Chrismukkah is a pop-culture portmanteau neologism referring to the merging of the holidays of Christianity's Christmas and Judaism's Hanukkah. The term was popularized by the TV drama The O.C., wherein character Seth Cohen creates the holiday to signify his upbringing in an interfaith household with a Jewish father and Protestant mother (although the holiday can also be adopted by all-Jewish households who celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday). Chrismukkah is also celebrated as an ironic, alternative holiday, much like the Seinfeld-derived "Festivus". USA Today has described it as "[t]he newest faux holiday that companies are using to make a buck this season".
Long before "Chrismukkah" entered the popular lexicon in the early 21st century, Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations have been informally merged with one another. A Christmas celebration with a tree, songs, and gifts became a symbol of being a part of German culture for many middle-class Jewish families in the 19th century. Some Jews celebrated Christmas as a secular "festival of the world around us" without religious meaning, or they transferred Christmas customs to the Hanukkah festival. In the 1990s, the popular sitcom Friends often portrayed Jewish characters Ross and Monica celebrating Christmas with their Christian friends, signifying many contemporary American Jewish households who celebrate Christmas in the strictly secular sense.
Chrismukkah was named for the first time, and prominently featured, in the FOX television program The O.C. (2003–2007). Show creator Josh Schwartz used the holiday (which the writers almost named "Hanimas") to depict, he later said,
my experience as a Jewish kid from the East Coast coming to USC ... and being surrounded by all these kids from Newport Beach who were water-polo players, and these very blonde girls who only wanted to date them. I felt very much like an outsider. Even trying to talk about Hanukkah with some of them was like coming from an alien planet and talking about life there. The show is really about outsiders: Ryan was the most obvious outsider, as was Seth. The idea of a mixed [half-Jewish, half-Christian] family in Newport would also contribute to the Cohen outsider-family status. That part of their identity was always very important. Seth coined a holiday that would both celebrate and underline his outsider status in Newport. That led us to Chrismukkah.
On The O.C., as a way to merge his parents' two faiths, Seth Cohen claims to have "created the greatest superholiday known to mankind" when he was six years old. The series included annual Chrismukkah episodes for every season of its run. Particulars of when exactly the holiday was celebrated were not given; Seth simply said in the first season's Chrismukkah episode that it was "eight days of presents, followed by one day of many presents," with a stress on the word "many" (this was repeated in the second season's Chrismukkah episode by Seth's new brother Ryan, with an added "many"). The only references to how it was celebrated, other than the family displaying both a Christmas tree and a Hanukkah menorah, was that the Cohens spent Christmas Day itself at home eating Chinese takeout and watching movies like It's a Wonderful Life and Fiddler on the Roof on TV (as opposed to going out for Chinese food and seeing a movie, as many American Jews have done in recent years). Chrismukkah later received mention in the television series, Grey's Anatomy.
In 2004, Chrismukkah.com was launched by Ron and Michelle Gompertz, a Jewish-Christian intermarried couple in Bozeman, Montana. Their website took the fictional O.C. Chrismukkah and brought it into reality, selling humorous Chrismukkah greeting cards and dispensing detailed mythology about the fictional holiday. The Chrismukkah.com Web site was widely credited with popularizing Chrismukkah to a non-television watching audience.
Chrismukkah.com stirred up controversy in the Fall of 2004 when the New York Catholic League issued a national press release opposing Chrismukkah. Further, The Catholic League and the New York Board of Rabbis, in a joint statement, condemned Chrismukkah as "insulting" to Jews and Christians.
In December 2004, Chrismukkah was listed in Time magazine as one of the buzzwords of the year. It was also reported in a Scottish newspaper, that Chrismukkah had been added to the authoritative "Chambers" dictionary. In 2005, Chrismukkah.com founder Ron Gompertz authored a humorous book of Chrismukkah recipes called Chrismukkah! The Merry Mish-Mash Holiday Cookbook. Gompertz's follow-up book, entitled Chrismukkah – Everything You Need to Know to Celebrate the Hybrid Holiday (published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was released in October 2006. A rival book by Gersh Kuntzman, Chrismukkah: The Official Guide to the World's Best-Loved Holiday (Sasquatch Press), came out at around the same time. In "A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to Be Jewish,"(Rutgers University Press, 2013) author Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut, Ph.D discusses Chrismukkah and the creation of Festivus and other hybrid holidays among Jews in America during December.
A similarly named holiday called Christmanukkah was featured in The Strangerhood. Unlike Chrismukkah, Christmanukkah is twenty days long (twelve days of Christmas and another eight for Hanukkah), and all of the days are spent receiving gifts and eating until passing out. Pants and pumpkin cider are considered a traditional gift.
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- McCarthy, Michael (2004-12-16). "Have a merry little Chrismukkah". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2006-12-28.
- Etkin, Jamie (2013-08-05). "'The O.C.' 10th Anniversary: Creator Josh Schwartz On Mistakes, Mischa Barton's Exit, Chrismukkah & More". Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Gopalan, Nisha (2013-08-05). "Josh Schwartz on The O.C., Casting George Lucas, and the Onslaught of Emo". Vulture. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- "The Best Chrismukkah Ever". The O.C. Season 1. Episode 13. December 3, 2003. Fox.
- "The Year in Buzzwords". Time. 2004-12-20. Retrieved 2007-03-08.
- Martell, Peter (2004-12-12). "Scot's Yngling sails on to Blackberries of the blogosphere". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2007-03-08.
- Amann, Joseph and Tom Breuer (2007). Fair and Balanced, My Ass!: An Unbridled Look at the Bizarre Reality of Fox News. New York: Nation Books. ISBN 1-56858-347-8
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