Birch: Leave the Christmas themes out of Hanukkah products

‘Tis the season where consumers go crazy and everything turns to shades of red and green. Living in the U.S. it is impossible to avoid Christmas this time of year.  As someone who does not celebrate, I know that this is something you just have to accept.

I enjoy the Christmas season just as much as the next person. It’s fun to get into the spirit of it whether you celebrate or not. Everyone can enjoy partaking in the activities, seeing the lights and listening to the music. But this fun quickly fades when it feels like Christmas is taking over and overshadowing every other winter holiday. 

Other cultures and religions have holidays this time of year such as Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, and Kwanzaa, a pan-African holiday to celebrate family and culture. These holidays do not get as much representation as Christmas. This is understandable given the circumstances. According to the Pew Research Center, nine in ten Americans celebrate Christmas. 

Although fewer people celebrate these other holidays, they still deserve to be promoted properly in the consumer markets. Many businesses and organizations are making their holiday shelves and windows more inclusive. Most stores put up a Hanukkah section among the numerous rows of Christmas ones. Even a small Hanukkah display is better than not including one at all.

Among the Hanukkah shelves you may find dreidels, menorahs or children’s books on the holiday. While many of these consumer items successfully represent the Jewish holiday, others are basically parody gifts of Christmas. One such item is a box with a puppet inside labeled “Mensch on a Bench” that is a twist on the popular “Elf on a Shelf.” Another you may find is a book titled “Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf that gives Hanukkah its own elf, with a stereotypically Jewish name to make it for Hanukkah

These may seem like innocent efforts to make Hanukkah products based on popular Christmas ones, but the message they put forth is degrading. Hanukkah products that feature Christmas themes suggest that Jewish children are left out and want what those who celebrate Christmas have. These toys are not a part of the Hanukkah celebration. The making of these products implies that something is missing and a few elves are just what the holiday needs.

Instead of placing Christmas themes on Hanukkah products, consumer products should stick to reflecting the story of Hanukkah itself and the rich story that toys and books could relay to children. Christmas can be fun for everyone this time of year, so long as nobody feels as if their culture is being overshadowed rather than celebrated.