Is Hanukkah starting to mimic Christmas?

Nov 11, 2014, 6:58 PM

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The lines between Hanukkah and Christmas increasingly are starting to blur across America.

ABC News reports websites like Pinterest and Etsy are replete with blue-and-white Hanukkah crafts like wreaths and stockings, and you can now find, among a sea of holiday merchandise, items such as Hanukkah greeting cards, cookie cutters and tree ornaments shaped like the Star of David, menorahs and dreidels.

Rabbi Evan Moffic told ABC News he sees the crossover trend as part of how Jewish people “embrace the larger culture.”

Ted Merwin, a Dickinson College professor, said Hanukkah-Christmas crossover products are “driven by high rates of intermarriage between Jews and Christians,” but they also can be attributed to living in a multicultural society.

Neal Hoffman created Mensch on a Bench last year after his son asked for Elf on the Shelf, the doll that watches kids’ behavior so Santa knows whether they deserve Christmas presents. Hoffman is Jewish, his wife is Catholic, but they’re raising their children Jewish. He raised $22,000 on Kickstarter for a prototype Mensch last year, and is producing 50,000 units for sale this year in retailers like Target and Toys R Us.

But Mensch on a Bench is different from Elf on the Shelf: Kids can’t touch the elf, but the mensch “is an old Jewish guy” designed to be played with like any doll, Hoffman said. It comes with a guidebook for family activities for each of Hanukkah’s eight nights, including collecting presents for others in need.

There are other Hanukkah toys that resemble Elf on the Shelf, such as Kippah Kantor and Maccabee on the Mantel. Additionally, Passover matzo maker The Manischewitz Company introduced Chanukah House kits in 2012, which are inspired by gingerbread houses. And due to customer demand, New England chocolate company Harbor Sweets has also selling Hanukkah gift boxes decorated with menorahs.

One of Merwin’s favorite examples of the blurring of the two holidays is a children’s book, “How Murray Saved Christmas,” a rhyming spoof of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Murray, a deli owner, fills in for Santa and gets the toys delivered even though he smells like pickles and can’t remember the reindeer names.

“It’s a brilliant parody,” said Merwin.

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Is Hanukkah starting to mimic Christmas?