostalgic for 2009 when his soap villain character Archie Mitchell was clobbered over the head with a bust of Queen Victoria, kicking off the Who Killed Archie? storyline.

Coronation Street

Luckily for fans of the ITV soap, Corrie is a little less full of doom and gloom at Christmas time. Well, a tiny bit...

The most watched episode in the programme's history is still the Christmas Day 1987 episode, when Hilda Ogden (played by Jean Alexander who passed away this year) left Weatherfield. Around 27 million viewers tuned in to see her bid a fond farewell to the Rovers and sing Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye as she went off to start a new life as Doctor Lowther's housekeeper.

Hilda Ogden
Hilda (front centre) bids a fond farewell to the street (PA)

Also making its way into the few heartwarming memories soapland has to offer is the birth of baby Joseph in 2011 - not strictly a Christmas Day episode, but about as seasonal as storylines come. Teen parents Katy Armstrong and Chesney Brown welcomed their bundle of joy during the street's nativity play, which unexpectedly featured a real birth. Awww.

Even the relatively upbeat Corrie is no stranger to Christmas misery, though - in 2009, Kevin Webster was just plucking up the courage to tell his wife Sally that he'd been having an affair with Molly Dobbs when she got in first with a bombshell of her own and revealed that she had breast cancer. Another Webster family secret was exposed in 2007 when daughter Rosie was discovered to be having an affair with teacher John Stape, who had mixed up her sexy underwear Christmas present with wife Fiz's baggy pjs gift.

Wedding day chaos is par for the course when you're getting married in a soap and Corrie's Christmas nuptials have included some that were memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Who could forget Nick Tilsley and Leanne Battersby's December 25 wedding ending in ruins when Nick called it off after discovering that his fiance had dropped in on ex Peter Barlow on the way to the ceremony to offer him first refusal? They might have eventually ended up together, but this Christmas could be a shocker for them thanks to Leanne's pregnancy drama (she's expecting Steve McDonald's baby) and Nick's suspicions that Peter could be back on the scene. Much cheerier was Ashley and Claire Peacock's Christmas wedding which took place under a butchers' guard of meat cleavers.

Emmerdale

It might not have strictly been a Christmas Day episode, but Emmerdale deserves an award for the least festive ever storyline as they banned even a hint of cheer from their 1993 New Year programme. The residents were getting ready to ring in a new year when a plane crashed into the village in a stunt that reportedly cost £1 million to make, and has gone down in the soap's history as the most famous ever episode.

The Dales wasn't a much happier place to be 10 years on, as the plane crash anniversary was marked by a deadly storm that killed off Tricia Dingle, preventing her from patching things up with husband Marlon.

Over in Yorkshire they've had a good crack at a festive wedding gone wrong, too. Chastity Dingle engineered a Christmas Day no-one was likely to forget in a hurry when she discovered her boyfriend Carl King had been having an affair with his cousin. So she faked a pregnancy to lure him into marriage and craftily siphoned off all of the big day funds before jilting him at the altar on the big day in 2010.

Let's hope soapland have a few more lighthearted treats in store for us this year - it's enough to give you indigestion after your mince pies.