This year, as American Jews light their first Hanukka candle, most will also be
checking on the defrosting turkey, finishing up the pumpkin pie and stocking up
on green beans.
That’s because this year the US national holiday of
Thanksgiving coincides with the first day of Hanukka, a rare confluence that has
been dubbed “Thanksgivukka” in popular culture.
Dana Gitell, a marketing
expert from Boston, has been credited with coining the word Thanksgivukka last
year, when it first occurred to her that the holidays would overlap.
she realized what “a big deal” it would be, “I started thinking ‘What would you
call it?’ The name Thanksgivukka popped into my head.”
So Gitell started
a website – Thanksgivukkah.com – a Twitter feed and a Facebook page, which now
has more than 10,000 “likes.”
Teaming up with her sister-in-law Deborah Gitell
and illustrator Kim DeMarco, a line of Thanksgivukka T-shirts, notecards and
posters was created and is for sale on the website
“This is a funny and entertaining pop culture
moment for Americans,” she said. “Even if you’re not Jewish, there’s a lot of
awareness of Hanukka in pop culture in America. But I didn’t anticipate the
[excitement] or the demand for these products... Everything has exceeded any
projection we would have had.”
The hybrid holiday is getting big name
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced last month that he
would officially proclaim November 28 this year “Thanksgivukka Day” in the city.
And Macy’s declared that for the first time, its acclaimed Thanksgiving Day
Parade in New York City will include a spinning dreidel balloon to honor the
A great deal of the hype is circulating around the fact that
this calendar fluke is a once-in-a- lifetime event. But is it?
Almost all sources
agree that the holidays have overlapped before. It happened in 1888 just like
this year, and then again in 1899, when Thanksgiving fell on the fourth day of
Hanukka. But will it happen again?
According to Jonathan Mizrahi, a quantum
physicist from Maryland, the answer is no – unless you’re still around in the
But things are a bit more complicated than that. Since
American holidays are held during the day, but Jewish holidays start in the
evening, there are at least two more times when, after eating their fill of
turkey and sweet potatoes, American Jews will light the first Hanukka candle. In
those years – 2070 and 2165 – the holidays will overlap for a few hours after
sundown, according to Chabad.org.
“The first day of Hanukka coincides
with Thanksgiving this year, meaning that the first night is actually the night
before Thanksgiving,” Mizrahi told The Jerusalem Post. “This will never happen
again. However, if the first day of Hanukka falls the day after Thanksgiving,
the first night of Hanukka falls on Thanksgiving night.”
But of course,
things get even more complicated than that.
According to Rabbi Tzvi
Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, the calculation of 79811 for the next
“true overlap” of Thanksgiving and Hanukka is based on “a lack of understanding
of the Hebrew calendar.”
“The Hebrew calendar gains one day on the
Gregorian calendar every 233 years,” despite the occasional additions of leap
months to correct the problem, Freeman told the Post.
If that continues
without modification, he said, eventually Hanukka will circle around the
Gregorian calendar and return to Thanksgiving in 79811, assuming the American
holiday’s date does not change either.
But, he said, Passover must always
be in the spring. So at some point, “we’re going to have to take additional
“Originally, the central beit din [rabbinical court] in
Jerusalem decided when Passover was going to be each year,” he
“That fell apart with the Diaspora, and a fixed calendar was
However, Freeman said, that calendar “was only set to work
until the year 6000.” Before that time, the rabbi continued, the Messiah “is
expected to arrive and gather the Jews from the Diaspora.... But there certainly
is no possibility that anyone will let Hanukka fall in July.”
often the confluence of celebrations will happen, for most, it is about one
Buzzfeed.com posted a guide to celebrating Thanksgivukka –
“the best holiday of all time” – with suggested dishes such as
Manischewitz-brined roast turkey, sweet potato bourbon noodle kugel and pecan
Manischewitz has jumped on the bandwagon, launching a
multimedia campaign that it spent a reported $2.5 million on, with extensive
advertising, recipes like pumpkin latkes and deep-fried turkey meatballs, videos
– including one featuring a rap battle between a turkey and a dreidel – e-cards,
an app and a contest awarding $1,000 to the best user-submitted mashup
And New York City restaurant Kutsher’s Tribeca is offering a
four-course Thanksgivukka menu for two days, including pumpkin shlishkas, halla
chestnut stuffing, sweet potato latkes with sour cream and cranberry compote and
sufganiyot with cranberry-raspberry jelly filling.
In an article
celebrating the holidays’ convergence, The New York Times declared that we
should let “the gravy of one holiday freely flow into the olive oil of another,”
and offered recipes for latkes topped with Portuguese pumpkin preserves; sweet
and sour braised brisket with cranberries and pomegranate; and horseradish matzo
Bringing the culinary combinations to their inevitable and
terrifying destination, Zucker Bakery in downtown Manhattan has created four
different Thanksgivukka-themed doughnuts.
Its Israeli-born chef and
owner, Zohar Zohar, is offering spiced pumpkin doughnuts with cranberry and
turkey filling, sweet potato with toasted marshmallow filling, spiced pumpkin
with turkey and gravy filling, and spiced pumpkin with cranberry
The mashups haven’t been limited to just food. Nine-year-old
Asher Weintraub of Brooklyn dreamed up a “menurkey” – a turkey-shaped menorah,
or hanukkia – and posted it on crowd-funding website Kickstarter in hopes of
raising $25,000 to start production.
Instead, he was granted $48,345, and
has sold more than 1,500 so far.
Dozens of communities around the US will
host Thanksgivukka festivals, and the phenomenon has even jumped across the pond
to London, where Saatchi Shul is hosting a Thanksgivukka Friday night
In Israel, homesick Americans can make their way to Tel Aviv,
where Nefesh B’Nefesh and White City Shabbat are co-hosting a Thanksgivukka
Friday night dinner and clothing drive.
Despite the culinary frenzy, many
are hoping American Jews will see more in the overlap of traditions than just
pumpkin doughnuts and deep-fried turkey.
“There’s an opportunity in this
overlap to not only celebrate the Jewish-American experience but to give thanks
to America for giving us all the religious freedoms we enjoy here,” Gitell
“The overlap this year is just begging us to rediscover the true
meaning of Thanksgiving and Hanukka,” said Freeman.
“There’s the obvious
idea of thankfulness: Thanking God for all we have in life, all the big miracles
and especially the smaller ones that happen every day.”
continued, “there are other common themes between them... the Pilgrims [were]
running from religious persecution in England – much as the Maccabees were
fighting it on their own territory. Now that we are no longer running and
neither are they, we have to take advantage of that freedom... Be proud of all
you have to be thankful for and celebrate it out loud, and outdoors.”
while the holiday spirit has been doubled for most this season, there will
always be some who find a reason to grumble. Satirical TV host Stephen Colbert
included a segment on Thanksgivukka on his show last month, in which he railed
against the convergence of the holidays in a segment called “Thanksgiving Under
With the two celebrations overlapping, he said, “keeping the
story straight is going to be impossible. Pretty soon schoolchildren are going
to believe Thanksgiving started when the Wampanoag sat down with the Maccabees
and the yams lasted for eight nights.
“It wasn’t a miracle – nobody likes
yams,” he said.