A Muppet Christmas Carol. Elmo Saves Christmas. Muppet Family Christmas. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. The Christmas Toy. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. A Berry Bear Christmas. Elmo’s Christmas Countdown. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa. A Special Sesame Street Christmas. The Great Santa Claus Switch. John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. A Sesame Street Christmas Carol. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.
That. Is a lot of Christmas specials.
But what about the holiday for the kids who don’t get trees and stockings and tinsel? Hanukkah gets a bum rap from the Muppets.
Of course, we’ll always have the non-denominational and all-inclusive holiday specials, like The Bells of Fraggle Rock, Dinosaurs’ Refrigerator Day, and Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays!, but it’s just not the same. But do we kvetch about it? No! Well, maybe a little. But don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine over here in the corner with our dreidels, freezing to death because our ungrateful children never visit.
But really, don’t get me started on the Muppets and Kwanzaa.
The Muppets do have a hint of a history with the Festival of Lights. So let’s take a look at those references in declining order of length. Because really, why not?
25:00? – Celebrate!
In the Sesame Street coloring book “Celebrate!”, there are two whole pages dedicated to Hanukkah, one with the Count and Bert lighting a Menorah (Count looks like he’s counting the candles, so I guess Bert is… practicing his match-lighting so he can threaten Ernie the next time he eats cookies in Bert’s bed?), and another with Elmo and his mom making potato latkes. Note that Elmo has carelessly misspelled “Hannaka” in his picture on the refrigerator, thus continuing one of our fondest holiday traditions.
This entry receives a total running time of 25 minutes, because that’s probably how long it’d take to color both pages. Congratulations, coloring book! You’re officially the longest Hanukkah reference in Muppet history!
22:00 – Shalom Sesame: Chanukah
The only Muppet product with the name Hanukkah “Chanukah” in the title! In this episode, which Jewish Muppet fans watched religiously (pun intended) as kids, lame celebrities like Jeremy Miller and David Brenner celebrate the holiday and present some Muppet sketches in a foreign language. And if that doesn’t fully explain the majesty of the holiday, I really don’t know what else would.
BONUS: There’s a new Chanukah episode of Shalom Sesame from just a few months ago! Read more about it here.
10:00 – Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays!
This video is well-known to Muppet fans as being one of the only specials that actually addresses the birth of Jesus Christ as the origin of Christmas. But unlike the little Muppet Jesus from the John Denver special, Baby Natasha plays the role, with Bert and Rosita as Joseph and Mary, and a trio of Monsters as the Wise Men. And to follow up on that amazing bout of Muppified Magi, one Sesame Street character had to be picked to represent the people of the Jewish faith to teach everyone about Hanukkah. While we all expected it to be the Woody Allen-esque Telly, Baby Bear and his family became the chosen people (so to speak). Baby and Papa Bears spend a few minutes teaching Telly how to spin the dreidel, and Telly acts way more excited about it than any Jewish child ever did. But I’m glad Telly and Baby Bear got to have fun with their top while the rest of us Jewish children envied the other kids with their Christmas decorations and TV specials and easy-to-pronounce holidays.
The Hanukkah segment also has a film of a family celebrating the holiday and a cartoon from “The Hanukkah Channel”, which tries really hard to make long-lasting oil sound as awesome as the birth of the messiah. And then Elmo wishes his TV a happy Hanukkah, because he knows that the entertainment industry is run by the Jews.
Okay, I admit, I’ve never actually seen this two-part episode, but from what I’ve heard, Hanukkah (spelled “Chanukah” this time) gets one little shout-out, which would normally be enough for me. But that shout-out comes in the form of a story from Shadow, the most boring faceless little girl in the history of Playhouse Disney. And immediately afterward, Bear goes back to teaching the homeless stray dog about the true meaning of commercialism Christmas.
Perhaps the best-known Hanukkah shout-out comes from this special, when Bob takes a half-second out of the plotlines involving the Santa Claus mystery, Bert and Ernie’s Gift of the Magi, and Cookie Monster’s failed communication with the North Pole to wish Mr. Hooper a happy Hanukkah. Mr. Hooper looks a little taken aback to hear those words on Sesame Street, thanks Bob, and then continues to celebrate with the gentiles.
0:01 – Letters to Santa
The briefest Hanukkah celebration by far is Zoot’s (almost) line of dialog in Letters to Santa. As the Muppets pour into Jane Krakowski’s apartment, Zoot lets out a breathy “Happy Hanukkah”, although it sounds a bit more like “Huppuh Hunnuuuuhh.” And then he probably went to take a nap in the bathtub. In a deleted scene (which I haven’t seen because I haven’t convinced myself to pony up the cash for the Letters to Santa DVD), Zoot is seen lighting a menorah. But I don’t think that counts to the scene’s total running time since it was cut. In fact, it should probably negate the one second we issued it, but I think we can let it slide. Tis the season and all!
Happy Hanukkah, Muppet fans!
Click here to make one out of clay on the ToughPigs forum!
by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com