It was more than 30 years ago but the 1986 Christmas EastEnders has gone down in history as one of the best episodes of soap ever.

More than 30 million people – that’s half the population of Britain – watched Den give Angie divorce papers. The episode was responsible for making Christmas episodes of soap a ‘thing’ and firmly proved that EastEnders, which was then not even two years old, could compete with Corrie.

Back in 1986, Den and Angie Watts ran the Queen Vic where they lived with their teenage daughter, Sharon. But their marriage was troubled.

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Den was a womaniser who’d had affairs for years – including with his daughter’s bestie, Michelle Fowler, who’d given birth to their daughter, Vicky.

Den and Angie EastEnders
Den and Angie had a toxic marriage (Credit: BBC)

While Angie drowned her sorrows in alcohol and had a couple of affairs herself in revenge.

When, in October 1986, Den told Angie he wanted a divorce so he could marry his mistress, Jan, Angie was devastated. She announced she was seriously ill and only had six months left to live and begged Den to stay with her.

Den and Angie EastEnders
Den stayed with Angie because she had lied that she was dying (Credit: BBC)

Den agreed and even booked them a second honeymoon to Venice. But when they were living it up on the Orient Express, a drunken Angie confessed her “big, black lie” to the barman and Den heard every word.

Den and Angie EastEnders
Angie realised she’d been rumbled

He played along with Angie’s lie until, on Christmas Day, he revealed he knew the truth.

Den and Angie EastEnders
Den revealed that he knew the truth (Credit: BBC)

“This, my sweet, is a letter from my solicitor, telling you that your husband has filed a petition for divorce,” he hissed as he brandished the envelope in his wife’s face.

Den and Angie EastEnders
“Happy Christmas, Ange.”

And then he uttered the iconic line that made this episode a festive classic: “Happy Christmas, Ange.”


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