Hanukkah is once again upon us, giving me yet another chance to decry the fact that while Netflix has produced 86 bajillion original Christmas films, it has yet to cash in on the Hanukkah market. Where is my Latke Prince? What about a Gelt Calendar? If we can have The Christmas Chronicles, why not The Hanukkah Histories?
As I wrote last year, this is partly down to Hanukkah’s lack of a relatably festive aesthetic. Christmas has snowflakes and cookies, beautifully decorated trees and presents, twinkly lights and crackling fireplaces. Hanukkah has Maccabees and oil and dreidels and applesauce — not exactly things that can be transposed into a seasonal winter wonderland. And yes, Jews only make up approximately 2.2% of the U.S. population. But while that could explain Hollywood’s reluctance to go HAM (sorry) on a theatrical release, you’d think that niche audience would be right up Netflix’s algorithm alley.
As Professor Robert J. Thompson, founding director at the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, pointed out in a 2017 interview: "Hanukkah is now the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the country, even though it's by far not the the most important Jewish holiday, and part of that has to do with its Christmas-adjacency on the calendar.”
There are, of course, some well-worn classics: A Rugrats Hanukkah is a staple, as is Full-Court Miracle, and The O.C.’s many Chrismukkah episodes. But what to do once you’ve exhausted those options? Where’s the romantic tension? The drama? The happy tears?
The beautiful love story between Elio (Chalamet) and Oliver (Hammer) is also a tale of self-discovery and acceptance. The Perlmans, like so many American Jews, aren’t particularly observant. As Elio tells Oliver as the latter is cracking his feet, bubbe-style, they are “Jews of discretion.” That means they’re Jew-ish. But through his relationship with Oliver, who wears his massive Star of David with pride, Elio starts to question this lapsed faith, and by the end, well:
But there’s more. Call Me By Your Name is also one of the rare films with an explicit Hanukkah scene. The final moments of the movie take place in winter, months after Elio and Oliver’s final goodbye on the train platform. The Perlmans are spending the holidays in Italy, and there’s no question which one they’re celebrating. Housekeeper Mafalda even makes latkes!
Elio plays with gelt!
And before kneeling in front of the fireplace to shed those delicate, warm tears, for like, forever, he makes a stop in front of another symbol of light: the Perlman menorah. (From the number of candles ablaze, we’re on Night # 7.)
The dining room table is bedecked with pomegranates (a Jewish symbol as they contain 613 seeds, the same number as mitzvot, or good deeds, listed in the Torah), and what appears to be a citrus fruit known as an etrog, usually found on tables around Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (Wrong holiday in this case, but we’ll let it slide.) It could be a lemon of course, but why quibble about what is potentially our only chance at a Hanukkah romance?