What do you get when you combine Thanksgiving and Hanukkah?
Thanksgivukkah? Or maybe Thanks-a-latkes?
This is the year to make the most of the convergence of the two holidays. It hasn’t happened since 1888 and it will not happen again “in our lifetime,” said Rabbi Bentzy Stolik, director of Chabad of Olney.
“It’s impossible to determine if it will ever happen again,” Stolik said. “Hanukkah follows the Jewish calendar, which is based on a lunar system, but the number of months changes every two or three years to catch up with the Gregorian calendar.”
With the annual changing of Thanksgiving Day, which is celebrated the fourth Thursday of November, it’s easy to see that the turkey might not catch up with the lighting of the menorah candles again for a long, long time.
“I’ve heard it will next happen in about 7,000 years,” said Ruth Lamberty, director of jconnect, a service of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Hanukkah actually begins at sundown Wednesday, with the traditional celebration of the lighting of the first candle of the eight-day festival, a traditional meal and, for many, sharing of gifts.
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple, desecrated by occupying invaders more than 2,100 years ago.
“Upon recapturing the temple from the Syrian Greeks, the Jewish people found only one jar of pure oil, enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight days until new, pure olive oil was produced,” according to a press release from Chabad of Olney. “In commemoration of this event, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabra known as a menorah. The menorah is placed in highly visible place to publicize the miracle, with its message of hope and religious freedom, to all.”
Thanksgiving — which, according to tradition, was first celebrated in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass. — celebrates the providence of the previous year and the bounty of the harvest. It did not become an official holiday until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday to be celebrated each November. In 1941, Congress officially declared the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Both holidays are about food, family and friends, Lamerty said, and many families will combine traditions on Thursday.
“I am making sweet potato latkes and pumpkin doughnuts,” she said. “The tradition behind them [as Hanukkah foods] is that they are both cooked in oil, something we use to commemorate the miracle of the oil in the temple.”
She also plans to serve turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, but will make a cranberry applesauce this year because applesauce is traditionally served with latkes, which are fried pancakes, usually made with white potatoes.
“I’m trying to make it fun,” she said.
So are many others. Online, celebrants can purchase Thanksgivukkah T-shirts and aprons picturing both a turkey and a menorah, notecards featuring a turkey behind a dreidel — the traditional Hanukkah spinning top — and one mimicking Grant Wood’s classic painting, “American Gothic,” showing the farmer holding a menorah. There is even a menurkey, a turkey-shaped menorah.
As many around the county toast the day with one tradition or another or a combination of the two, there is only one thing to be said: