What do you do when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide?
For most Jews in America, the traditions for Hanukkah have been pretty much the same for decades. Candles are lit in the menorah, potato pancakes (known as latkes) are made, and the kids gather around to play a game with a spinning top (known as a dreidel). Songs are sung and presents are given. This goes on for eight nights.
Then someone came along and introduced the “menurkey” in 2013. Not long after that, greeting cards were issued with pilgrims wearing the hairstyle of the Orthodox male Jew (long curly sideburns). Soon after that, debates rose up as to whether or not one should serve cranberry sauce with latkes.
This comes about because of the uncommon collision of the traditional Thanksgiving Thursday and the first full day of Hanukkah which usually doesn’t begin until later in December. When this occurs, some choose to call the event “Thanksgivukkah” which only happens once every hundred years.
This merging of two mostly fun and happy holidays has produced a rush of creative marketing. Such marketing includes the production and sale of thousands of menorahs shaped like turkeys and called “menurkeys”. There has also been a plethora of new recipes and food bloggers are debating on how to combine two cherished holiday menus.
There has also been another result of this particular merger. It has caused many American Jews to take a closer look at a holiday that has never really been thought of as being one of particular importance.
The combining of these two holidays has caused some Jews to give less or no gifts for Hanukkah this year. Still others are choosing the opposite approach. Because of Thanksgiving and the school vacation that goes with it, there will be more visiting relatives. This means that people who are normally not on the gift list have to be added. There are some Jewish families that are writing a brief narrative about the history of Jews in America to be read around the table at Thanksgiving dinner.
Many Jewish scholars say that there should not really be any problem with the two celebrations happening at the same time. Rabbi Adam Spilker says that there is a real relation between the two holidays. Spilker is from the Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Spilker says that both holidays celebrate a gratitude for freedom. Just as Pilgrims gave thanks for the harvest and freedom of religion, the Maccabees in the Hanukkah story were commemorating their religious freedom from Syrian and Greek oppression.
There has also been national recognition of this uncommon occurrence.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, along with members of the Jewish community, congressman and foreign ambassadors, joined together for the yearly celebration of lighting the National Hannukah Menorah on Wednesday night. This menorah is 30 foot long and made of gold and is located on the Ellipse, which is south of the White House and next to the National Mall.
Hanukkah is a looking back and remembering the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. A small band of rebels called Maccabees gained control of the religious structure. However, after gaining control, they only discovered they had enough oil to keep the temple lamps lit one night. However, the oil lasted eight nights. The Jews look at that event to this day as a miracle.
One thing is for sure. As these two holidays collide in 2013, both Jews and non-Jews will be thankful for their heritage.
By Rick Hope