From cartoons to sitcoms, there’s something for everyone in the family.
We see the twinkle of lights and smell delicious carbs frying in oil, which can only mean one thing: Hanukkah is coming. From sundown on Dec. 7 to 15, families will gather to light the menorah, sing songs, eat latkes and jelly donuts, exchange gifts, and tell the story of the Maccabees’ resistance against Greek colonizers. But for those who want to cuddle up with a Hanukkah movie, special, or episode of your favorite show... well, that might be a little bit of a challenge. There aren’t too many out there, at least not compared to media for another December holiday that’s also coming up...
But there’s another reason there aren’t a lot of Hanukkah movies — it’s not (and has never been) a major Jewish holiday. It’s still a fun! And important in that commemorates a miracle and an inspiring tale of the importance of Jewish heritage. But as far as the Jewish holiday calendar goes, it’s not as big a deal as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover or a bunch of others that non-Jews have probably never even heard of.
But Hanukkah is awesome and representation is important, so we’re determined to put together a list of some of our favorite Hanukkah movies, specials, and episodes of TV shows you can watch with your kiddos while you spin the dreidel.
An American Tail
After a cadre of wicked cats destroy their small Ukranian village – on Hanukkah no less! – Fievel Mousekewitz and his family are desperate to leave the endless persecution they face and head to America. Fortunately, they hear that in America there are no cats! And the streets are paved with cheese! But when the young mouse gets lost on the way to his new home, and the mice learn that things aren’t as perfect as they believed, they must work together to make a new life in the United States.
Stream An American Tail, rated G, on Amazon Prime.
Fiddler on the Roof
While not strictly speaking a Hanukkah movie, this is an incredible movie about Jewish heritage and the resilience of the human spirit and, really, what better way to pay homage to the Maccabees than that?
In 1905, the shtetl of Anatevka thrives on tradition – it’s what holds the entire community together. Tevye the milkman (our narrator) is a father to five daughters, and three of them – Tzeitel, Hodel, and Chava – are approaching the age where marriage is the next expected step. But while tradition holds they should marry whoever papa picks, one by one they find love in the most untraditional ways. Their choices, and Tevye's reactions to them, reflect a rapidly changing world... a world that is becoming less and less safe for the Jews of Anatevka as the czar's antisemitic police forces encroach ever closer.
Full Court Miracle
The basketball team at Philadelphia’s Hebrew Academy, the Lions, is hopeless – they’ve never won a single game. Freshman Alex is determined to find someone who will lead them to victory, like Judah Maccabee did in days of old. He believes he’s found him in Lamont Carr, a former college basketball star who didn’t make it to the NBA due to a knee injury. Alex convinces Lamont to coach the team... and the school to accept Lamont as a coach.
Not only does the movie take place during Hanukkah, but much of the film mirrors the story of the first Hanukkah, which brings the story to life in a new an exciting way. Also exciting is the fact that it’s based on a true story.
Stream Full Court Miracle, rated TV-G, on Disney+.
Peg + Cat: “The Hanukkah Problem”
In this math-centric series, Peg is a musical little girl who, along with her ca-raaaazy cat, love to learn (and sing) about math! It helps to be friends with the likes of Isaac Newton, Ada Lovelace, and Albert Einstein himself... and it just so happens that Einstein has invited Peg and her friends to come celebrate Hanukkah at his house! Did you know that the number 8 is special to the holiday? Or that you can even make your own dreidel out of paper? Math and Maccabees — who could ask for anything more?
Firebuds: “Hanukkah Hullabaloo”
Bo Bayani, the human lead in Firebuds is proud of his Jewish and Filipino-American heritage and in this episode, his mom Beth gives her son and his friends (human and automotive) an highlights explanation of Hanukkah so special. From jelly donuts to dreidels, latkes to lighting the menorah, she highlights the holiday traditions that make the Festival of Lights so special. She even delves into the history of Hanukkah, explaining that it “honors our people's victories a long time ago over a group who attacked us to stop our way of life. Against all odds we won, but we only had enough oil to light our lamps for one night. Somehow the oil lasted for eight nights!”
Stream Firebuds “Hanukkah Hullabaloo”, rated TV-Y, on Disney+.
Rebecca and Chris are rival co-workers who are both up for the same promotion. When they’re tasked with planning the big annual Christmas party in just one week, both see it as their way to outshine the other... even if they aren’t too happy about having to work together. It gets even worse when Rebecca’s family, who take a liking to the handsome junior executive, invite Chris to celebrate Hanukkah with them all week! As the holiday progresses, it becomes harder to deny that the tension is only masking their true feelings for one another.
Stream Double Holiday, rated TV-G, on Amazon Prime.
Rugrats: “A Rugrats Chanukah”
In one of the most beloved Hanukkah episodes of all time, Tommy, Chucky, Phil, Lil, Angelica, and their families celebrate Hanukkah with Didi’s parents, who tell the children the story of the Maccabees defiance against the Greeks to preserve their culture and religion. The Rugrats recreate the story of the Maccabean rebellion with surprising accuracy (for cartoon babies), but pepper the Biblical tale with their own toddler-flair, with lines like “A Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do!” and “These are the books of our forefathers read, and our five fathers and our six fathers!”
Stream Rugrats, rated TV-Y, on Paramount+.
Love, Lights, Hanukkah!
Christina is a restaurant owner and adoptee curious about her roots, so she takes a DNA test and learns she’s 50% Jewish. Not only that, but she has some pretty close relatives, the Berman family, who lives nearby. But it turns out her newfound mishpocha is much closer than she realizes: Mrs. Berman is her birth mother! Christina spends Hanukkah with the family and learns about her Jewish heritage... but wouldn’t you know it: the restaurant critic who gave her a bad review is also in attendance. I wonder how this will turn out...?
Shalom Sesame: “The Missing Menorah”
Shalom Sesame was a co-production between Sesame Street and the Israeli version of the show Rechov Sumsum and sought to introduce Israeli and Jewish culture to American audiences. In this holiday episode, Anneliese is excited to celebrate her first Hanukkah in Israel, and has even brought her family’s special menorah to share with friends. But when the menorah goes missing (there are wildly flung latkes involved) she must find it!
Interspersed with this main plot line are classic Sesame Street-style segments that teach kids about dreidels, Hanukkah celebrations, and even the history of the holiday.
Stream Shalom Sesame: “The Missing Menorah,”rated TV-Y, on Amazon Prime.
Hitched for the Holidays
Rob’s big Italian, Catholic family isn’t too happy when they hear he’s broken up with his girlfriend before Thanksgiving, especially his grandma, who says she wants to see him matched and in love before she dies. And Julie, well, her fussy mom is always pestering her to get a boyfriend. When the two meet on an online dating site, they believe they’ve found the solution to the other’s problem! Why not trot out a pretend partner for Hanukkah and Christmas to shut everyone up and then “break up” around New Years? But when the famiglia and mishpocheh get involved, things get complicated...
Stream Hitched for the Holidays, rated TV-PG, on Hallmark Movies Now.
Mistletoe & Menorahs
Career-oriented Christy thinks she’s gotten the opportunity of a lifetime when her boss, the head of a toy company, invites her to his exclusive holiday party. When she finds out it’s a Hanukkah party, she is determined to learn all about the holiday in order to impress him. How else will she land that big account? The only problem? Christy doesn’t know a think about Hanukkah or Judaism! Her co-worker suggests she connect with Jonathan, who is Jewish, and just so happens to need a little help turning his apartment into a Christmas Wonderland to impress his Christian girlfriend’s family.
You’ll never guess what happens after these two spend some time together. (LOL, JK! You probably already know the ending... )
Stream Mistletoe & Menorahs, rated TV-PG, on Amazon Prime
Clifford’s Puppy Days: “Hanukah Plunder Blunder”
Before Clifford was a big red dog, he was a tiny red puppy. He lived with Emily Elizabeth in the city with a whole lot of animal pals. In this episode, Clifford’s feline friends, Flo and Zo, are excited to celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights... but how can they celebrate when they accidentally break the menorah?! Things get even worse when Zo opens all eight nights of presents in just one evening! Through their fumbling efforts and understandable mistakes, they learn not only about the importance of Hanukkah celebrations but important lessons that will last all year long!
The Nanny: “The Hanukkah Story”
The Nanny is one of the few shows in television history to not only depict a Jewish family but consistently highlight their Jewishness. (When the network tried to make the character of Fran Fine Italian instead of Jewish, Fran Drescher pushed back, insisting that the nanny’s Jewishness was an important aspect of the character and identity.) In this Hanukkah episode, Fran reflects on her childhood, growing up wishing she could celebrate Christmas (so much flashier and more fun), and why the holiday became so important to her... even if her gentile husband doesn’t get it.
Stream The Nanny, rated TV-PG, on HBO-Max.
All I Want Is Christmas
Don’t let the title fool you*! In this 2012 film starring Elliot Gould, David DeLuise, and Elijah Nelson, a young Jewish boy name Ira Finklestein is obsessed with Christmas. He’d love to experience an authentic, snowy Christmas, but his parents are sending him to spend Hanukkah in Florida with his grandparents. But when he meets a boy headed to wintry Washington to spend Christmas with little-known relatives (a boy who, incidentally, loves warm weather and the idea of Hanukkah, he’s seizes the opportunity to have the holiday of his dreams... but will it be everything he hoped for?
*Incidentally, there were a whole lot of working titles for this one, including Ira Finklestein’s Christmas and All I Want Is Christmas.
Steam Switchmas, rated PG, on Tubi.
Puppy Dog Pals: “The Latke Kerfuffle”
When they’re invited to their neighbor Chloe’s Hanukkah party, adorable pugs Bingo and Rolly help their human dad, Bob, make latkes for the event. But, as often happens with tiny, adorable, and overeager assistants, their well-intended “help” means that some of the ingredients are ruined – splattered eggs, shredded potatoes. Oh no! They don’t have everything they need to make the delicious potato pancakes. The pups fear they’ve ruined the holiday for sure. But it turns out that Hanukkah is more about who you celebrate with than the foods you eat.
Stream Puppy Dog Pals: “The Latke Kerfuffle,” rated TV-Y, on Disney+.
Eight Crazy Nights
After party animal Davey Stone’s wild antics go too far and he gets in trouble with the law, he finds himself faced with an ultimatum: perform community service as an assistant referee for a youth basketball league or go to jail. It’s not a hard decision. In fact, Davey figures he’s gotten off scot-free... until he meets White Duvall, the diminutive and eccentric head referee.
The fact that this is an Adam Sandler movie lets you know exactly what one can expect: juvenile potty humor, lots of swears and more than a dash of offensive jokes. So... not a family movie perse, but if you want to be a cool auntie or uncle to a middle-schooler then this is for sure the movie you watch with them.
Stream Eight Crazy Nights, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime
You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah
Based on Fiona Rosenbloom’s book of the same name, this not-quite-Hanukkah-themed-movie-that-will-nevertheless-make-you-proud-to-be-Jewish (or give you a healthy, happy dose of Jewish culture if you’re not) follows 13-year-old Stacy Friedman as she prepares for her bat mitzvah, a Jewish rite of passage that ushers a young person toward adulthood. Stacy has high hopes and grand ideas for the big event, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be working out for her, especially when she discovers that Andy has a girlfriend... Stacy’s best friend, Lydia!
Stream You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, rated PG-13, on Netflix.
Chag sameach, everybody!
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