Chrismukkah makes sense. Don’t get me wrong, my non-Jewish wife and I didn’t sit around each year thinking about what to get our kids for Chrismukkah or how to decorate the house for this fictitious holiday. But I gotta admit, it just sorta makes sense.
In a country where the Jewish intermarriage rate is at 58% (71% among non-Orthodox) it’s no surprise that someone came up with this clever combo of Christian and Jewish holiday traditions. No one knows how many kids are the product of Jewish and Christian (or Gentile) parents, but I can tell you that there sure are a LOT— and the number isn’t going to go down any time soon.
In 2003, the television writers of the show The O.C. couldn’t have known that their nutty neologism, Chrismukkah, would catch fire. They struck a nerve just waiting to be touched. In episode 13 of season 1 the show’s character Seth Cohen spoke for thousands of kids growing up in mixed households when he asked, “So what’s it going to be, huh? Do you want your menorah or candy cane? Hm? Hanukkah or Christmas? Don’t worry about it, buddy. Because in this house you don’t have to choose. Allow me to introduce you to a little something that I like to call Chrismukkah. It’s the new holiday…and it’s sweeping the nation.”
That episode immediately spawned a bevy of Chrismukkah regalia, including cards, shirts, sweaters, books, a website, and of course the famous “Yamaclaus kippah.” Despite condemnation from the Catholic League and the New York Board of Rabbis who called it insulting, Chrismukkah lives on. Last year the Huffington Post ran an article about it and this year New York Magazine is running a Chrismukkah Carols contest. Here’s a sample you might enjoy: “God rest ye merry, gentlemen / May nothing you despair / Remember Christ of Bethlehem / Was one of us. So there.” As a Jewish believer in Jesus, that made me smile. Thought it’s a little smug, it’s true nonetheless. Jesus was Jewish.
Which brings me to my point. Though Chrismukkah is a fake, non-descript blending of two holidays that does justice to neither, it is in its own way a reasonable attempt to make a bridge for kids who grow up with two traditions. O.C. creator Josh Schwartz was quoted as saying, “What Jewish boy or girl growing up doesn’t feel a little jealous? They [Gentiles or Christians] get all the good songs, the tree, Frosty and Rudolph. We get dreidels. It’s not the same.” While Schwartz and many kids growing up in a mixed marriage want the best of both worlds – particularly the glittery merriment of Christmas – let me make a suggestion. There is another way. Another bridge. Jesus.
A little-known fact is that the only place Hanukkah is mentioned in Scripture is in the New Testament—in a passage written by a Jewish fellow named John, who believed that Jesus was the Jewish messiah. Perhaps equally strange is the fact that we first encounter a text about the messiah being born in Bethlehem (can you say “Christmas?”) in the Hebrew Scriptures, written by a Jewish prophet named Micah, who looked forward to his coming.
So whether your holiday is Hanukkah, Christmas, or Chrismukkah, Jesus seems to be there somewhere. Wrapping paper is nice, but the present inside is even better. Instead of focusing on mistletoe or menorahs, why not focus on learning more about the Messiah this season?