L’chaim, chaverim: Chanukah/Hanukkah/Chhaaannukkahhh is finally here!
Maybe the Jewish Festival of Lights, which begins tonight at sundown, isn’t as culturally dominant as Christmas, or as glitzy as New Year’s Eve, or as charmingly quaint as Boxing Day. Maybe it’s a holiday that nobody even really knows how to spell. (I grew up using no “c” and two “k”s, so that’s what I’m going to stick with for the rest of this post.) Still, it’s impossible not to love an occasion that exalts fried food, present-giving, and the menorah (or hanukiah, if you want to get technical), a celebratory candelabra that can be either sophisticated or silly.
And even though Hanukkah is much less visible in pop culture than other holidays, it’s still been immortalized on screen at least eight notable times — one for each night of the festival. Great miracles happen after the jump:
1. Rugrats: “A Rugrats Chanukah”
We begin with the best Hanukkah special ever, which doubles as one of the only Hanukkah specials ever. In this episode, brave baby Tommy Pickles and his pals learn all about the festival of lights, imagining themselves as characters in the Hanukkah story. (Angelica, naturally, plays King Antiochus.) There are latkes; there’s a guy in a giant dreidel costume; there’s a supporting character named Schlomo. In short, “A Rugrats Chanukah” is wonderful, which is why it’s so great that Nickelodeon has put the whole megillah online.
2. Friends: “The One With the Holiday Armadillo”
Friends was usually pretty subtle about Ross and Monica (and Rachel’s) Jewish heritage. But in this episode from season 7, Hanukkah is placed front and center when Ross decides that he wants his seldom-seen son Ben to learn to appreciate the holiday. Naturally, things don’t go quite as smoothly as he’d hoped. (Chandler, with the episode’s best line: “My favorite part was when Superman flew all the Jews out of Egypt!”)
3. An American Tail
This animated immigrant story begins on the first night of Hanukkah, when the Mousekewitz family’s celebration is interrupted by a seriously scary cat pogrom. (An American Tail doesn’t mess around.) That first scene isn’t on YouTube — but “There Are No Cats in America,” a joyful song about emigrating to the U.S., is:
4. Saturday Night Live: “The Chanukah Song”
Adam Sandler’s Semitic SNL bit isn’t just classic — it’s also educational. (Who knew Paul Newman was half Jewish?) Though Sandler eventually wrote two sequels — not to mention 8 Crazy Nights, which, the less we say about it, the better — the original song is still the best. Put on your yarmulke, and don’t invite any zombies:
NEXT: South Park, Jon Stewart, and the best Chrismukkah ever