Every time December rolls around our televisions are inundated with classic animated Christmas specials. It's as if Santa can't visit until Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Charlie Brown Christmas have all told us all about the meaning of Christmas. Well, what about the meanie of Chanukah? Oh, sorry, the meaning of Chanukah. Well, for most gentiles of a certain generation they learned all about it from one cartoon, Rugrats.
Rather than a holiday special, the episode titled "Chanukah" was the first episode of this Nickelodeon cartoon's fourth season, and aired first in December of 1996. It was a big hit with fans, especially those who have a menorah in their homes, since this was one of the first times the Jewish holiday was shown in the drawn squiggles of the animated world. (You can watch it for free on Nickelodeon's website.)
Like most Christmas specials, this show combines a regular story wrapped around explaining the history of the holiday. In this case the familiar Rugrats babies act out the story of Judah Macabee and the miracle of the oil, but they're also dealing with Grandpa Boris, his Chanukah pageant at the senior center, and his rivalry with Schlomo (who the babies mistake as the "meanie" of Chanukah) to be the lead of the play. In a funny nod to children's obsession with holiday-themed episodes of their favorite shows, resident terrible two Angelica is on the hunt for a TV set so that she can watch her beloved doll Cynthia star in very own televised extravaganza. The best part is that the special downplays the gift-giving angle that is usually the capitalistic focus of the holiday and instead focuses on Jewish tradition and the importance of family. It makes Christmas look crass in comparison, but the only cartoons that really focused on the toys were those that featured characters manufactured by Hasbro.
If the spinning of dreidels and the smell of latkes isn't enough to get you in the mood for lighting the menorah, maybe Tommy Pickles and the rest of the crew is just what you need to get you in the mood.
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[Photo Credit: Nickelodeon]