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A Rugrats Chanukah facts for kids

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"A Rugrats Chanukah"
Rugrats episode
A cartoon of an elderly man lighting a Menorah. He is bald and wearing a Kippah. At his feet are three toddlers; two are on their hands and knees, the other is standing. To their right are two infants sitting on a large brown dog. One infant is bald and wearing a nappy; the other is wearing a t-shirt and shorts.
Promotional artwork "A Rugrats Chanukah" featuring Grandpa Boris and the Rugrats lighting the Menorah.
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 1
Directed by Raymie Muzquiz
Written by
  • J. David Stem
  • David N. Weiss
Production code 999
Original air date December 4, 1996 (1996-12-04)
Guest appearance(s)
  • Fyvush Finkel as Shlomo
  • Ron Leibman as Rabbi / Old Man
  • Alan Rachins as Lowell / Greek Bully / Donut Man
  • Alan Rosenberg as Mr. Dreidel / TV Announcer
  • Bruce Young Berman as Parade Crooner
  • Mt. Zion's Women Choir
    • Edie Lehmann - Choir Leader
    • Joan Beal
    • Susan Boyd
    • Linda Harmon
    • Luana Jackman
    • Susan McBride
    • Bobbi Page
    • Sally Stevens
    • Carmen Twillie
Episode chronology
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"A Rugrats Passover"
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List of Rugrats episodes

"A Rugrats Chanukah", titled onscreen as simply "Chanukah" and sometimes called the "Rugrats Chanukah Special", is a special episode of Nickelodeon's animated television series Rugrats. The first episode of the show's fourth season and the sixty-sixth overall, it tells the story of the Jewish holiday Chanukah through the eyes of the Rugrats, who imagine themselves as the main characters. Meanwhile, Grandpa Boris and his long-time rival, Shlomo, feud over who will play the lead in the local synagogue's Chanukah play. Since most American children's television programs have Christmas specials, this is the first Chanukah episode of a children's television series.

Raymie Muzquiz directed "A Rugrats Chanukah" from a script by J. David Stem and David N. Weiss. In 1992, Nickelodeon executives had pitched the idea of a Chanukah special to the production team, but the concept was revised and became the 1995 special, "A Rugrats Passover". After production of the Passover episode wrapped, the crew returned to the Chanukah idea. Nickelodeon broadcast "A Rugrats Chanukah" on December 4, 1996; the episode received a Nielsen rating of 7.9 and positive reviews from television critics. Along with other Rugrats episodes featuring Boris and his wife, the special attracted controversy when the Anti-Defamation League compared the character designs to anti-Semitic drawings from a 1930s Nazi newspaper.

Plot

On Chanukah, Grandma Minka reads a book about the meaning of the holiday to the babies Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil. The babies imagine that they are the story's characters; Judah (Tommy) is outraged by King "Antonica", who has taken over the Jewish kingdom and forced Greek culture on its inhabitants. Judah leads an army of Jewish "Maccababies" to war against Antonica's Seleucid Empire, emerging victorious. The story is left unfinished as Minka stops to help make latkes in the kitchen with her daughter Didi.

Meanwhile, Grandpa Boris is furious that Shlomo, a rival from his youth in Russia, is pictured in the local newspaper for playing the Greek king in the local synagogue's Chanukah play, where Boris is portraying Judah. The babies find out about Shlomo and form the impression that he truly is the Greek king, whom they dub the "Meanie of Chanukah". At the play that night, they attempt to storm on stage to defeat the "Meanie of Chanukah", but are stopped and taken into the synagogue's nursery. Angelica is in the nursery already and, vehement in her desire to watch a Christmas special that is airing that night, convinces the babies to help her break out and steal a television set from the custodian's office.

Boris and Shlomo begin fighting on stage during the play, interrupting the production and inciting an intermission. Backstage, Shlomo, and Boris argue once more, with Boris mentioning Shlomo's dedication to his business pursuits over familial values. Shlomo informs Boris that he and his late wife were unable to bear children, making Boris feel sympathy for his rival. Angelica sprints backstage, bumping into Shlomo and inadvertently destroying the television set. Shlomo unsuccessfully tries to console her, but eventually lets Boris take over. Tommy hands Shlomo the Chanukah story book Minka read to the babies earlier; Boris convinces Shlomo to read it to the children. In the conclusion of the story, the Maccabees rededicate the Holy Temple, and discover that there is only enough oil to light the Temple's eternal flame for one day; miraculously, it remains lit for eight. Shlomo's reciting dissolves both the babies' assertion of him as the "Meanie of Chanukah" and his and Boris' rivalry.

Production

Nickelodeon executives first pitched the idea of making a Chanukah special to the Rugrats production team in 1992. Paul Germain, the show's co-creator, responded with the concept of a Passover special instead, as he considered it to be a "funny idea" and of "historical interest". "A Rugrats Passover" was completed in 1995; the show was one of the first animated television series to produce a special for a Jewish holiday. After production wrapped on "A Rugrats Passover", the crew considered creating the Chanukah special that Nickelodeon had originally pitched. The episode was written by David Stem and David Weiss, and directed by Raymie Muzquiz. By the time Weiss came to write the teleplay, he had abandoned Christianity and converted to Judaism.

Paramount Home Video finished production of the home media version in July 1997; originally scheduling a release date of October that year, Paramount instead pushed the official VHS release into 1998. In time for Christmas 1997, Paramount released the video Nickelodeon Holiday, which featured "A Rugrats Chanukah" and other holiday specials, such as "Hey Arnold!'s Christmas" for US$12.95 ($17.19 in 2022). On August 31, 2004, Paramount also released a DVD compilation titled Rugrats Holiday Celebration, which featured several holiday-themed episodes of Rugrats, including "A Rugrats Chanukah". On September 23, 2011, "A Rugrats Chanukah" was released on the Rugrats: Season 4 DVD by Amazon.com. On February 6, 2018, "A Rugrats Chanukah" was released on the Rugrats: Season 4 DVD by Paramount Home Media Distribution. Sarah Willson adapted the episode into the book, The Rugrats' Book of Chanukah, illustrated by Barry Goldberg and published by Simon & Schuster in 1997.

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