Monday, November 29, 2004

Oy to the World

Combining the traditions of the holidays can get interesting, especially if you’re in the commercial exploitation field.

Every December, Zack Rudman and his wife send out cards with winterscapes and generic holiday greetings.

Finally, though, the Kansas City lawyer found a variety that seemed to better suit a Jewish man and an Episcopal woman with two young children as familiar with the menorah as mistletoe. It screams “Merry Chrismukkah!”

Across the country, two holidays that once seemed to share little more than a calendar page are increasingly being melded on greeting cards aimed at the country’s estimated 2.5 million families with both Jewish and Christian members.

“It’s representative of the way people live and the way they spend the holidays,” said Elise Okrend, an owner of Raleigh, N.C.-based MixedBlessing, a card company devoted to interfaith holiday greetings. “And it’s an expression of people understanding the people around them.”


The newest player is, which helped put a name on what many interreligious families have been celebrating for years.

Ron Gompertz founded the company this year with his wife, inspired by an episode of the popular Fox series “The O.C.” in which Seth Cohen, a character whose mother is Protestant and father is Jewish, coins the term.

“It’s a little bit of both,” Gompertz explains. “Spin the dreidel under the mistletoe.”

As with anything addressing religion, though, cardmakers are careful not to offend.

The Chrismukkah site even offers a disclaimer: “We respect people’s different faiths and do not suggest combining the religious observance of Christmas and Hanukkah.”

“Our intention wasn’t to merge the religious aspects,” Gompertz said, “but rather the secular aspects of the holidays.”

Gompertz’s explanation hasn’t gone over well with everyone. He says the site has angered some conservative Jews who believe it promotes intermarriage.

Cards from the Livingston, Mont.-based use humor to create a hybrid holiday. Gompertz is Jewish and from New York City. He married the daughter of a Protestant minister from the Midwest. His company offers greetings including images of a Christmas tree decorated with dreidels, a menorah filled with candy canes and simpler varieties featuring messages including “Merry Mazeltov” and “Oy Joy.”

“It’s whimsical. It’s humorous,” said Gompertz. “This is a way of diffusing the seriousness of it.”

Most of American Greetings’ Hanukkah-Christmas cards are humorous, too. One shows three snowmen — two dressed in traditional winter hats and scarves, the third wearing a yarmulke and prayer shawl. Another features a list of Hanukkah songs that never caught on, including “Shlepping Through a Winter Wonderland,” “Bubbie Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “Come On, Baby, Light My Menorah.”

Very cute. Wake me when it’s January.