A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to Be Jewish

By Joshua Eli Plaut | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
CHRISMUKKAH
AND FESTIVUS:
HOLIDAYS FOR THE REST OF US

When Elise and Phil Okrend began their line of interfaith greeting cards in 1989, they were responding to a significant increase in interfaith relationships between Americans from Jewish and Christian backgrounds. Based upon census reports, the interfaith marriage rate had dramatically increased.1 Realizing that intermarried couples, families, and friends were looking for an ecumenical way to greet each other beyond the generic “Happy Holidays,” the Okrends created a line of cards that juxtaposed images of Christmas and Hanukkah. In response to critics who immediately accused them of undermining Jewish identity, they cited an increasing demand for greeting cards that combined the two religious holidays in a positive way.2 The Okrends designed cards with each of the following images: Santa and a Jewish counterpart playing dreidel together; a menorah growing out of a reindeer’s antler; and a Star of David atop a Christmas tree. These novel images anticipated a new age in Jewish-Christian relationships in the United States by envisioning the two religions coming together in a joint celebration of the holiday season. The designers presented a hope and vision that underlay this new way of thinking: Christmas and Hanukkah could cross the threshold of interfaith homes with the same ease that juxtaposed the two holidays in shopping malls and civic venues. Within the American interfaith home, Christmas and Hanukkah would be complementary holidays; their symbols could carry an overlapping message of joy, peace, and goodwill. The juxtaposition of images in the American home formed a hybrid celebration, one that was neither solely Christmas nor only Hanukkah, but a measure of both. In the popular parlance of the 1990s, this hybrid form of celebration was cleverly dubbed Chrismukkah.

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