For the first time since 1888, Thanksgiving Day and the first full day of Hanukkah will both occur on November 28th, 2013. Clearly, this is only exciting for American Jews who celebrate both holidays, but plans for this special occurrence are already in motion. According to an article on The Star (thestar.com), “more than 1,000 people are expected to gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the first — and likely only — Thanksgivukkah Festival with ‘light, liberty and latkes.'” Other manifestations of Thanksgivukkah include menurkies – turkey-shaped menorahs, pumpkin latkes, and Rabbi David Paskin’s “The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah” (Huffington Post).
Dana Gitell, a major source of the Thanksgivukkah Facebook buzz, draws parallels between the stories of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah:
“There are amazing similarities between the Pilgrims’ quest for religious freedom and what the Maccabees were fighting for. This a great opportunity for Jewish Americans to celebrate this country and for everyone to acknowledge the greatness of our shared religious freedoms.” (Source: NY Daily News)
Many Jewish Americans are thrilled to have Judaism in the spotlight in a different way this year. Usually Hanukkah falls around Christmas and is often assumed to be pretty much the same. With the hype and discussion surrounding Thanksgivukkah, Judaism has been catapulted into the scene, reminding Americans of the Jewish presence in this country. Thanksgivukkah is an opportunity of interfaith dialogue, as Americans of all stripes gather around the table. It’s “an invitation to celebrate the places where Jewishness enriches America, and where America enriches the Jewish people,” says Rabbi Mishael Zion, and the topic of gratitude and giving thanks seems to be a key place where these two celebrations converge.
Where the gratitude expressed on Thanksgiving can be fleeting, the emphasis on gratitude during Hanukkah is rooted in the rich history and stories told during the Festival of Lights. Rabbi Zion sees Thanksgivukkah as a time to “turn a generation of immediate gratification into one of rooted gratitude.” As the American family, Jewish or not, sits around eating turkey and mashed potatoes or latkes, they can share stories of gratitude for things beyond here and now.
There has been little critique of Thanksgivukkah, or at least very little that I could find, and I don’t think that’s surprising. In the U.S., Thanksgiving focuses on our shared past with the Pilgrims. Whether you were born in the United States or not, there seems to be a sense of unity on the fourth Thursday of every November. This year, I think November 28th will be an even more perfect day to put aside the walls we put up around those different than us – in religion, race, ethnicity, gender, class, culture – and give thanks to the great diversity of the United States.
- How To Celebrate Thanksgivukkah, The Best Holiday Of All Time (buzzfeed.com)
- What You Need to Know About Thanksgivukkah (newsfeed.time.com)