This year Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide for the first time since 1888 and the odd pairing won’t reoccur for another 79,000 years.
How did this happen? It is simply a matter of separate calendars based on different systems. The secular calendar is a solar calendar, based on the interaction between the earth and the sun. The Hebrew calendar is a lunar-solar calendar. Most of its calculations are based on the interaction between the earth and the moon. To keep holidays in their proper season, the Hebrew calendar intercalates a “leap” month, seven times every 19 years.
The convergence of these happy holidays has caused some people to think out of the box. It was reported that a baker is frying donuts (a customary Hanukkah treat) with turkey and cranberry sauce filling (not so customary). Advertisers are using drawings of turkeys lighting menorahs. Many people have been blending the names of the two holidays calling it “Thanksgivukah.” Personally, I am not too fond of the name. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are not simply words — they are two very important ideas. Thanksgiving means that it is good for us to show gratitude to the Creator of all for everything we have. Hanukkah means dedication and refers to both the rededication of our Holy Temple in the time of the Macabees as well as the dedication we offer God here and now.
If you really can’t control your urge to play with the holidays’ names, rather than the nonsensical “Thanksgivukah” try connecting them the other way. My suggestion is to call it “Hanukkahgiving.” It may not sound as catchy, but perhaps it will help us to emphasize an important aspect shared by both of these holidays: giving.
Some people work in soup kitchens at Thanksgiving time. Others donate to food banks. My synagogue, Temple Hillel, places receptacles at every entrance to receive donations for the local kosher food bank as one of its many ways of helping those in need. The recent typhoon in the Philippines has created an enormous need for emergency assistance. Many well-established organizations are collecting funds to help. So, enjoy your turkey and cranberry sauce and your jelly donuts and latkes, whether you eat them separately or together. Enjoy your day or days off, but remember these days are our opportunity to let the Author of Life know we are appreciative of all we have, to give some thought to our dedication to Him and to perform at least one extra act of righteousness for the benefit our fellow man.
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah.