You Won't Believe It: Hallmark made a Hanukkah movie that isn't about Christmas
For the past three years, I’ve taken it upon myself to watch the Hallmark Channel’s annual Hanukkah movie that they plop in the middle of the Christmas season (for our purposes, Hallmark movies also includes Lifetime movie). These movies usually have a couple things in common; they’re released halfway through Hanukkah, feature someone wearing royal blue, have a character with a name like Rachel Goldman. But most importantly, they completely overestimate the importance of Hanukkah to any Jewish adult.
I used to think it was absurd for Hallmark to make such a big deal out of an objectively unimportant holiday. I still think that, but I also realized it’s the exact same thing they do with their Christmas movies. For many people, Christmas is a time they have to go hang out with annoying family and pretend to love their new sweater from Kohl’s. But in Hallmark movies, Christmas is all about finding love, baking a hundred cookies, and wearing a red dress to a holiday party where you get a promotion at the advertising firm (which you turn down to move back to your small town). While Hanukkah is like, the fifth most meaningful holiday in Judaism, it’s the most visible to mainstream culture because capitalism blah blah etc. The consumerism around Christmas is too intoxicating, and there are too many sales. Jews love sales.
Ok, so on to Eight Gifts of Hanukkah, Hallmark’s least egregious Hanukkah film yet. The previous ones have always involved a gentile learning about Hanukkah as if it’s some complex, exotic thing, instead of what it is, a few night when you light candles and eat fried food. What’s most impressive about this movie, is that Hallmark managed to not center Christmas at all. Historically, these movies movies have always, ultimately, been about Christmas.
The protagonist is Sarah Levin (obviously), an optometrist who has an optometry practice called Eye See You. She is also played by the most beautiful actress I’ve ever seen in a Hallmark movie, so it only makes sense that her character has like 8 suitors, including her ex-boyfriend, a patient, a famous chef named Nigel Templeton, and the guy she actually ends up with, her childhood friend/best friend/contractor Daniel Myer (obviously). Sarah begins receiving anonymous gifts each night of Hanukkah, and is trying to figure out which of her suitors is sending them (it’s Daniel).
Below are various thoughts and notes I took on this movie, as I watched stoned on the last night of Hanukkah.
Having a British person in Hallmark movie feels out of place, so un-American for them.
British chef is named Nigel Templeton. They might as well have named him Cambridge McOxfordshire.
Her contractor is renovating part of her optometry office and he says “everything should be done by the last night of Hanukkah.” What an insane way to measure time.
At one point Daniel (contractor) is giving Sarah advice because she is forlorn and he pulls a HUGE wood dreidel out of his back pocket and “here have this, I made it in high school for your grandma”
(I guess he had divorce parents so latched onto her family growing up)
Sarah’s house has a lot of Hanukkah decorations, including at least 10 menorahs. Not normal.
Sarah says “it’s my favorite time of year you know” about Hanukkah, which, again is not something I’ve ever heard an adult say.
Her mom is a judge and her dad is a lawyer and they really lean into jokes about it (“he lost the case but he won my heart”)
Sarah’s coworker doesn’t get a reference to the Forrest Gump line “life is like a box of chocolates,” which is probably the most famous American movie line of all time
Sarah’s fashion is confounding. She’s dressed like Katherine Hepburn somehow? She’s always wearing very high-waisted trousers and little vests. Like ⅔ of a 3-piece suit
Sarah is on a committee at the JCC to throw a Hanukkah party called the “mazel ball.” My friend Jes said it should’ve been called the matzoh ball.
Her family gets together for dinner every single night of Hanukkah. They make latkes and brisket every night.
Her mom says “this guy is almost as wonderful as your father.”
This movie keeps making weird opaque references to the holocaust, like saying describing her grandmother as a “survivor” and saying her grandparents met on “the trolley.”
I didn’t see the last 15 minutes because Hallmark kicked me out and I couldn’t get back but I’m sure Sarah and Daniel got together and went on to have Jewish contractor babies wearing glasses.