Hallmark’s ‘Love, Lights, Hanukkah!’ is the cheesy interfaith holiday movie we’ve been waiting for

menorah lighting hallmark

  • Hallmark's new Hanukkah movie "Love, Lights, Hanukkah!" premieres on December 12 at 8 p.m. EST.
  • The film stars Mia Kirshner as Christina, a restaurant owner who discovers she's Jewish through a DNA ancestry test and celebrates Hanukkah with her newfound family.
  • It has all the trimmings of a cheesy Hallmark holiday movie, but centers Hanukkah traditions and their symbolism, as well as the Jewish characters who celebrate them.
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Last year, for the first time, Hallmark included Jewish characters and Hanukkah storylines in two movies: "Holiday Date" and "Double Holiday." While both were well-intentioned attempts at inclusion, they ultimately felt more like Christmas movies with poorly written Jewish characters who happened to mention Hanukkah a few times.

This year's effort entitled "Love, Lights, Hanukkah!" is different. Is it cheesy? Sure. It's a Hallmark holiday movie, after all. But it also centers Hanukkah traditions and their symbolism, as well as the Jewish characters who celebrate them.

Mia Kirshner stars as Christina, a restaurant owner who discovers her Jewish ancestry and connects with her newfound Jewish family over Hanukkah

Christina (Mia Kirshner) spends Hanukkah with her newfound relatives, the Bermans.
Hallmark Channel

An Italian restaurant owner still reeling from the loss of her adoptive mother and a broken engagement, Christina takes a DNA test to learn more about her background. She finds out she has Eastern European Jewish ancestry and that some close relatives, the Bermans, live nearby. 

It turns out that they're more closely related than she thought when Ruth Berman reveals she is Christina's biological mother. Both drawn to Ruth and desperate to hold onto the memory of her mother, Christina navigates a new family and a new holiday while honoring the Christmas traditions she was raised with.

There's also the matter of David (played by Ben Savage), a restaurant critic who gave Christina's lasagna a less-than-enthusiastic review but is a fixture at the Bermans' Hanukkah gatherings as a family friend. You can probably guess how that one ends. Their bland romance is the film's weakest point — the warm, lively Bermans make for a far more compelling storyline.

Aside from a few gratuitous bagels and lox references and bungled Hebrew pronounciations, the Jewish aspects of the film feel authentic

Ruth Berman (Marilu Henner) shows Christina (Mia Kirshner) her dreidel collection.
Hallmark Channel

Interfaith identities can feel particularly complex during the winter holiday season with several distinct, widely celebrated religious holidays in close proximity, but the film treats Hanukkah as more than just a foil to Christmas.

The Bermans take the time to educate Christina, and thereby the audience, about the origins of Hanukkah, lighting a menorah, preparing latkes, and playing dreidel. They ask David when he's going to settle down and tell Christina what a cute couple they'd make, an accurate portrayal of a Jewish family if I've ever seen one. And the miraculous nature of the holiday is an overarching theme of the film. In one scene, as Ruth shows Christina her dreidel collection, she gazes lovingly at her long-lost daughter and explains that the letters on each of a dreidel's sides stand for "a great miracle happened there."

The way Christina balances Christmas and Hanukkah will also feel familiar to the one in five US adults who have been raised in interfaith homes. She prepares traditional Jewish foods in a Santa apron, hosts the Bermans for Hanukkah with decorative elves lighting the path to her door, and invites them to her restaurant's Christmas dinner to join in her late mother's beloved tradition.

In a standout scene, David and the Bermans take Christina to a public menorah lighting ceremony — it's the kind of magical holiday moment Hallmark is known for

A public menorah lighting in "Love, Lights, Hanukkah!"
Hallmark Channel

Publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah is an important tradition with origins in the Talmud. Many organizations hold communal menorah lightings in cities around the world, but this ritual is rarely represented in Hanukkah stories onscreen since Christmas symbols are ubiquitous in public spaces.

With a crowd of Jews wearing various yarmulke styles, Becky Berman wishing Christina a "chag sameach" with a proper gutteral "ch" sound, and Leslie Odom Jr. and Nicolette Robinson's gorgeous rendition of "Maoz Tzur" playing in the background, it feels like, well, a scene out of a Hallmark movie.

Those seeking a purely Hanukkah-focused film with little mention of Christmas won't find that here. But for those open to a movie that places Hanukkah at the center of a story about family, hope, and miracles, "Love, Lights, Hanukkah!" might just be the applesauce to your latke.

Watch the trailer for "Love, Lights, Hanukkah!" below:


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