Cheryl F. Coon is the author of Books to Grow With: A Guide to the Best Children's Fiction for Everyday Issues and Tough Challenges. Cheryl lives with her husband and children in Portland, Ore.
Chrismukkah: O.C.'s Answer to the December Dilemma
Welcome to "The O.C.", a popular television show about Orange County, California and some of its inhabitants. "The O.C." focuses on two families and their teenage children: the Cohens, an interfaith family, and the Coopers, a family struggling with divorce and unemployment. "The O.C". is also the place where the Cohens, the interfaith family, are portrayed as having no faith at all, particularly in the holiday episode "Chrismukkah". As Seth Cohen describes it, Chrismukkah, a combined celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah, solves the December dilemma for interfaith families by blending both holidays.
But as we see in this episode, Chrismukkah is a holiday without meaning. It's just a matter of what gift-wrap and music to choose, and how many days to give and get presents. Chrismukkah is portrayed as a holiday so dedicated to material consumption that no one bothers to consider what either holiday really signifies. When foster son Ryan doesn't have enough money for presents, this "reminds" Seth of the miracle of Hanukkah. But apparently it's a story Seth hasn't heard very often, because he describes it as a holiday celebrating Moses. Huh? To Seth Cohen, Chrismukkah is even better than Hanukkah or Christmas because, as he explains to Ryan, you have "Jesus working for you but you also have Moses!" Can you blame Ryan for looking bewildered?
We do hear "Happy Hanukkah" once in the show. It's said sarcastically by the Christian father-in-law to his Jewish son-in-law, when the Jew manipulates the Christian into doing what he wants, albeit for a good cause. To be fair, Christmas doesn't look much more appealing. But at least it's visible. Throughout the show, this blended holiday appears to consist of all things Christmassy, with a single menorah on the mantle.
I wanted to get reactions from a younger crowd, so I turned to Television without Pity (www.televisionwithoutpity.com), a great place to take the pulse of a different generation. While several teen posters were confused about the reference to Moses, few objected to the blended holiday concept. One poster wrote, "I love Chrismukkah! I love that Seth has combined two religious holidays in a mocking, irreverant [sic] way...Seth is the new Linus, showing us the way."
For my interfaith family, this isn't the way at all. We have chosen to raise our children as Jews and our holiday observance reflects that choice--in this season, we celebrate only Hanukkah.
Whether or not "The O.C." truly reflects the practices of any interfaith families, this particular episode provides a powerful argument against blended holidays. Then again, maybe that's the real message the writers were trying to convey.