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The Best Hanukkah TV Episodes

Hanukkah, the Jewish "Festival of Lights," has a rich and thrilling history. It's also a whole lot of fun to celebrate. Oil-fried delicacies like latkes and sufganiyot make all eight nights delicious, spinning dreidels for gelt is fun for young and old alike, and beautiful family traditions make the holiday deeply personal for all who celebrate. The fun doesn't end there, however — what's a holiday without holiday-themed entertainment?

When it comes to television, you might expect Hanukkah to get a raw deal. Virtually every television show seems to get at least one Christmas episode, after all — and often, one each season. But in fact, there are plenty of Hanukkah specials on the small screen for viewers of all ages to enjoy. Looking for something to watch between bouts of latke-frying and candle-lighting? You're in luck: From animated takes on the Maccabees to musical tributes to the Festival of Lights, we're here to take a look at the best Hanukkah TV episodes ever.

A Rugrats Chanukah (Rugrats)

First airing in 1996, "A Rugrats Chanukah" was a monumental moment in children's television. Plenty of history and traditions, including dreidels, latkes, menorahs, and more are on display in this episode. Beyond introducing kids all over the world to the story of Hanukkah, however, this half-hour special is hilarious and entertaining, as all great episodes of "Rugrats" are. After hearing the tale of the Maccabees, Tommy Pickles (E.G. Daily) and friends work together to defeat "the Meanie of Hanukkah" — a misinterpretation of "the meaning of Hanukkah" — to make Grandpa Boris (Michael Bell) happy. Naturally, things go awry, in the most heartwarming way possible.

"Rugrats" is never afraid to get dark, despite being about a bunch of babies. This approach certainly fits the story of Hanukkah, as well as a tender conversation between Boris and his old friend Shlomo (Fyvush Finkel), who laments the fact he was never able to have children of his own. What results is touching and heartfelt, and provides essential Hanukkah viewing each and every year. Plus, it also gives Jewish children everywhere a rallying cry unlike any other: "A Maccababy's gotta do what a Maccababy's gotta do!"

Heck of a Hanukkah (Even Stevens)

"Even Stevens" centers around the shenanigans of the delightful Stevens family. It stars Shia LaBeouf in his breakout role as youngest brother Louis, who gets in some serious trouble in Season 1's "Heck of a Hanukkah." Louis is excited for Hanukkah — especially the gifts. Despite his parents' best efforts to hide them, Louis manages to get his hands on the perfectly-wrapped treasure. Unable to help himself, he tears open each and every one. Things quickly get out of hand, and Louis ends up destroying the whole family's Hanukkah presents.

After being grounded, Louis, thinking he's a burden to his whole family, wishes he'd never born. This allows "Even Stevens" to meet "It's A Wonderful Life," as his many-times-great grandmother shows him what life would have been like if his wish came true. Of course, this eventually leads to the realization that Louis is right where he belongs: Alive, part of the Stevens family, and ready to celebrate Hanukkah. "Heck of a Hanukkah" also features fun games of dreidel and a heartwarming candle lighting sequence, reminding viewers of the importance of tradition and spending time together as a family.

The Best Chrismukkah Ever (The O.C.)

Season 1 of teen soap opera "The O.C." brought the concept of "Chrismukkah" into the world, and nothing has been the same since. Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) invents the term, which celebrates both of his parents' traditions: That of his Jewish father, Sandy (Peter Gallagher), and his Protestant mother, Kirsten (Kelly Rowan). Though the origins of the term "Chrismukkah" actually lie in 19th century Germany, the term's appearance in "The O.C." launched it into pop culture. It has since been used in interfaith homes all over the world.

"The Best Chrismukkah Ever" is full of holiday celebrations, but also plenty of crazy drama fans of "The O.C" adore. On top of a grand Chrismukkah party, Marissa (Mischa Barton) struggles with depression and drinking after she's caught shoplifting. She's almost arrested for drunk driving, but luckily, Ryan (Ben McKenzie) intervenes. Meanwhile, Seth is caught between two girls, Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Anna (Samaire Armstrong). "The Best Chrismukkah Ever" has it all: High stakes, superhero stripteases, and a major holiday celebration.

A Christmas Story (The Goldbergs)

"The Goldbergs" brilliantly tackles the anxiety of being Jewish in a society obsessed with Christmas in "A Christmas Story," a standout episode from Season 3. Matriarch Beverly Goldberg (Wendi McLendon-Covey) tries to get her family invested in Hanukkah, to no avail. So, she decides to take inspiration from her neighbors, who celebrate Christmas. Shocked to discover their family actually enjoys spending time together over the holidays, Beverly creates "Super Hanukkah" to try and get the rest of the Goldbergs on board. As a result, she essentially Hanukkah-izes every Christmas tradition. They're not stockings, they're Hanukkah socks! They're not candy canes, they're Hanukkah J's!

This doesn't go over well with everyone, however. Beverly's disappointed father Pops (George Segal) is quick to remind her and the rest of the family of the importance of Hanukkah's actual traditions. This results in a thoughtful and heartwarming reminder of what makes Hanukkah great, entirely outside the shadow cast by Christmas. It's a fantastically entertaining episode of television, and even features the wonderful Jewish-American tradition of having Chinese food for dinner on Christmas Day. The episode's greatest achievement, however, might just be dispelling the myth of eight nights of great presents: A hilarious sequence reveals that eight days of gifts isn't actually all it's cracked up to be.

The One With the Holiday Armadillo (Friends)

Few TV shows have ever become as popular as "Friends," which dominated the airwaves for 10 solid seasons. In Season 7, the beloved sitcom took things to new heights by unleashing an episode about Hanukkah, "The One with the Holiday Armadillo." In this classic installment, Ross (David Schwimmer) spends time with his son, Ben (Cole Sprouse), during the holidays. Ben is far more interested in celebrating Christmas than Hanukkah, however, which spurs Ross into action.

This leads to Ross dressing up as an armadillo, as all the other costumes at the shop were sold out. A truly hilarious line from Monica (Courteney Cox) results, as she questions Ross' costume's relevance: "Because armadillos also wandered in the desert?" Ross proceeds to explain the story of Hanukkah to Ben, who realizes that the holiday is far more interesting than he once thought, and even as exciting as Christmas. This is a big win for Ross, and the viewers.

My Mom, Greg's Mom And Josh's Sweet Dance Moves! (Crazy-Ex Girlfriend)

The phenomenal musical dramedy series "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" tackles Hanukkah in "My Mom, Greg's Mom and Josh's Sweet Dance Moves!" First off, as Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) prepares her home for her mother's arrival, she notices that all her decorations have different spellings of Hanukkah, a wonderful and hilarious nod to the holiday's seemingly infinite variations. The episode that follows is very much about celebration, but also the anxiety of the holiday season — especially in relation to parental pressure. Rebecca has been seeking her mother's approval her whole life, a quest her move to California has complicated considerably. Her mother's first visit out West is a huge opportunity for Rebecca to prove how far she's come as a person.

As with every "Crazy-Ex Girlfriend" episode, we get some fantastic songs. Few in the entire series are better than "Where's the Bathroom?," sung by Rebecca's mother Naomi (Tovah Feldshuh). On top of being an all-around excellent episode of television and spectacular Hanukkah viewing, it gives us one of the greatest lyrics of all time: "A bishop in Wisconsin said something anti-Semitic, so the temple has decided to boycott cheddar cheese."

Light the Lights (Brothers and Sisters)

After learning of her Jewish heritage, Paige (Kerris Dorsey) wonders why her family doesn't follow any Jewish traditions. This leads to a conversation with her grandmother Nora (Sally Field), who tells her, "You can ethnically be Jewish, but at the same time, Santa's just so much fun." Despite this, Nora is determined to help Paige learn more about Hanukkah, and proceeds to throw a big party for the entire family. Sure, she overcompensates, but her intentions are undeniably pure: This episode also sees Nora learn that Paige is hoping God will help her with her diabetes diagnosis if she learns more about the Jewish faith.

"Light the Lights" is filled with beautiful details, including the story of Hanukkah, delicious looking food, and scenes of the family all coming together — basically, all the staples of a successful Hanukkah celebration. Paige learns that Hanukkah can be every bit as fun as Christmas, a refreshing fact to see acknowledged on television. The final shot even shows the ways the two holidays can coincide: We pan out to see everyone arriving for Christmas, as the menorah burns brightly.

Roseanne, aka The Chanukah Song episode (Saturday Night Live)

Admittedly, including this episode is a bit of a cheat, as we're only here to talk about one moment of this "Saturday Night Live" installment — but what a moment it is! This 1994 episode's host, Roseanne, and musical guest, Green Day, are not present: This scene is all about Adam Sandler. Sandler's "The Chanukah Song” made its debut during the Weekend Update sketch and changed the holiday forever. The song has remained an essential cultural touchstone ever since its introduction — at this point, there's a whole generation of Jewish kids who've never known the world without it. 

Before singing, Sandler explains that the holiday season always made him feel left out as a kid, as there were countless Christmas songs but just one ("I Have a Little Dreidel") for Hanukkah. So, he decided to write his own. "The Chanukah Song" names a whole host of Jewish celebrities, to help Jewish kids (and adults) feel less left out. Sure, Sandler argues, you don't have Santa, but you do have David Lee Roth, Goldie Hawn, and even Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. This undeniably catchy tune helps all those celebrating feel less alone, while also letting the laughter flow. Sandler's performance immediately established itself as a hilarious, touching, and legendary moment in Hanukkah-related television, while the song is an absolute must-listen every year. It's proved so influential, in fact, that Sandler has kept it regularly updated.

The 8 Defensive Points of Hanukkah (The League)

"The 8 Defensive Points of Hanukkah" deserves a spot for its world-class title alone, but it's also a true work of art. "The League" follows a group of friends who compete against one another in a fantasy football league. Like many football fanatics, they treat the league with utmost seriousness. In this episode, Jenny (Katie Aselton) is on the verge of winning the league for the first time, and only Andre (Paul Scheer) stands in her way. Meanwhile, Ruxin (Nick Kroll) and his sister Rebecca (Lizzy Caplan) are getting ready for Hanukkah. When Jenny does win the league, it's declared a Hanukkah miracle. The gang proceeds to get positively blasphemous in a church. 

Though it's not overly focused on the holiday itself, this episode is full of laughs and some funny references to the titular festival. Be warned, though: "The League" is definitely for adults, so don't watch with your children!

The Hanukkah Story (The Nanny)

"The Nanny" stars Fran Drescher as Fran Fine, an unapologetically Jewish woman from Queens who ends up entangled with the high-class Sheffield family. Such a bold portrayal is still pretty rare on television screens, making the show a watershed moment in TV history. Beyond all that historical significance, "The Nanny" is also absolutely hilarious, and Fran is an irresistible lead.

Season 6's "The Hanukkah Story" is all about celebrating the first night of the Festival of Lights. Fran is devastated to learn her husband Maxwell (Charles Shaughnessy) has to leave town for the day, and is all the more distraught when he gets into an accident during a snowstorm. Luckily, a miracle occurs, much like the one at the heart of the holiday. This episode features all the staples of a great Hanukkah episode: A lesson in the origins of the holiday, the importance of family and traditions, and, of course, the anxiety that the holiday pales in comparison to the extravagance of Christmas. Drescher is in top form, and legendary musician Ray Charles even delivers a show-stopping musical performance. Now that's a Hanukkah special.

Soup (High Maintenance)

"High Maintenance" probably isn't the first show you'd think about when it comes to Hanukkah episodes. After all, it's about a wide-ranging group of New Yorkers who are all connected by their marijuana delivery guy. To fans of the show, however, it's probably not so surprising — "High Maintenance" also tackles Passover, and explores the lives of ex-Hasidic Jews with considerable tact.

In "Soup," the Season 4 finale, The Guy (Ben Sinclair), the show's central courier, spends time with his niece after terrible weather ruins their planned trip to Phoenix. He takes her back to his apartment, with the promise of doing "a little Hanukkah thing. We'll make latkes, we'll make matzo ball soup." What unfolds is a surprising, charming, and insightful conversation between two people about being Jewish in contemporary society. There are mentions of NFTY youth groups and Birthright trips, and even a glorious Chinese food dinner. Plus, there's a truly unique use of the shamash candle we guarantee you've never seen before.

Hanukkah (Dash and Lily)

You might not expect to find a Hanukkah episode in "Dash & Lily." The show is, after all, about two young romantics, Dash (Austin Abrams), and Lily (Midori Francis), whose bond develops as they pass a notebook back and forth over the Christmas season. But this show pulls out all the wintry stops possible, meaning it had to have an episode centered around Hanukkah.

Things kick into action when news spreads of a band called the Challah Back Boys (a moment of appreciation for this fabulous pun) playing a secret show on the seventh night of Hanukkah. Dash sees this as an opportunity to get Lily to expand her horizons and build her confidence, so he invites her via the notebook. Once Lily arrives, the party really starts. She's greeted by a Jewish drag queen, who refuses to let her in until she reveals something in her life she'd describe as a drag. Once she's in, Lily is treated to klezmer punk music, which is, as Lily's friend comments, "lit." The rockers even take a break from singing to share the story of Hanukkah from a punk perspective, emphasizing that the holiday is all about fighting oppression. It's a wonderful surprise and a refreshing take on the classic Hanukkah episode.

Festival of Lights (Elena of Avalor)

If you were asked if there's a Jewish Disney princess, you'd say no, right? Well, you'd technically be wrong, as the charming Disney Junior show "Elena of Avalor" introduces a Jewish princess towards the end of Season 3. Princess Rebecca of Galonia (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) arrives in Avalor with her brother Prince Ari (Julian Zane) and her Bubbie Miriam (Tovah Feldshuh) after their ship wrecks on its shores. They were headed home to celebrate Hanukkah, but this disaster throws their plans into disarray.

Thankfully, Elena and her family offer to help the Galonian family celebrate. This results in "On Hanukkah," a beautiful song sung by Princess Rebecca about the importance of Hanukkah and what it means to her family. The entire episode is devoted to the holiday, in fact, making it nothing short of a revelation, and undoubtedly the best Hanukkah episode in a children's show since the "Rugrats" episode aired in 1996. "Festival of Lights" is something of a Hanukkah miracle of its own, and well worth joining your own family's traditions.