Thanksgivukkah, Menurkey, Turkukkah, Thankschanukahgiving—
My almost 10 year old granddaughter is so confused! Her birthday is on Thanksgiving and she’s so worried she’s going to lose out, “Do I get birthday presents or Chanukah presents and are they all in one or separate, pumpkin pie, jelly doughnuts or a birthday cake?!” Who knew a little girl would be so conflicted on her first double digit birthday and her mother’s best cooking day? (In our family you get to request your favorites for your birthday dinner!)
By now we all have heard about Thanksgiving and Chanukah landing on the same day, maybe Christopher Columbus was Jewish and his voyage was motivated by a desire to find a safe land for the Jews! Fast forward to November 26, 1863 and President Abraham Lincoln declares “Expressed gratitude for a pivotal Union Army victory at Gettysburg,” and announces that the nation will celebrate an official Thanksgiving holiday. While previously, third president, Thomas Jefferson, felt it was inappropriate to express public devotion to a higher power in a country that was based on part of separation of church and state. Until Lincoln, other presidents agreed with Jefferson so no official proclamation of a Thanksgiving holiday was issued between 1815 and 1863.
From 1863 through 1939, the fourth Thursday of November was the annual day of Thanksgiving until President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the end of the Depression, moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November. He believed this would give holiday shoppers more time to spend money and boost the economy between Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, in 1941, Congress insisted the holiday become the fourth Thursday of November and Roosevelt bowed to their insistence and the fourth Thursday of November became the official holiday of Thanksgiving.
So fast forward to 2013 and here we are gathered for our annual turkey feast, with linens and vases filled with warm autumn colors mixed with blues and whites of Chanukah décor, colorful Chanukah decorations and school-made turkeys adorning the walls and a menorah as our centerpiece! What is wrong with this picture? Is it fall or winter? Actually, I am warmed by the candles burning low, draydels on the table with dried leaves and pumpkins, latkes and mashed potatoes, star-shaped cookies and pumpkin pie! But the realization that this is a celebration that mixes our nationality and religion is quite unique and a great teaching tool for our children and grandchildren! Only in America!
Says Rabbi David Paskin, co-head of Kehillah Schechter Academy in Norwood, Massachusetts, the closest Jewish day school to the site of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, “It’s pretty amazing to me that in this country we can have rich secular and rich 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.” Something to be said when we go around the table and share what we are thankful for while remembering the joy and miracle of the oil lasting eight days and the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians. Victory, the common denominator between the two holidays.
On the lighter side of the coming together of Thanksgiving and Chanukah is our ever creative pop culture and economics!
-Super markets, says the president of a large chain, “Are nervous while preparing for a great week of business—and a terrible week, hoping to keep all needed products in stock!”
-Some synagogues are rehearsing a special mash-up of spiritual and traditional songs of thanks showing the value of both holidays for the after Thanksgiving Shabbat Service.
-The Wall Street Journal reported that at Boston’s Hebrew Senior Life, care provider for the elderly, Dana Gitell, started a website, “Thanksgivukkah,” that includes challah stuffing, cranberry sauce-filled sufganiyot and sweet potato latkes!
-BuzzFeed suggested yarmulkes with pilgrim-like belt buckles and rye pumpkin pie!
-An Amtrak spokesman has suggested travelers who will be prilgrimming over-the-hill-and-through-the-woods the week of Thanksgiving and Chanukah make their reservations early!
-Deep fried turkeys have been around for awhile!
-And what can you say about the publicity nine year old Asher Weintraub of New York City has gotten over his trade-marked version of a turkey-shaped menorah, the Menurkey, selling on-line for $50.00?!
Though calculations vary as to when the next Thanksgivukkah will happen again, predictors say in about 79,043 years, so if you plan on purchasing a Menurkey, wrap it up very, very carefully and put it in a time capsule for your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren!
What a delightful time we have has American Jews to celebrate the essences of who we are and where we’ve come from and to teach our kids and grandkids as to where we must go by passing on the many valued traditions and customs our nationality and religion bless us with. What more perfect time to say the Shehecheyanu:
The Shehecheyanu blessing was introduced to encourage Jews to offer thanks for new and unusual experiences. It it typically recited atthe beginning of holidays and to celebrate special occasions.
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam shecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higyanu lazman hazeh.
And now to go and buy my granddaughter her very special double digit birthday, Chanukah and Thanksgiving gift!
Oy vey, what’s a Baby Boomer Bubbe to do?