DVD commentary revealed that the creators got letters of praise for heightening the awareness of the abandonment of racing dogs even though they didn't know it was a real problem when they created the episode.
This special was not originally intended to be The Simpsons (1989) pilot. Production problems, particularly with the first produced episode, The Simpsons: Some Enchanted Evening (1990), saw the show delayed from its planned October debut until late December, thus dictating that this Christmas-themed episode, the eighth one produced, was the first to be broadcast. ("One Enchanted Evening" was eventually broadcast as the last episode in the first season).
First appearances (not including The Tracey Ullman Show (1987)) of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Principal Skinner, Waylon Smithers (just voice), Mr. Burns, Grandpa, Patty, Selma, Snowball II, Ned Flanders, Todd Flanders, Moe, Barney, Lewis, Milhouse, and Santa's Little Helper.
Milhouse Van Houten, Bart Simpson's best friend, is based on the character of Paul Pfeiffer from The Wonder Years (1988). However, this has been disproven by the writers and the voice actor of Milhouse.
This episode was the eighth to be made for the series, as shown by the production code, but because the series was beginning broadcast just before Christmas 1989, logic dictated that should be the first one shown in the run.
When Lisa is doing the tribal dance, many people were curious as to why she isn't wearing anything from the waist down. Years later, the DVD commentary for this episode revealed that Lisa is actually wearing a body suit, and is in fact not naked.
The odds of Santa's Little Helper are ninety-nine to one. If the dog had won the race Homer and Bart would have won $1,287 dollars. Barney, on the other hand won only $130 after betting on the dog named Whirlwind whose odds were ten to one.
The "Santas of many lands" portion of the Christmas pageant is based on Matt Groening's experience in the second grade when he did a report on Christmas in Russia. Groening also used that reference in his comic strip "Life in Hell" when he spoofed himself as a young man, being told that it is too bad his grandmother is from Russia, because Christmas is against the law there.