December TV is filled to the brim with holiday specials. However, those holiday specials are less like “holiday” specials and more like “Christmas” specials. Holiday season can be a very lonely time for Jewish kids across America, as television is a landscape of Christmas spectaculars, everyone is waiting at the mall to take pictures with Santa, and every friend of yours has a giant tree in their house. Thankfully, there have been a few Chanukah specials on TV over the years. But none of them compare to the Rugrats Chanukah episode, which was the absolute best.
Rugrats had several Jewish writers on staff, which led to "A Rugrats Chanukah," an episode that first aired in 1996. (They also have a Kwanzaa episode in a later season, proving that the Rugrats were the most diverse babies on the block.) In traditional Rugrats fashion, they tell the story of Hanukkah through the eyes of the babies at the center of the series. If you celebrate Hanukkah in your home, like we do, watching the Rugrats episode with the kiddos is a great holiday tradition, and a way to show them an example of their culture being represented on TV. If you don’t celebrate Hanukkah, the episode is a great way to help teach children about and normalize other religions that some of their friends might practice.
Either way, the Rugrats Chanukah episode is the best episode ever, and here are seven reasons why.
1. It Was A Hanukkah Episode. . . On Cable TV
In a sea of Christmas specials, the “A Rugrats Chanukah” episode stood out in a very good way. I actually understood the references in the story, and was so excited to see my family represented on television.
2. Tommy’s Jewish Grandparents, Boris And Minka, Were From Russia
All of my great-grandparents on my mother’s side had immigrated from Russia to the United States in the beginning of the 20th century. It was so cool that Tommy’s family had, too.
3. There Is A Character Named Schlomo
Because Schlomo is the best, most perfect Jewish name ever.
4. It Tells The Story Of Hanukkah To A Large Audience
How many kids in America can tell you the Hanukkah story? Probably not many. But thanks to the Rugrats, a whole generation grew up to know the meaning of the holiday.
5. The Maccabees (Or, Maccababies)
I learned about The Maccabees in Hebrew school, but not everyone can have that experience. In the "A Rugrats Chanukah," Tommy imagines he is Judah, who leads an army of Maccabees to war against the Seleucid Empire, which the Maccabees win. He also utter the now infamous line, “A Maccababy’s gotta do, what a Maccababy’s gotta do!”
6. The Miracle Of The Oil
The true miracle of Hanukkah, however, is not the Maccabees victory, but the oil that lasted for eight nights.
7. It Validated My Family
Along with the Rugrats' Passover episode, seeing the holidays we celebrated in my house on TV meant so much to me. There were endless Christmas specials every year, and so it could sometimes make me feel left out in the month of December. As a kid, I always really wanted to celebrate Christmas because all my favorite characters seemed to. Watching the Rugrats celebrate Chanukah was incredibly validating to me, and countless other Jewish kids watching at home.
Images: Nickelodeon Studios (8)