Last year, retailers did not fail me — nay, us — in getting a little weird for Hanukkah. I mean, who could possibly forget the fluffy monstrosity that was Target’s Hooded Hanukkah Blanket? Just look at it:
target is selling a comfy infused with the spirit of hanukkah……….and that spirit is absolutely haunted pic.twitter.com/mHH14gN3g0
— evelyn gee frick (@evelyngfrick) October 22, 2021
“I love every choice that went into making and selling this product. I love the menorah headdress which will make your child look like the High Latke Priest, and the ‘beige paws’ (I’m quoting from the product description here) which make sense because no Hanukkah is complete without beige paws. I love that they decided to photograph it sans model. And I love that Target wants us to give our children the gift of becoming a walking fire hazard,” I wrote in 2021, concluding, “Whoever invented this is a beautiful genius, and they deserve all of our money.”
Unfortunately for those of us who love chaos, Target decided to get its act together this year and create some thoughtful, unique and generally normal Hanukkah decor this year. On the one hand, thanks Target! But on the other: boooooooooring!
Sephardic poet Emma Lazarus wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Full respect to Ms. Lazarus, but in her spirit, I say, “Give me your weird, your zany, / Your absolutely bonkers Hanukkah presents yearning to get their freak on.”
So, without further ado, here are 10 of the weirdest gifts you could possibly get someone for Hanukkah.
“Unfortunately for those of us who love chaos, Target decided to get its act together this year and create some thoughtful, unique and generally normal Hanukkah decor this year.” — me, literal moments ago.
OK, so I know that after reading the above, you would expect to not see an item from Target on this list, let alone in the number one spot. But there is actually one item from Tarjay’s Hanukkah offerings that I find a bit odd and silly: this big-ass dreidel!!! At over three pounds and made from marble, this decorative s’vivon finally answers the question: What if a regular dreidel started bulking up at a really fancy gym?
Here’s the deal: I don’t like robots. I don’t trust them. You’re telling me that humans have created artificially intelligent beings to do our bidding and they’re totally not going to band together, rise up and overpower their weakling overlords? Uh huh, sure. Likely story.
That said, I will make an exception for Judah Maccabot 2.0, because just look at him!! This little dude is an actual party machine. With his spinning lights and three whole Hanukkah songs, Judah Maccabot 2.0 was put on this earth to dance. He’s a robotic, Jewish Billy Elliott. He’s an automated, Hebrew Ren McCormack, and we are the sad people from the Footloose town who need his help. He’s a third character from any of the other movies about someone who just. needs. to. dance.
I don’t know why Judah Maccabot 2.0 exists, but I’m so glad this weird little robot does. I still don’t like robots as a whole, but I can’t help but think, “when God sings with his creations, will Judah Maccabot 2.0 not be a part of the choir?”
I’m torn about this latke blanket. On the one hand, I totally get it. Latkes are delicious, warm and pillowy. Who wouldn’t want to wrap themselves comfortably inside a potato pancake before drifting off into a restful slumber? This blanket is absolutely perfect for cold, wintry Hanukkah nights spent around the menorah.
BUT, on the other hand, things get a little weird when you change the perspective. Yes, latkes are delicious, warm and pillowy. But you know what they also are? Greasy, messy and sometimes burnt. And frankly, they stank. The kitchen of every Jew in the world smells like onion for at least two weeks following Hanukkah; one nap inside an actual latke and your hair and complexion would never recover.
Also, during Hanukkah the blanket is easily identifiable as a latke, but outside of that context, the image is harder to identify. Is that a blanket with an image of molten-hot magma? A mock-up of what planet Earth will look like in 50 years? The world may never know.
Imagine this: It’s the third night of Hanukkah. You’ve just finished lighting the menorah and saying the blessings, and you and your partner are now just enjoying the warm light of the candles in your living room. Except it’s not a living room, it’s a white void. And you and your partner aren’t people, but rather two pickles with mustaches. But you’re not scared or anxious. In fact, it’s better this way. You are two Hercule Poirot-looking gherkins in an everlasting Hanukkah tableau and all is well.
That’s the story I envision this magnificent watercolor telling us. And no offense to the original Hanukkah story, but in this case, I think the sequel might be superior. Just look at those pickles! The title of this painting is correct — those pickles are whimsical as hell.
Remember when alt-right Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene propagated the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jewish space lasers exist? Haha, good times. (Narrator: it was, in fact, not good times.) That antisemitic conspiracy, beyond being hateful and bigoted, was super weird. It’s unclear to me whether or not Greene invented this idea herself, or got it from the most white supremacist game of Clue ever (“It was the Jews in space with lasers!”), but regardless, it was a flavor of antisemitism that I found to be, quite literally, out of this world. So what better way to fight back against that weird hatred than with this adorable mini-Jewish laser (pointer)? And even better, half of the profits made from sales of the product will be donated to those working to unseat QAnon candidates!
At first glance, there’s nothing remotely weird about this children’s toy, right? It’s just a soft little toy with removable candles and Hanukkah songs, perfect for age 12 months and up, right?
Just take a moment and really look into his eyes:
That’s the face of a plushie who has witnessed something profoundly evil.
It’s OK, Judaica Plush Musical Menorah. We’re here for you, buddy.
If there’s one Jewish brand that has embodied weird this year, it’s Manischewitz. The absolutely manic energy of their Twitter profile has spawned jokes (I think?) about potential Manischewitz products that range from the silly hash brownie macaroons to the absolutely heinous gefilte dogs.
And still, they’ve outdone themselves with their latest, actual invention: Crypto Gelt. With every bite you’ll think, “Mmmmmm, tastes like a crashing market, profound effects on our climate and male fragility.”
I think this item’s weirdness is self-explanatory, you silly goose!
There’s a lot missing from the world of Hanukkah in pop culture. There are far fewer Hanukkah rom-coms than Christmas rom-coms, stores often relegate Hanukkah decorations to one shelf in a corner and so on. But this year, Walmart bravely said, “No more!” and gave us the festive Jewish representation we’ve all definitely been craving. I am, of course, talking about the Happy Hanukkah butt flap on these Hanukkah pajamas. I’ve seen plenty of Christmas pajamas with butt-flaps, but I can honestly say that of all the Hanukkah pajamas I’ve seen, nary a one had a butt flap. This is yet another example of insidious Christian supremacism, which gives Christians more opportunities than Jews to let their tuchuses hang out with ease, and I condemn it in the strongest terms. Thank you, Walmart. You’re a true ally.
And, finally, the pièces de résistance: the PetSmart Reptile Ugly Hanukkah Sweater; an item which is so weird and perfect that a disservice has been done to God, Jews and the entire animal kingdom by the fact that it hasn’t existed before now.
As I wrote in Hey Alma earlier this Hanukkah season, “First, I love that the sweater says ‘Just Keep Spinning’ with little dreidels on it. There was absolutely no effort made to come up with a reptilian pun like ‘Iguana Eat Latkes’ or ‘Gecko Kandelikas,’ and I have to respect that. Second, I love that this sweater is actually less of a sweater and more of a festive bib that you can strap your (likely unwilling) pet into. Next, I love that the item description on the website reads, ‘This fun sweater defines the “Ugly Sweater” look that is so popular at holiday parties,’ which lowkey implies that one might bring their reptile to a holiday party. Fourth, I love that the product is called a Reptile Sweater, when it seems to be specifically designed for Bearded Dragons. (Though I could also see this sweater fitting a large snake, a skinny turtle, baby crocodiles or a mid-sized lizard.) And finally, I appreciate that this product exists in spite of the antisemitic conspiracy theory that many powerful Jews are actually lizard people because fuck that! Jews with pet lizards deserve some Hanukkah cheer too!”
Happy (almost) Hanukkah, Hey Alma pals! And remember: stay weird.