Looking ahead to winter and Hanukkah 2013 made us crazy. That’s because this year, the second night of Hanukkah will fall on Thanksgiving. In the playoff bracket of holidays, this is a tie. We love both of these holidays – the family and the food that come along with each of them. But will they be great together? Can we serve sweet potato latkes with the turkey?
The jury is still out as to whether or not we’ll combine those two favorite holidays. In past years, we have postponed Hanukkah until winter break when our kids were back in town and there was a chance of snow. We’ve had no problem moving Hanukkah to a more convenient date, but is it kosher to move Passover, a more sacred holiday?
Hanukkah is a minor holiday that marks a military victory for religious freedom; it has benefitted from its proximity to Christmas. Passover is one of the biggies on the Jewish calendar. It marks the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom. It is also one of the three week long pilgrimage festivals during which ancient Israelites traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem with gifts of the first fruits and offerings for God.
This year, Passover begins on Monday evening, March 25. We are loath to admit it, but we are considering changing the date. Monday is the worst night of the week for a big family dinner. The workweek is just getting started, and meetings and due dates are looming. While we almost always eat dinner at home on Monday nights after a weekend of dining out, we don’t usually set the table for 24 – and no one asks for a shank bone.
With about a week to go, Ellen still doesn’t know what to tell Elijah. The final decision on the seder date depends on spring break driving schedules. This indecision didn’t stop her from making her annual Passover shopping pilgrimage to the Cherry Hill ShopRite. The store sets up special rooms filled with Passover goodies: One is crammed with dried fruits, nuts, chocolate and jams from Israel; another room is wall-to-wall matzah.
She’s learned to restrain herself from purchasing all the pesachdik food that looks so good and tastes so bad. When the kids were little, she fell for the hype and purchased the cold cereal in the cute box with the dancing star. It tasted like circles of compressed dust. On this trip she did buy six bottles of Prigat grapefruit juice straight from the kibbutz.
Joyce is postponing Passover until the 9th night when she gets home from a surgical trip to Ecuador. Her husband will be doing the surgery; she’ll be doing the shlepping of supplies. She googled Ecuador’s Jewish population and learned that there are only 900 Jews out of a population of 13 million. But there is a synagogue and a Chabad House. According to the website, the Chabad rabbi officiates at Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations and performs circumcisions. Chabad hosted a seder last year, but Joyce doesn’t know if she’ll have the nerve to drop in.
Although Joyce won’t be doing the whole Haggadah on her return, she plans to make up a batch of haroset (her family’s must-have Passover treat) and buy some gefilte fish, which she will dress up with a curl of carrot. Will anyone notice that the bitter herbs are missing? She won’t be surprised if on Wednesday morning her husband, Ted, cooks up his one culinary masterpiece – matzah meal latkes. The family will miss them if they don’t have them – so they’ll be enjoying them a few days late.
Other groups have been rescheduling Passover for years. Every preschool has its celebration with the crayoned seder plates and plastic plague frogs before the actual date. Likewise, seders with a special focus –feminist, GLBT, interfaith and community gatherings – get a head start and often hold their gatherings before the actual calendar date of the holiday.
Although we have rescheduled Hanukkah to suit our schedules, this is first year we’re messing with an important holiday. Is nothing sacred? Where do we draw the line? We looked ahead to the fall and saw that in addition to the looming Hanukkah/Thanksgiving quandary — Rosh Hashanah begins on the Wednesday night following Labor Day. That gives us just two days to brush the sand off our feet, put away the white shoes, and get everyone into their new sweaters and wool suits. But in the bracket playoff of holidays, Rosh Hashanah trumps Labor Day. We know we’ll show up in synagogue. And we wouldn’t dream of moving Yom Kippur.
A Happy and Zissen (sweet) Pesach to all our family, friends and blog-readers (who are our friends!)