A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to Be Jewish

By Joshua Eli Plaut | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
“’TWAS THE NIGHT
BEFORE HANUKKAH”:
REMAKING CHRISTMAS THROUGH
PARODY AND POPULAR CULTURE

The humorous assault on the character of Christmas represented by Kung Pao Kosher Comedy’s biting humor reflects a whimsical and subversive strain in American society. Observers of popular culture capitalize on contrasting religious and secular aspects of Christmas to exaggerate Christmas’s benefits and faults. Christmas lends itself to parody and even caricature because the holiday incorporates elements from many different nationalities and cultures. Christmas is also continually reinterpreted by different generations of Americans to reflect ever-changing social and cultural viewpoints. The more American society becomes amenable to the involvement of members of diverse ethnic and religious groups, the greater the license writers, artists, and entertainers take in reshaping the meaning of Christmas for American society.

Jews, at once excluded outsiders and consummate insiders in the American success story, played a considerable role in this remaking of Christmas. As prominent writers and entertainers in America, Jews worked to neutralize Christmas from two different perspectives. First, they sought to recreate Christmas as a reflection of patriotic pride, devoid of any religious meaning and full of the qualities of home, children, and goodwill. Accordingly, in the public mind, Christmas was celebrated for its sentimental impact rather than its historical meaning. In the twentieth century, this dichotomy’s far-reaching consequences led to deemphasizing mention of either Christmas or Hanukkah and to offering inoffensive seasonal rather than Christmas-specific greetings. Second, Jews satirized Christmas

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