Happy Thanksgivukkah! – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

For the first time since 1888, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will converge, marking the first joint celebration of the two holidays aptly named Thanksgivukkah.

This year Thanksgiving Day will mark the first day of Hanukkah – the eight-day festival that celebrates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, when Jews revolted against their Greek-Syrian oppressors called the Maccabean Revolt. Since Hanukkah starts today at sundown, the second candle will be lit on Thanksgiving Day.  

This “once-in-a-lifetime” holiday is being marked by Jews across America. They are decorating their homes with turkey menorahs known as “menurkies” and dreidels decorated with birds known as “turkels” to commemorate the special event. “I think it’s a nice way to integrate the two holidays,” Lori Rashty, a teacher at Detroit’s Hillel Day School, said. “Since we’re not going to see it again for 79,000 years, it’s kind of an exciting way for the kids to realize that it’s a special occasion for them.”

For those unfamiliar with the hybrid holiday, below are answers to common questions surrounding Thanksgivukkah:

Why Does Thanksgiving And Hanukkah Fall On The Same Day?

The Jewish calendar uses a 12-month lunar-solar calendar with an extra month occasionally added in, making holidays fluctuate from year to year. Secular dates that follow the Gregorian calendar also change, and in 2013, the holidays are very early.

Hanukkah, usually falls close to Christmas, making it a well-known holiday regardless of religion. But this year the holiday is slowly “slipping back in time.”

“The Jewish calendar self-corrects somewhat, with a ‘leap month’ in early spring, but in a lunar calendar all the holidays wander,” Robert Alter, founding director of the new Center for Jewish Studies at UC Berkeley.

When Is The Next Thanksgivukkah?

The next time Thanksgivukkah will be celebrated is in 79,043 years from now, according to one estimate. Another suggests Thanksgivukkah will take place in 2070 and 2165. Others believe the convergence of the two holidays will never happen again.

What Are People Doing To Combine The Holidays?

While Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, it focuses on food – a major part of most Jewish holidays. Hanukkah is no exception.

“Instead of mashed potatoes, we’ll make latkes,” said a friend of mine, “I’m a very traditional cooker, so I prefer just regular potato latkes.”

Others have concocted hybrid recipes including pumpkin challah, beef and potato latkes, and Manischewitz ice cream. Oy Vey!

Online Jewish gift stores are also excited about the unusual holiday.  Manischewitz is selling do-it-yourself gingerbread houses advertised as Hanukkah houses. T-shirts with sayings like “Gobble Tov” (“Tov” means “festival” in Hebrew), turkey menorahs, dreidel salt and pepper shakers, and special dinner ware are among the many Thanksgivukkah souvenirs used to mark the holiday.

And while one holiday is religious and the other secular, families have found creative ways to find similarities between the two.

“At the time of Hanukkah, we are thankful for the miracles and blessings in our lives,” said a woman in a class I am attending.  She then added, “In that light, I think the motif of gratitude and rededication are interlinked.”

One of my son’s friends agrees, ”I think they’re similar because we all get together with our families and we’re thankful for what we have. “There’s something funny about Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coming together.”

As for me, since we are an interfaith family, I am overjoyed that I have a whole month to now prepare for Christmas since Hanukkah is so “early” this year. For several years in a row, Hanukkah and Christmas overlapped. This created an abundance of chaos and stress having gifts for each night of Hanukkah as well as gifts to put under our “Holiday Tree.” Not having enough “surface space” to place all of each holiday’s tchotchkes made the combining of these gift giving holidays even more overwhelming. At least this year I am able to focus on decorating and fully celebrating Hanukkah before putting away all of my “Hanukkah-Ware,” and amping up for the next big celebration of Christmas! I would love for Hanukkah and Thanksgiving to “fall” together more often. And I am not the only one who feels this way.

Several close, Jewish friends remarked that they feel more celebratory for both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving having them closer together. It makes them want to be with family and friends not for just one day, but for all eight days of Hanukkah. Especially since extended family will have off from school or work for the long weekend. It gives families more time to be with each other and be able to celebrate a holiday (Hanukkah) they otherwise would not be able to take the time for to be with others they care about who live farther away. It seems to be a win-win situation all around.

I certainly won’t be around for the next Thanksgivukkah, so I am going to make sure my family and I enjoy it to the fullest!

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah and Thanksgivukkah for those readers celebrating both Festivals! Enjoy!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,