In 2022, Hanukkah and Christmas will overlap for a rare meeting of the two winter holidays. Here's how to celebrate Chrismukkah.
For years, most of us were oblivious to Chrismukkah, the unofficial hybrid Christmas/Hanukkah holiday celebrated by some multifaith families. But in the early 2000s, we were introduced to Chrismukkah when Seth Cohen, a character on the TV series The O.C., refused to choose either of his parents’ religions or winter holidays and instead chose both. And here’s where things get interesting. According to some sources, Seth was not, in fact, the first to invent the combo holiday—Chrismukkah was celebrated at least a hundred years ago, but more on that in a bit.
To fully celebrate Chrismukkah, you probably have to understand more about each individual holiday so that you’re honoring both and not diluting one or the other. Start by reading up on what Hanukkah is, what Christmas is and what greater meaning menorah candles hold. This would also be a great time to brush up on Hanukkah traditions.
So is Chrismukkah the invention of a TV family or a real combined celebration? Let’s find out.
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What is Chrismukkah?
The term Chrismukkah is a portmanteau of the words Christmas and Hanukkah. When combined, they make up an inclusive holiday that embraces elements of both holidays and both faiths. While a classically Jewish or Christian family might have no reason to celebrate Chrismukkah, a multifaith family might want to pay tribute to all their roots. But before you decide to go out and buy a menorah in Christmas colors, you might want to consult with your family members to find out if they’re equally excited about embracing both holidays in one.
When is Chrismukkah?
While Christmas Eve is always the night of Dec. 24 and Christmas Day is always on Dec. 25, the dates for Hanukkah vary because the Jewish calendar is lunar based. So the holidays’ dates don’t always overlap. Notably, Christmas is only one day, while Hanukkah lasts for eight full nights and days.
In 2022, Hanukkah begins on Dec. 18 at sundown, a full week before Christmas. But one day overlaps, making it a perfect Chrismukkah. Upcoming overlapping Chrismukkah years include:
Since it’s technically a made-up holiday, though, you can celebrate Chrismukkah anytime during the winter holiday season.
Who came up with Chrismukkah?
Most people point to Seth Cohen on The O.C., arguably one of the best teen tv shows of all time, but some sources say Chrismukkah originated with German Jews. “Combining Hanukkah with the dominant religion’s winter celebration dates back to 19th-century Germany, when assimilationist Jews, seeking refuge in the antisemitic society around them, attempted to combine the two,” explains Rabbi Shlomo Litvin (aka the Bluegrass Rabbi), director of Chabad of the Bluegrass and the University of Kentucky Jewish Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. “Theodore Herzl, the famed Zionist leader, had a tree in his home and joined the effort to combine the two holidays.”
That said, Rabbi Litvin isn’t a big fan of the combo holiday. “Hanukkah is the first-ever celebration of religious freedom and commemorates the victory of the Jewish people over the Seleucid oppressors, who sought to force them to assimilate and give up their culture,” he says.
When did Chrismukkah go mainstream?
The O.C., which aired from 2003 to 2007, really did have an impact on pop culture and day-to-day life. On Dec. 3, 2003, TV teen Seth Cohen, played by Jewish actor Adam Brody, explained to his friends that he created a holiday allowing him to celebrate Christmas with his mother and Hanukkah with his father. Sure, it was a TV show, but it also explained how multifaith families find ways to celebrate their differences together.
Do people celebrate Chrismukkah?
It depends on who you ask. Many people believe Chrismukkah to be purely a commercial venture meant to sell cute tchotchkes and branded merch next to traditional Hanukkah gifts. Then again, when you start seeing commercials for Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving, it also feels extremely forced.
It’s worth noting that I always thought Hanukkah was much older than Christmas, but the Jewish holiday is actually only about 40 years senior. So we’ve all been celebrating on some level for the same amount of time—millennia. Finding a new way to celebrate together seems like a really great idea for families with members of both faiths.
And if you know nothing about Christmas or Hanukkah, it’s really easy to find out. “In America today, it is impossible to escape the wreaths, trees and music that surround the holiday season,” Rabbi Litvin says. “However, options to celebrate Hanukkah abound as well.” You may have noticed oversized menorahs gracing public areas around the country. While many people flock to Rockefeller Center in New York City for the annual Christmas tree lighting, Rabbi Litvin notes that “from Times Square to the National Mall, and from coast to coast, over one million people attend a public menorah lighting each year.”
Look for events that are open to members of all communities to learn as you go.
How to celebrate Chrismukkah
If you and your family want to try to celebrate Chrismukkah together, these are a few fun ways to get started:
- Decorate. Consider decorating half the mantle with a Christmas theme and the other half with Hanukkah colors. Try to create a central decoration that combines the two, like a miniature tree decorated with dreidels.
- Add humor. Have the family gather to watch The O.C. episode that started it all.
- Get educated. If you belong to an interfaith family, share your customs with one another or tell one another what you love best about their faith.
- Try a combo meal. Latkes are traditional for Hanukkah, and eggnog is a Christmas tipple. Try finding ways to combine traditional foods into a great big feast. Fruitcake-flavored donuts, anyone?
- Make it up as you go along. There are no rules, so you can feel free to make up your own and build on them every year.
- Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, director of Chabad of the Bluegrass and the University of Kentucky Jewish Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky