Festive Rewind: Rugrats “A Rugrats Chanukah”

18 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Andrew Rabin talks about “A Rugrats Chanukah” in today’s festive guest post.


If you Google “list of Chanukah episodes,” a surprising 16.8 million results pop up (interestingly, if you Google it with any other spelling of the holiday, only 520,000 results appear). The first link is a list of “The Top 8 Chanukah TV Episodes of All Time.” I do not know who wrote this list, but it is notable in two ways- only five of the eight listings are actually episodes of television, and only three of those five are actually Chanukah episodes.

The second link is the Wikipedia page for “A Rugrats Chanukah.”

Between June, 1994 and May, 1997, nearly a three year span, Nickelodeon aired only two new episodes of Rugrats; “Passover,” on April 15, 1995, and “A Rugrats Chanukah” on December 6, 1996. Most kids, me included, certainly did not realize that the episodes airing in between were all reruns. But I certainly noticed that these two episodes existed.

“A Rugrats Chanukah,” like its predecessor, does away with the two cartoon-per-episode format that existed for most of Rugrats run. It starts, again echoing the Passover episode, with Tommy and the babies playing the roles of the Chanukah story. Tommy even alters his catchphrase, pronouncing that “a Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do.”

The episode quickly shifts, however, to a modern day story centered on Grandpa Boris putting on a play at the local synagogue telling the meaning of Chanukah. When Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, and Lil hear this as the “meanie of Chanukah,” they decide he must be defeated. This leads to their entertaining, if standard, shenanigans, and a strange confrontation between Boris and his friend Shlomo, which concludes in the revelation that Shlomo could not have children. Even the most Chanukah-heavy episode gets derailed.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode is Angelica’s storyline. All Angelica wants to do is watch the Cynthia Christmas Special. Angelica is, as always the antagonist to Tommy’s protagonist. This puts the show in the position as having the one character who is interested in celebrating Christmas, even if it is just because of her love of Cynthia rather than some deep religious beliefs, on the “bad” side. It comes off, at least at some level, as portraying Christmas as less important than Chanukah, if not flat out worse.

“A Rugrats Chanukah” is not a great episode of television, or even a great episode of Rugrats. Heck, it’s not even the best Jewish-holiday themed Rugrats episode (and I’ll be happy to come back in the spring when you ask everyone to write about their favorite Easter episodes). But Rugrats was also willing to teach kids about the non-mainstream holiday, something even most adult shows avoid. It serves its purpose. And it’s what we’ve got.

Andrew Rabin is very nearly, but not officially, a lawyer. If you want to read more from him, check him out on Twitter @arrabin56. If you want to read less from him, his blog is almost never updated, so that seems like a good bet.


One Response to “Festive Rewind: Rugrats “A Rugrats Chanukah””


  1. Festive Rewind: Frasier “Merry Christmas Mrs. Moskowitz” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 20, 2013

    […] a Chanukah miracle! Andrew Rabin discussed Rugats and its lackluster take on Chanukah earlier in the feature, and now I present you with “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz” […]

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