Oy To The World! The Advent of the Ugly Hanukkah Sweater

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A rite of the Christmas season for many who participate involves the wearing of highly-decorative Christmas-time sweaters. The origin of this seasonal custom  probably is rooted in sweaters made by the hands of well-meaning older relatives to be given as gifts. Recently, and somewhat ironically, the trend was picked up by the so-called hipster generation resulting in what has evolved into the broad-based mass market appeal of the “ugly Christmas sweater.” Vendors were quick to leap upon this idiosyncratic bandwagon in order to mine what would become a multi-million dollar trend.

So, does this leave some of us non-celebrants out-in-the-cold, so to speak? Or as one Jewish entrepreneur asked: “why should Jews celebrating Hanukkah be denied the pleasure of giving ugly sweaters as gifts to friends and family?”

Not so, says Laura Rosenfeld of TechTimes: ”For those among us that celebrate Hanukkah, you too can have your ugly sweaters and eat your gelt, too.” In an apparent cross-over attempt, vendors are now marketing “ugly Hanukkah sweaters!” And people are buying it! One on-line comment posted on Amazon.com’s web site states: “At last I have the perfect sweater to compete with the ugly X-Mas sweater. I wore it during Hanukkah and got a lot of ‘Happy Holidays’ my way. Really changed my mood during this dreaded time of year when everyone says Merry Christmas constantly and all the stores are already jingling the bells and inciting consumerism.“

In an effort to tap into this burgeoning market, retailers of all stripes are entering the fray—although some with questionable success. Recently, high-end retailer Nordstrom was upbraided for marketing a sweater that vaunted the image of a menorah and was emblazoned with the words “Chai maintenance” and “Hannukah J.A.P.” Generating controversy and offense because of the verbal pun on the Hebrew word “Chai,” meaning life, combined with a derogatory phrase which stands for “Jewish American Princess,” public outcry resulted in Nordstrom ceasing to market the sweater and apologizing for its insensitivity.

The last word on the subject: For a full, but somewhat distracting, array of Ugly Hanukkah sweaters, check out a Hanukkah musical collaboration by Erez Cohen, Six13, A.K.A. Pella, & The Y Studs called “A One Direction Hanukkah” or “The Ugly Hanukkah Sweater Song” posted at JewTube!