What would Myles Standish think about playing dreidel right after he finished his pumpkin pie? Would Judah Maccabee enjoy a second helping of candied sweet potatoes?
While these two historical figures are separated by thousands of years, their holiday stories will collide this year. Hanukkah begins on Wednesday night, Nov. 27, erev Thanksgiving. This won’t happen again for almost 80,000 years.
Jewish people everywhere are shmoozing about how to combine the two holidays – because after all, this convergence affects only those who celebrate Hanukkah. By now you’ve probably seen the recipes urging us to try sweet potato latkes and pecan pie rugelach. You might have read about topping your latkes with cranberry sauce or deep-frying your turkey to use some of that holiday oil. The holiday mash-up has been appropriately named Thanksgivukkah.
Buzzfeed, the popular time-sucking, trend-setting, list-making website has covered Thanksgivukkah in many posts recently–detailing everything from sweet potato kugel to pecan pie with a Jewish star lattice top: http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/thanksgivukkah
Retailers are combining the holidays, too. Thanksgivukkah tchotchkes include a kippah adorned with a brass Pilgrim buckle and a turkey-shaped menorah; nine tail feathers hold the Hanukkah candles. Commemorative T-shirts are being printed:
This holiday combo reminds us of the poor child whose birthday falls on December 24; every year he’s stuck with one “special” gift. No wonder hosting just one “special” dinner to celebrate Thanksgivukkah is rubbing us the wrong way. We don’t want to give either holiday short shrift. They are two of our favorites. We’ve hosted many Thanksgiving and Hanukkah holiday get-togethers through the years – when they were separated by weeks. Our families count on us to make a fuss and cook all their favorites for both holidays.
So that’s why we’re considering making a full Hanukkah dinner on Wednesday night. Brisket, potato latkes, sufganiyot, chocolate gelt, lots of menorahs, the whole shmeer. We’ll just have to work around the giant turkey that’s thawing in the back of the refrigerator.
On Thursday, we’ll shake out the tablecloth, empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher, and put them right back on the table. Hopefully nobody will notice that the bottle of wine is half-empty, the butter has knife marks in it, and the big bowl of salad is still covered with plastic wrap from the night before.
This Jewish calendar confusion was less stressful at the end of the summer, when Rosh Hashanah came a full two days after Labor Day. We had a little time in between barbecuing hamburgers and slicing up apples to dip in the honey. Hosting two back-to-back family dinner within 24 hours sounds like a lot of work. Should we invite the same crowd both nights? Shouldn’t they just sleep over? Where would be put them, anyway? And who wants to spend that much time on family togetherness?
We’re starting to understand why hosts are embracing a Thanksgivukkah mash-up. We’ve had a change of heart and we’re on board. After all, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. We’ve never been afraid to mess with tradition. In past years, we’ve rescheduled Hanukkah to suit our kids’ school vacation schedules. This is the first year we will have enough chutzpah to tamper with an American holiday.
We’re looking at it as a chance to mix it up and invest some new energy into both holidays. We might host a brunch featuring potato latkes with applesauce and turkey sausage. After we go around the table and share what we’re thankful for, we’ll say the Shehecheyanu. Instead of the crystal candlesticks, we’ll light the menorah. We’ll fill our cornucopia centerpiece with chocolate gelt. And we’re going to turn off the football game at halftime so we can play dreidel.
We agree with Rabbi David Paskin, co-head of the Kehillah Schechter Academy in Norwood, Mass., which he claims is the closest Jewish day school to Plymouth Rock. Rabbi Paskin said that, “It’s pretty amazing to me that in this country we can have rich secular and religious celebrations, and that those of us who live in both worlds can find moments when they meet and can really celebrate that convergence. There are a lot of places in the world where we would not be able to do that.”
Thanksgivukkah is the ultimate convergence of traditions. Interfaith families have to grapple with this kind of challenge at almost every holiday. And besides, if this new holiday works out as well as we think it will, maybe Thanksgiving will last for eight days.