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Hanukkah Films to Brighten Up Your Holiday


Hanukkah isn’t one of them. Simply said, Christian ignorance of Judaism exists because it is easy to do so. And, as some of these films demonstrate, pretending that ignorance cuts both ways ignores the fact that Jews continue to be othered in our nation in a manner that Christians do not.

Hanukkah Films to Brighten Up Your Holiday

“I think there’s an attempt to use Hanukkah as an occasion to say, ‘We’re not really that different,'” Bial told HuffPost. “And while it is a nice notion in some respects, I can understand why some Jews might push back and say, ‘Actually, we are different.'” All four films have the unmistakable look of a made-for-TV holiday film. Christmas decorations abound, and when we go inside Jewish houses, we see a plethora of them. Multicolored string lights are replaced with white twinkly ones, and red and green wreaths are replaced with blue and white wreaths by the highlighted Jews. (In “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” Christina’s birth family’s Jewish home is draped in many green boughs in an especially appalling picture.) The costuming reflects assimilation and the merging of faiths. “Double Holiday” portrays Rebecca (the Jew) and Chris (the Christian), two coworkers who are striving for a promotion and have to prepare their company’s Christmas party, which happens to coincide with Hanukkah celebrations. Rebecca is frequently seen wearing a blue button-up or a blue apron when the movie begins. Chris is dressed in a red apron and wears green sweaters. Chris’s outfit changes as he learns more about Hanukkah and as he and Rebecca become closer.

Chris wears blue and Rebecca wears red. They both wear blue to the Christmas party in the end, but Chris remembers his red pocket square. (As if a Hallmark movie was ever going to be subtle.) Perhaps this is why, as Nancy Coleman wrote in The New York Times last year, some critics were irritated by the promise of Hanukkah films only to be disappointed by plots in which “Hanukkah and the individuals who celebrate it live only in relation to Christmas.” The Washington Post’s Britni de la Cretaz said that “Holiday Date,” which featured Jewish actor Joel escorting blonde Brooke home for Christmas to pretend to be her very Christian boyfriend, elicited some anti-Semitic screams for its use of the “trope of the cunning, untrustworthy Jew.” (“He appears to be kind enough, but there’s just something off about him,” Brooke’s father observes at one point in the movie.) “He’s a peculiar individual.”) I was certain that “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” would be worse than any of its predecessors when I first heard about it. (Any suggestion of genetically identifying and classifying us makes Jews squirm.) Surprisingly, that was a step forwards. Rather than focusing on Christmas or a Christian household, the majority of the characters — including the Christian Outsider protagonist — are Jewish.

They may say stuff like “shayna punim” in normal conversation and collect dreidels compulsively, but at least the story’s central investigation of Judaism is not based on dishonesty or a desperate need to advance at work. Christina’s own search of faith and heritage is the focus. “Double Holiday,” “Mistletoe and Menorahs,” “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” and even the much-maligned “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” come to mind for Bial. “Holiday Date” is seen as reasonably harmless, if not positively. Perhaps the medium itself — mass-produced, unsophisticated holiday fairy tales — is to fault if viewers are irritated by an oversimplification of Jewish heritage shown in Hallmark and Lifetime offerings. He stated, “In general, inclusivity is a positive thing.” “Knowing ourselves included, [seeing] that we have a place in some of these stories] has a value for Jews.” “We may celebrate differently, but we’re all in this together,” one character says near the end of “Double Holiday.” What exactly is “this”? Isn’t it the holiday season? Is this the hellscape of late-stage capitalism in the United States?

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