Chanukah is less than a week away, starting on December 6th! Whether you are Jewish and celebrating Chanukah or just want to educate your child about other cultures and religions, below are the top 8 episodes including Chanukah! The first five are exclusively Chanukah episodes, the next three are holiday episodes with a significant portion dedicated to Chanukah.
Chanukah episodes can be difficult to track down, please leave any additional suggestions in the comments! I use the Chanukah/Hanukkah spelling used in the episode in each description for consistency.
Exclusively Chanukah Episodes:
1. Shalom Sesame Street – The Missing Menorah
If you are looking for a Holiday special focused on Chanukah, this would be my number one choice! The episode is educational, fun, and has impeccable attention to detail. For instance, when Count is counting to 8, the keys on his organ shout the Hebrew number. It is educational but still fun and silly in the typical Sesame Street format. The story that threads the segments together is Anneliese playing with her friends then losing her Menorah, then searching to find it before sundown. What else can you expect? Kids in Israeli explaining why they love Chanukah. Symbols from the month of Kislev (November 13-December 12 in 2015). A boy and his mother demonstrate how they make the oil for their menorah. Words that start with the Hebrew letters Zayin and Chet. There are lots of dreidels, traditional Chanukah foods, and lighting of menorahs. The traditional story of Chanukah is told in cartoon narrated by a Veronica Monica (originally from an Elmo’s world episode, you can find the clip here). The story of Judah rebuilding the temple is told through Extreme Makeover- Temple Edition. At the end, Grover explores Bet Guvrin, which are underground caves.
Shalom Sesame has a YouTube channel here with lots of clips related to Chanukah and Judiasm.
Available on: Amazon, iTunes
This is an old special, from the 1980s. But luckily muppet fashion is timeless, and this video is still one of the best Chanukah shows you can find. The show begins with a no nonsense Bubbe explaining dreidels, the menorah, the basic meaning and other aspects about Chanukah to the clueless delivery boy who doesn’t know much about Chanukah (this special was created by animators who went on to design the Simpsons, you may see some similarities). All of Bubbe’s friends and family arrive at her boarding house to celebrate the last night of Chanukah. The make potato latkes, tell the story of Chanukah, and explain the meaning behind the dreidel. There is a long running joke about Tomato latkes instead of Potatoe latkes (including a hard to listen to song) which felt a bit out of place. There are a lot of jokes and original Chanukah songs to make the episode great for any age group!
3. The Big, Big Present/Hanukah Plunder Blunder
This two part episode follows Clifford and the puppies during Hanukah. Unlike the other specials, it is not necessary all about telling the story of Hanukah, and more about Clifford and his friends celebrating Hanukah.
In the ‘Big, Big Present’ Clifford’s kitten friends are excited to open their last gift on the eighth day of Hanukah. They explain the basic reason for lighting the menorahs, but the focus is on getting to open a present each night. The kittens show Clifford their traditional Hanukah foods of latkes and sufganiyot. When the puppy and kittens are playing with the dreidel, they accidentally break the menorah. The kittens are very upset they might not be able to celebrate the last night of Hanukah, which particularly upsetting because this would mean no presents. In the end they are able to build their own menorah and light the candles. However, the kittens are so busy having fun playing and spending time with family they decide to open their Hanukah present later.
In the ‘Hanukah Plunder, Blunder’ the kittens explain to Clifford the reason for celebrating Hanukah. The kitten Zo is so excited he opens up all eight of his Hanakah presents on the first night. The kittens’ owner is not upset, but says Zo will not have any new presents to open each night. The second night of Hanakah Zo becomes very sad that he has ruined the surprise each night. His sister Flo comforts him that each night he will still get to enjoy lighting the menorah, seeing family, and eating latkes. Flo selflessly offers to let him help her open the presents each night.
The episode may be the most popular special, partially because it is enjoyable to watch by both adults and toddlers, which is important around the holidays. The Rugrat babies tell their simple version of the story of Chanukah, with quite a few liberties taken. They start in their telling of the story as the MacaBabies and compare the ruined city to their messy room. Your child should be able to learn the general story of Chanukah, learn to pronounce Chanukah as told by a Jewish Grandmother, and have a few laughs. There is a subplot with Tommy’s grandfather and an old rival performing a play at the Synogoue as well. Overall, I would show this to my son as a cute story about Chanukah, mainly because there are not a lot of other options. Angelika’s behavior throughout this episode and all Rugrats episodes is unacceptable bullying, which is often included to provide comedic moments. If you chose to watch Rugrats with your kids I would be prepared to discuss the behavior with your child and make it clear that it is unacceptable, and perhaps discuss strategies for dealing with bullies. Schlomo, the grandfather’s rival, has one great line at the end of the show demonstrating the importance of Chanukah, “A menorah is, uh, like the nightlight of our people. In times of darkness it shines on the whole world reminding us not to be afraid to be different, but to be proud who we are.”
Available on: Amazon, iTunes
5. Coming December 7th to PBS…Judith’s Happy Chanukah
This show has yet to air, but I was excited one of my favorite series is airing a Chanukah episode and decided to include it. It will premier on December 7th at 12 pm EST if you have cable and would like to watch it live. I will update this post with my review after it has aired and information on any streaming sites that allow you to watch.
PBS Description:”Whyatt is excited to have been invited to Red’s Gramma’s house to celebrate Chanukah, but doesn’t know much about the holiday. To learn more, the Super Readers jump into the book Judith’s Happy Chanukah where they meet Judith, who loves Chanukah so much that she can’t wait to share it with her new friends. Educational Objectives: To learn about holiday traditions. Kids will play with the alphabet and identify the letters C, O, I, N, and S. They’ll learn the word LATKES, rhyme -OIL words, and use the power to read to change the story and make both Red’s and Judith’s Chanukah celebrations special.”
Looking for more exclusively Chanukah videos? Chabob.org offers many short cartoon video clips about Chanukah including a three part Muppet miniseries, Itche Kadoozy Chanukah.
Holiday Episodes including Chanukah:
This holiday special is not your typical one, the main theme is actually recycling! The episode shows the kids what their town would be like if they didn’t recycle and what an integral part of our life recycling is. This very musical episode features Dolly Parton as Ms. Frizzle’s sister. Christmas and the Nutcracker is mentioned by a few students, but Chanukah is actually the main holiday discussed. Arnold has to spend the first night of Chanukah on the train to see his mother instead of seeing the Nutcracker with the rest of the class. The class decides to surprise him on the train to celebrate with him, and Wanda gives him a gift. The group sings several recycling songs to the tune of ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas.’
Available on: Amazon, Netflix
7. Elmo’s World Holiday Special
This hour long holiday special is perfect for teaching your child about many holiday’s around the world during the winter time. Elmo is looking for the perfect gift for his goldfish Dorothy. While looking for the perfect gift he learns about Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa. The episode includes information about both the religious backstories and the secular aspects of each holiday such as Santa, food, dances and games. Each section is well done with both information and entertainment. My favorite is Elmo doing the Kwanza dance, which you can watch on YouTube as well. Children talking about the holiday they celebrate also mention Ramadan and Three Kings day, but there are not many details discussed. This is a great choice for a young toddler and one of the most educational choices.
Available on: Amazon, iTunes
8. Arthur’s Perfect Christmas
This hour long holiday special includes Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza. The main plot revolves around Arthur and his quest for the perfect Christmas. Francine is a Jewish character on Arthur and she misses her best friend Muffy’s Christmas Party because it is the last night of Hanukkah which she celebrates with her family. Muffy is upset with Francine until she goes to Francine’s house and Francine explains the importance of Hanukkah to her. Traditional Jewish dishes are brought to Francines house, the family gathers around the menorah and sings, and Francine spends time with her family. The clip of this part of the episode is available on PBS. Francine’s father then says that since they do not celebrate Christmas, the family goes to the movies every Christmas, which might resonate with many Jewish families. The episode is primarily about Christmas, but this Hanukkah plot is woven throughout the story, along with Kwanza holiday information. The episode does not discuss the religious aspects of any holiday.
If your child does celebrate Christmas this episode does have a few thinly veiled references about the existence of Santa Claus that I think some elementary school students would be able to see through. The mother is shown at the mall and unable to find a gift she wants. Then it cuts to the mother talking to D.W. an explaining that lots of children want the same gift so not all kids can get exactly what they want from Santa Claus. Buster’s mother also keeps bringing out all the presents like its Christmas morning every day for a week, this is also confusing because if the gifts are from Santa, why is Buster’s mother bringing them out. DW, as always, behaves poorly, but this can be discussed as inappropriate behavior with your child (tantrums, greediness, impatience, rudeness).
Available on: Amazon, iTunes