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Films to Make Your Hanukkah Festivities More Fun

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Christmas in America has evolved from a religious event to a symbol for an entire season of hyperconsumerism. This permits Christmas movies made for television to focus on the holiday rather than religion or Jesus. Hanukkah is a significantly less important religious celebration than Christmas.

Films to Make Your Hanukkah Festivities More Fun

However, given of its proximity to Christmas on the calendar, it became more of a focus for American Jews. “Part of becoming ‘American’ historically meant that Jews had to give our religion a makeover so that it would resemble Protestant worship — to be more legible as a’religion’ deserving of the American ideal of religious freedom,” Overbeke told HuffPost. As a result, “Judaism was’rebranded’ as a different version of Christianity in some aspects.” Synagogue was reimagined as a Jewish counterpart of church, and Hanukkah was reimagined as a Jewish Christmas.” In other words, Hanukkah became a tool for Jewish integration in the United States. (In an ironic twist, Hanukkah is centred on the Maccabees, a Jewish group that was “militantly opposed to assimilation,” as Overbeke characterised it.) Given this very American reality, it’s predictable that Christmas films attempting to include Jewish themes and characters into the holiday atmosphere rely on Hanukkah as a touchstone. Pop culture, after all, can be a potent weapon for cultural integration, something that many Jewish-American immigrants have long coveted. Overbeke cited “assimilationist romances” from the turn of the century, such as Israel Zangwill’s play “The Melting Pot” (1908) and Anne Nichols’ play-turned-movie “Abie’s Irish Rose” (1922), in which Jewish men fell in love with non-Jewish women. In both plays, the couple’s ecumenical love acts as a vehicle for ethnic bigotry to be melted away. The lowbrow thematic successors of these plays can be seen in Hallmark and Lifetime’s TV movies.

There is no explicit mention of bigotry in any of the films. All of the Jewish Christmas movies in the Lifetime/Hallmark universe have a cultural exchange element to them. Christina’s newly discovered family members teach her about the Jewish dishes they offer at the deli they operate, such as latkes, and Jonathan (the Jew) teaches Brooke (the Christian) about Hanukkah so that she can land a huge account from a Jewish client in “Mistletoe and Menorahs.” Brooke, in turn, assists Jonathan in learning about Christmas in order to impress his girlfriend’s Christian father, and Christina invites her family to her restaurant’s large Feast of the Seven Fishes feast on Christmas Eve. The concept that the Jewish characters are so clueless about Christmas traditions — Rebecca (“Double Holiday”) and Jonathan (“Mistletoe and Menorahs”) are both perplexed by Christmas decorations, while Joel (“Holiday Date”) has no idea what the words to “Deck The Halls”) — strains credulity at times. Unlike me, a Jew who grew up among a lot of Catholics, who believes that many Christian families don’t even know what a menorah is, the vast majority of American Jews learn about Christmas carols, decorations, and traditions by osmosis. Christmas is all over the place.

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