Thanksgivukka: Please pass the turkey-stuffed doughnuts

As Thanksgiving and Hanukka converge for a once-in-a-lifetime event, double holiday cheer – and endless culinary mashups – are on the menu.

Thanksgivukkah 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Manischewitz)
Thanksgivukkah 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Manischewitz)
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.
When 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 – – 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 recognition too.
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 occasion.
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 year 79811.
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
“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, 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 measures.”
“Originally, the central beit din [rabbinical court] in Jerusalem decided when Passover was going to be each year,” he said.
“That fell apart with the Diaspora, and a fixed calendar was established.”
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.”
However often the confluence of celebrations will happen, for most, it is about one thing: food. 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 pie rugelach.
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 recipe.
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 ball soup.
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 filling.
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 dinner.
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 said.
“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.”
But, he 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.”
And 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 Attack.”
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.