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October 26, 2014

Did TV forget about Hanukkah this year?

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 25th 2006 10:02AM
Hanukkah stampI always tell people that I'm "Jewish by birth." In other words, my parents are members of "The Tribe," but I'm not a particularly close follower of the religious aspects of Judaism. But I do like to follow the cultural aspects, for various reasons that I won't go into here. One thing I've noticed is the growth in stature of Hanukkah, especially here in the United States, over the last ten years or so. My theory is that my fellow Jews have made the minor holiday into a substitute Christmas so they don't feel left out of the holiday festivities while not completely betraying their heritage.

Anyway, it seemed that the holiday's increased profile was also reflected on television. It was a small presence amongst the snowstorm of Christmas specials, with maybe one or two shows related to the Festival of Lights airing each year. Maybe it was a Rugrats cartoon (the Pickles family was half-Jewish) or Comedy Central showing Adam Sandler's movie Eight Crazy Nights. But it was a lot better than what we used to have, which was local news anchors mispronouncing the holiday's name in the throwaway segment between the sports and the weather report. This year, though? Nothing.

Well, not completely nothing; Jimmy Kimmel had the "superheroes" that annoy people outside the theater where his show is shot re-enact the story of the holiday (maybe he did it to make his girlfriend, Sarah Silverman, happy). And I'm sure Jon Stewart mentioned it once or twice; he's almost contractually obligated to do so. But that's the only thing I've seen, and the holiday ended a couple of days ago.

Wonder why that is? My guess goes back to my initial theory: It's a minor holiday that celebrates a war victory and a miracle involving the duration of an oil supply. It's more complicated to explain than the story of Christ's birth, and its significance to the Jews isn't nearly as great as the story of Chistmas is to the Christians. And, despite the creation of Hanukkah Harry and the Holiday Armadillo, Christmas has Santa and reindeer and live snowmen and Charlie Brown. The imagery just isn't there to make a warm, enduring Hanukkah special that will be shown on TV for forty years.

What do you folks think? Is there hope for Hanukkah on TV? Let me know in the comments.

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Violeta

Huh..."a war victory and a miracle involving the duration of an oil supply." Maybe I'm just projecting, but that sounds like just the kind of holiday I'd appreciate and FOX news would push. Was the phrasing intentional or does my mind just work in funny ways?

December 26 2006 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mandy

"My theory is that my fellow Jews have made the minor holiday into a substitute Christmas so they don't feel left out of the holiday festivities while not completely betraying their heritage."

Maybe it's just that I don't have a lot of Jewish friends, but to me it seems like the only people that have tried to make Hanukkah as big as Christmas are those that run networks or stores. I really haven't seen any Jewish people feeling like they are missing out because they don't celebrate Christmas, nor have I seen any trying to make Hanukkah bigger than it should be. So if networks have toned down the Hanukkah coverage, my guess is that it's because they realized the same thing.

December 26 2006 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Man

As a TV fan since birth and I still watch about 40 shows a week I see a bad trend.

This fake "War on Christmas" Fox News started has lead to only 2 of my shows had or mentioned Halloween, 4 mentioned Hanukkah and 29 had Christmas themes.

New Years is the only "safe" holiday with 34 mentions. I want my holiday episode back spread evenly, all hail the 80s sitcom formula.

December 25 2006 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TomB

I don't think so. I've seen lots of references to Hanukkah on TV this year.

I understand that Hanukkah is not a major religious holiday for jewish people anyway. Not like Christmas is for christians.

I heard "Merry Christmas" a lot more this year rather than the PC "Happy Holidays".

December 25 2006 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BartmanDK

They forgot Festivus too!!

December 25 2006 at 1:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Beth

Who cares if tv remembers Chanukah? As a Jew, I think this whole equality thing has gotten out of hand. I do not need to have tv anchors, shows, or whatever include Chanukah for me to be a happy and fulfilled Jew. Let me celebrate my holiday and stop feeling like it is necessary to have it included everywhere.

December 25 2006 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TedSez

I think this reflects the increasing cultural anxiety of media executives, who think, "We can't mention Hanukkah without also talking about Ramadan and Kwanzaa and probably a bunch of other holidays, too, and who has time for all that?" Meanwhile, if they pay too much attention to other cultures, the "War on Christmas" fanatics will scream that Hollywood is trying to destroy the true meaning of the season. So, instead, they go with a bunch of dramas about how some overworked businessman learns to be more appreciative and treat his kids better, because the only real purpose is to put viewers in a generous mood when they watch all the electric-shaver commercials.

December 25 2006 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Wyant

South Park addressed it well, I think, in their Christmas specials (one with Mr. Hankey and Kyle, and another one with a musical twist at the Broflovskis' home).

December 25 2006 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Terri

"Brothers & Sisters" did a Hanukkah-themed show. http://www.watchingbas.com/recap-light-the-lights/

December 25 2006 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James

I just don't agree with you at all. The television was loaded with Hanukka themes. There were specials every day, and also the candle lighting each evening was displayed, reminding everyone of the number of candles and the accepted method of lighting them.
In contrast, there were almost no Christmas themes at all.
Of course I live in Beer Sheva, Israel, so that may account for some of it.

December 25 2006 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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