There’s no “or” involved when it comes to decorations, presents, food, music, any of it – you just get to have it all. Trees and menorahs, one big morning and eight little nights, gingerbread and latkes. Chrismukkah takes the most fun parts of Christmas and Hanukkah, doubles the December stress, and makes for one uber holiday.
Interfaith families have been celebrating the two-for-one Christmas-Hanukkah combo for some time now, but the holiday wasn’t officially dubbed “Chrismukkah” until Seth Cohen on The O.C. made the concept famous back in 2003.
You can make fun of the early aughts teen drama for a lot of reasons—ridiculous, melodramatic storylines, villains that had frosted tips and wore puka shells, and Mischa Barton’s acting skills. But Chrismukkah? Pure genius.
I love The O.C. for all of its iconic pop culture moments, and I’m also kind of weirdly grateful for it. When I first discovered reruns of the show back in ninth grade, I saw how Seth Cohen embraced his own “brand” of Judaism. This depiction helped me define how I experienced my own religion. Sure, he was a fictional character, but he was also one of the only people I’d seen at that point who was raised the same way I was, with one Jewish parent and one Christian parent.
I grew up in a southern college town with a tiny Jewish population. I could count on one hand the amount of other Jewish kids I knew from school, and my family’s involvement with the local Jewish community was fairly nonexistent. My parents—my mom’s family is Jewish, my dad’s family is Christian—decided to raise my brother and me without much structured religion, but we definitely identified as Jewish.
I struggled a lot with what that religious identity truly meant, though. I often felt not-Jewish-enough to be a part of the Jewish community, and I didn’t fit in with the evangelical Christian population that made up a lot of my school. When I saw the “Chrismukkah” episodes of The O.C., it gave me a simple way to explain to people what my experience was like, not just with the holidays, but with religion in general. As trivial as it sounds, I was able to accept that enjoying my Christmas decorations and watching Christmas movies on repeat doesn’t lessen the strength of my Jewish identity.
The O.C. calls Chrismukkah “the greatest super holiday known to mankind,” which is over the top, and also pretty fitting for how seriously they take it. In the second season, the “yamaclaus,” a Santa Claus-themed yarmulke is introduced (which, by the way, is a great Chrismukkah gift if you’re short on time and money this year).
For me, my family celebrated Hanukkah every year, as well as the secular aspects of Christmas. As most Jewish people know, Hanukkah became a big deal culturally simply because it happens to coincide with Christmas. But in the Hilton-Glicksberg household, this meant we had an entire month of holidays. Menorahs, stereotypical Chinese food, a movie on Christmas, Santa, stockings—the whole thing.
I took for granted the extra work involved for my parents trying to juggle two holidays. But, as I got older, I appreciate the time and effort they both put into sharing their favorite traditions with my brother and me. Some of my strongest childhood memories revolve around celebrating Chrismukkah, which is why I, like Seth Cohen, love it so much.
My relationship with Judaism continued to evolve as I’ve moved around to different cities and met new people. But, my first introduction to Judaism will always be with Hanukkah. Now, as an adult and living far away from my family, Chrismukkah is a lot more toned down, and there’s less novelty surrounding the marathon event. Yet, this hybrid holiday with the funny name is more meaningful than ever.
About the author: Elena Hilton is a communications consultant specializing in guiding nonprofits and purpose-driven organizations. Her writing and reporting has been published in Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Glamour. In her free time, Elena can be found kayaking, cheering on the Florida Gators, or volunteering with Horton’s Kids.
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