Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ugly Christmas Sweaters... But for Hanukkah

From Lior Zaltzman's article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA.org)

Ever since I moved here from Israel, every late November felt like the beginning of a month-long assault. Every store, business and doctor’s office blared Christmas songs, streets were decorated with ostentatious light shows and seemingly everything became green and red — which, as an art school grad, I found personally offensive to my design sensibilities.

Then there were the Christmas sweaters. I admit I have a love of tacky knitwear — but I couldn’t get behind these garish monstrosities that flaunted a holiday that I didn’t celebrate but couldn’t escape from.

So I was thrilled when, three years ago, I saw a friend at a holiday party wearing a cozy sweater with a familiar pattern on it — dreidels with Hebrew letters, perfectly if garishly designed. I ran across the room and accosted her. “Where did you get that sweater?!”

That was the beginning of my love affair with Hanukkah knitwear. I now have about half-dozen Hanukkah wearables. My favorite is a cardigan called “The Spinster,” the same one I saw at that party, with big, nostalgic corozo buttons. Yes, I have way more sweaters than I probably need, but I treasure them. They feel like my armor in the war that Christmas seems to be waging against me every time the holiday season comes around.

Since then, the Hanukkah knitwear market has grown significantly. While there are fewer Hanukkah sweaters than the Christmas variety — for obvious reasons — nowadays you can find everything from cute cardigans at Target done up with hanukkiot and boxed gifts to more controversial pieces, like the borderline misogynistic one sold (and later pulled) at Nordstrom last year. There’s an abundance of cheap, cheerful Hanukkah options on Etsy — heck, even Whoopi Goldberg jumped on the Hanukkah sweater bandwagon this season with a cutesy, bejeweled octopus design.

seth-rogen-hanukkah-sweater-chanukah
Jewish Actor Seth Rogen in a Jewish Star Hanukkah Sweater

The Hanukkah sweater, like American-style Hanukkah itself, is a custom that expanded in a “what about us?” reaction to Christmas celebrations. “Ugly Christmas sweater parties” have been a thing since the early 2000s, although it wasn’t until a decade later that Time magazine noted the trend in an article declaring that “the tops are bigger than ever, but in a very hipstery, oh-so-ironic way.”