The best Chanukah episodes on TV
As we head into Chanukah, in no particular order, here are the best TV episodes featuring Chanukah storylines – whether it’s the whole episode plot or just a brief mention.
A Rugrats Chanukah
Season 4, episode 1 of Rugrats • Aired December 4, 1996.
We have to start this list with the definitive Chanukah TV special: A Rugrats Chanukah. There are a few plots going on in this episode: Grandpa Boris and his frenemy Shlomo are in a synagogue play about Chanukah. Shlomo got featured in the newspaper, Boris did not, and Boris is mad that Shlomo always upstages him. Secondly, Angelica wants to watch a Christmas special featuring her favourite doll Cynthia. And finally, the babies want to defeat the meany of Chanukah (aka Shlomo) after they hear how upset Boris is.
The episode weaves baby shenanigans in with the story of Chanukah as the babies retell the tale of the Maccabees, blessing us with the line “A Maccababy’s gotta do what a maccababy’s gotta do!”
Season 1, episode 9 of New Girl • Aired December 13, 2011.
We have many thoughts and feelings on Schmidt, the incredible Jewish character on New Girl, played by the incomparable Max Greenfield. However, our feelings always come back to a moment in the first season when Jess, Nick, Winston, and Schmidt are driving down Candy Cane Lane. Winston points out a chanukiah, Schmidt says, “Oh, a menorah …” (with a weird intonation), then the iconic line: “Judaism, son.”
It’s become our favourite GIF and an instant TV-scene classic.
Best Chrismukkah Ever
Season 1, episode 13 of The O.C. • Aired December 3, 2003.
Okay, so there are technically four Chrismukkah episodes — one in each season — but we’ll always have a special place in our heart for the original O.C. Chrismukkah, when viewers were introduced to Seth Cohen’s (Adam Brody) holiday of Chrismukkah. Seth, who grew up with a Jewish dad and a Christian mum, decided to combine Chanukah and Christmas.
The Chanukah Story
Season 6, episode 10 of The Nanny • Aired December 16, 1998.
Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) was a bold and outspoken Jewish woman on TV, and we love her for it. Of course, the Chanukah episode of The Nanny was everything we could’ve wanted — and more.
The plot, in sum: Fran is super excited to celebrate her first Chanukah with her new husband, but Maxwell, C.C. and Grace decide to drive to Boston in a snowstorm, and Fran gets concerned when they don’t make it home in time.
Fran Fine’s fashion is everything, and her Chanukah looks do not disappoint. The whole episode is nothing short of miraculous.
Season 20, episode 7 of Saturday Night Live • Aired December 3, 1994.
Why are we talking about when Roseanne hosted SNL in 1994? Well, well, well, our dear friends, this is the episode in which Adam Sandler played his Chanukah Song on Weekend Update, enshrining it in the Chanukah TV canon.
The Jewish comedian has updated The Chanukah Song with new pop culture references four times, the latest of which he released in 2015.
The One With the Holiday Armadillo
Season 7, episode 10 of Friends • Aired December 14, 2000.
How could we do a list of Chanukah episodes without the Holiday Armadillo!? In this classic Friends episode, Ross’ son Ben is staying with him for the holidays. Ross is upset that Ben has only been exposed to Christmas traditions — so he invents the Holiday Armadillo to tell him all about Chanukah.
My Mom, Greg’s Mom and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves
Season 1, episode 8 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend • Aired November 30, 2015.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gave us a nuanced, Jewish heroine, and also with the visual gag of Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) hanging up Chanukah banners that spell the holiday three different ways. The episode features Rebecca panic-prepping for a visit from her Jewish mom Naomi (played by an incredible Tovah Feldshuh) and swapping all the Christmas decorations in her house for Chanukah ones.
A Christmas Story
Season 3, episode 10 of The Goldbergs • Aired December 9, 2015.
“We’re gonna make Chanukah sizzle and pop,” Beverly Goldberg exclaims, creating a super Chanukah, and trying to get her family into a holiday spirit — with a Chanukah bush, Chanukah socks, and more Christmas-disguised-as-Chanukah things.
It’s a classic tale of Jewish assimilation for the Christmas time: the tension between wanting to be festive for the holidays and staying true to Chanukah.
Arthur’s Perfect Christmas
Special episode of Arthur • Aired November 23, 2000.
In this special, we get all the major winter holidays — Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza. As it was advertised: “Everyone’s favourite aardvark gives kids a new spin on seasonal traditions in his first one-hour prime time special, showing children many ways to celebrate ‘the holidays’.”
The timing of Francine’s family’s celebration of Chanukah conflicts with that of Muffy’s holiday extravaganza, causing her to miss the party. When Muffy explains that Chanukah isn’t as important as Christmas, Francine feels offended because she is Jewish, and yells “Well it is to me!” and stops speaking to her. Eventually, she and Muffy make up after Francine shows her how important Chanukah can be; all because her family is Jewish.
Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose
Season 4, episode 13 of Schitt’s Creek • Aired December 19, 2018.
At the start of the Schitt’s Creek holiday special, Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) walks into the shared bedroom of his kids, David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy), and declares he wants to throw a Christmas party like they used to.
“We have to make new memories! We have to start looking forward, not backward,” he tells his annoyed family.
He delegates tasks, enthusiastic even though it’s already Christmas Eve. Moira (Catherine O’Hara) replies, “Look at you, Mr Rose. Seemingly possessed by the Christmas spirit.”
His response? “That reminds me! Somebody needs to find the menorah.”
What results is a holiday special that dives into interfaith identity beautifully.
Season 4, episode 10 of Glee • Aired December 10, 2012.
In the episode, Jewish half-brothers Jake and Noah Puckerman sing Chanukah, Oh Chanukah. At the end of their performance, both brothers get Star of David tattoos on their left shoulder.
Season 9, episode 10 of Seinfeld • Aired December 18, 1997
This is the Seinfeld episode best known for the Festivus plot and a strike at H&H Bagels, which honestly feels super Jewish to us.
But what makes it a Chanukah episode? It begins with Elaine, Jerry and George at a Chanukah party.
“This place is like Studio 54 with a menorah,” Elaine complains. It’s a classic — replete with Elaine giving out her fake number.