Target, Macy’s, Carter’s, Old Navy… Name a major American brand or store, and chances are they’re selling some sort of Hanukkah swag this year.
This, as many of us may remember, was not always the case. Until recent decades, the Hanukkah marketplace was, as we say in Yiddish, a bit “shvach” (underwhelming). Hanukkah merch, such as it was, mostly consisted of basic ritual items like menorahs, dreidels and chocolate gelt.
During my millennial childhood in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Hanukkah marketplace was in its nascent stages — there were many types of hanukkiyot (menorahs) available, but other Hanukkah merchandise and holiday-themed gifts for kids were fairly hard to come by. The most standout Hanukkah item that I can recall were those sparkly, sheer dreidels with candy inside — which, I hasten to add, you can still buy today!
Since that time, Hanukkah gifts have moved from paper catalogs to Judaica shops and synagogue gift shops, to national retailers and, by extension, the wide world of online shopping. Along each step along the way, the Hanukkah gift market has expanded, diversified and turned Hanukkah into the real deal — a BIG deal — at least with regards to consumer spending!
These days, you can purchase an impressive array of Hanukkah-themed products, from home decor to dog costumes to matching pajamas. This year, with Hanukkah starting the weekend of Thanksgiving (i.e. less potential for Christmas envy!), one might think there would be fewer new products. However, this year’s Hanukkah merch has surprisingly reached a new — and perhaps outrageous — level.
I’ve scoured the internet and here are 2021’s most bizarre, most random Hanukkah finds:
1) Dreidel Mini Waffle Maker, $12.99
Have you ever thought to yourself: Latkes are great and all, but what Hanukkah really needs are some waffles! If so, then this Dreidel Mini Waffle Maker is for you! If you’re wondering which Hebrew letter your waffle will land on, there are no surprises here; your waffle will be a toss-up between the Hebrew letters “hey” and “gimmel” (for half or all of the gelt, respectively). At least this brand had a dreidel-playing pro on their team!
2) Holiday Armadillo Baby One-Piece, $22
“Friends” fans, you may recall the “The One with the Holiday Armadillo” episode, where Ross dresses up as a “Holiday Armadillo” (a “part-Jewish friend”) who ends up teaching his son about Hanukkah. The Holiday Armadillo made a huge comeback this year, when actress Cara Delevingne appeared in “Friends: The Reunion,” wearing Ross’ actual costume!
These Holiday Armadillo one-pieces commemorate that iconic, Hanukkah-adjacent episode. The design also comes in youth and adult sizes — I may need to get them for my preschooler and kindergartener, in hopes that they, too, will take on my love for “Friends” reruns!
We certainly want to include our canine and feline friends in our Hanukkah festivities (hence their matching Hanukkah pajamas), but before we jump to create a cat house, maybe someone could come up with a children’s Hanukkah playhouse? (Which my kids would totally insist on keeping out year round, BTW!) As fun as this item is, I don’t think our fur babies know or care what Jewish holiday it is.
4) Alpargata Menorah Shoes, $59.95
Toms FTW! Honestly I’d wear these shoes year-round and I’m a bit jealous that I didn’t think of making these first! TOM’s Hanukkah-themed alpargata slip-ons come in navy with a glow-in-the dark (!) menorah pattern or in white with a very modern dreidel pattern. Lined with faux fur, these shoes look like they’d be comfortable and cozy.
5) Hanukkah Hooded Blanket, $20
Yes, this blanket is more than a bit creepy. This hooded blanket had the potential to land as a Harry Potter-meets-Judah Maccabee cape, but, alas, it fell far short of that. As Kveller’s Lior Zaltzman puts it: “Is this [hooded blanket] meant to be… the spirit of Hanukkah? And if it is the spirit of my favorite wintertime Jewish holiday, why do I want to run, screaming, away from it?”
However, my family actually owns this item, and I can attest that this throw-over is unbelievably cozy and the menorah hood is cushioned, making this blankie perfect for cuddling up reading (non-creepy) Hanukkah bedtime stories!
6) Spreading the Holiday Schmear Sweater, $59.95
I love the look of this sweater, except there’s one peculiar issue: bagels are not a traditional Hanukkah food. Where are our latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) — or even schmaltz (chicken or goose fat)? In Ashkenazi communities, latkes were originally made with schmaltz. Certainly, “spreading the holiday schmaltz” has a nice ring to it and is worthy of a sweater (or a T-shirt at least)?
Nonetheless, I appreciate how this sweater’s strange message can be worn throughout the holiday season (read: December) without seeming out-of-date — bagels are an anytime food, after all.
7) Hanukkah Cappuccino Stencils, $13.97
Hanukkah cookies, I get… but Hanukkah coffee? Though I’d definitely classify these “cappuccino stencils” as a non-essential Hanukkah item, I admit that I’m very impressed with the attention to detail here. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate how this is an unusual way to add some Hanukkah flair to that caffeine boost we will all certainly need once we awake from our Thanksgiving-weekend slumber. After all, we’ll have to muster up energy for eight nights of Hanukkah!
Calling all Deadheads: Have we got a Hanukkah surprise for you! This “officially licensed” Grateful Dead Dancing Bear Hanukkah Bobblehead is sure to be an unexpected addition to your Hanukkah festivities — plus, this kippah-wearing figurine is way groovier than Mensch on a Bensch. Though the Grateful Dead has a long and well-documented history of Jewish fandom — despite having only one Jewish band member, drummer Mickey Hart — we’re still left wondering what the connection is between the band and Hanukkah. If you know, please let us know!