The Commercialization of Hanukkah

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In the United States, Fisher Price has mass-produced a special play set for Hanukkah as part of its "Little People" holiday series, which includes nativity scenes and the multicultural "Families in Your Neighborhood" collection. With its introduction, the American toy company is also responding to a growing US trend.

Hanukkah-themed toys

“Little People Hanukkah Play Set” by Fisher Price; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Hanukkah and Christmas

Actually, Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar. It is a festival of light celebrated in the home with ceremonial candle-lighting and the eating of traditional, deep-fried, oily foods. This winter holiday usually falls during the Christmas season, sometimes coinciding with Christmas day itself. Meanwhile, Christmas has become increasingly commercialized over the past decades, particularly in the United States, and Jews living as a cultural and religious minority are bombarded with relentless Christmas marketing. Not only children are allured by a magical, twinkling Christmas tree or the whiff of gingerbread. In a struggle to assert and maintain their identity, increasing numbers of Jewish families have made Hanukkah into a more important festival: it is widely observed with glowing Hanukkah lamps, fresh potato pancakes, and competitive light decorations.

Color-Coded Wrapping Paper

But what about the gift dilemma? Gifts are not traditionally given on Hanukkah, but on this point capitulation has been the preferred solution for many. The US gift industry has noticed this trend and begun developing Hanukkah products, from festival hand towels to dog toys. Even wrapping paper colors are codified: red and green for Christmas, blue and white for Hanukkah.

Title Little People Chanukka Play Set
Manufacturer Fisher Price
Collection Judaica
Location and year of origin China, about 2003–2005
Medium Plastic, cardboard, metal
Dimensions Various, height: 4.5–11.5 cm, width 4–17.8 cm
Acquisition Donation
Selected Objects (6) Judaica Collection Show all

Judaica Collection

Our collection of ceremonial objects ranges widely from a valuable eighteenth-century Torah curtain donated by Formet and Moses Mendelssohn to contemporary ritual items to small kitchen supplies for following Jewish dietary laws.

Seder Plate by Harriete Estel Berman

What is unusual about this contemporary seder plate is its additional recess for an orange, marking a new custom which has found growing popularity among feminists in recent decades.

Scouring Pads

“No more kitchen confusion!” Three color-coded scrub brushes from the US make it easier to keep track of Jewish dietary rules.

Torah Ornaments by Kurt Matzdorf

The artist Kurt J. Matzdorf is known for his modern interpretations. Alongside the classic materials of silver and gold, he used colored acrylic for his Judaica.

Torah Curtain Donated by the Mendelssohns

Moses and Fromet Mendelssohn commissioned a Torah curtain, probably using the fabric from Fromet's wedding dress, and donated it to a synagogue in Berlin in 1774–75.

Hanukkah Toys

Traditionally, the Jewish festival of lights doesn’t involve presents. But like Christmas, Hanukkah too is increasingly commercialized, and there is already color-coded gift wrap in the US.

Purim Costume

This costume of the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, should have been a top seller for Purim. But then a tragic accident occurred.


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