The History of Chrismukkah

Happy Chrismukkah! This holiday — well, maybe not a holiday, maybe just a pop culture reference from The O.C. — is a combination of Hanukkah and Christmas. But where does Chrismukkah come from? What does The O.C. have to do with it becoming popular? Let me explain.

There are two origins of Chrismukkah: the original invention of the term and when it first found its way into pop culture.

Most people (including myself, before I did some digging on the World Wide Web) think the term Chrismukkah is a new term that millennials sprung onto the world. But actually Chrismukkah, according to the Jewish Museum Berlin, was first used in 19th century Germany by German Jews. Except the term was in German, not English: Instead of Chrismukkah, they called the holiday Weihnukkah. Like how Chrismukkah is a combination of Christmas and Hanukkah, Weihnukkah is a combination of Weihnachten, Christmas in German, and Hanukkah. The more you know!

While German Jews are credited for creating the “holiday,” not one person is credited for it. Additionally, there is not a lot of information about how they celebrated this holiday. Jim Wald, in a blog for Times of Israel, shared that a colleague sent him from the Jewish Museum Berlin’s exhibit, which seemed to combine an image of a menorah and a Christmas tree. Weihnukkah, or Chrismukkah, never had a colossal following and just about disappeared when Hitler came to power in Nazi Germany.

Then The O.C. came along in 2003. Seth Cohen, one of the principal characters, came from a multi-faith Jewish and Christian household. Instead of choosing to celebrate both holidays or one of the holidays, a young Seth Cohen decided to combine Christmas and Hanukkah. Lo and behold, Chrismukkah was then re-introduced into the world. Despite his claim, Cohen did not invent the holiday.

Until the series was canceled, The O.C. continued to have annual Chrismukkah episodes. Like with all holidays, Chrismukkah had its own traditions that Cohen found very important to practice. Two of these included the need for a yamaclaus, a yarmulke fashioned to match Santa Claus’s clothing, and the necessity to have a menorah over Christmas stockings. The show went even further in its third season when the character Ryan had a Chrismukkah Marmitzvakkah.

The “holiday” of Chrismukkah did not stop on the silver screen. Like with all holidays, Chrismukkah has become commercialized. If you search Chrismukkah on the site Etsy, there are over 500 different products. Sure, there are over 40,000 products under Hanukkah on Etsy, but this is still quite impressive to a holiday that was re-introduced by a modern teen soap opera. There is even a book titled Chrismukkah: Everything You Need to Know About Celebrating the Hybrid Holiday available on Amazon.

There doesn’t seem to be much, or any, evidence that people celebrate Chrismukkah as anything more than a pop culture reference. Although, as someone who grew up celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah in a multi-faith household, it seemed like my family did celebrate some version of Chrismukkah, albeit unknowingly. We incorporated traditions from both; it was not usual to see a menorah on a ledge next to our Christmas tree.

With the holidays coming around the corner, I hope you enjoy your Chrismukkah. Or Hanukkah. Or Christmas. Or whatever you practice.

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