A Thanksgivukkah Story
On Tuesday, Nov. 28 many Jewish families in America celebrated a special holiday this year. In addition to lighting the menorah and eating fried latkes, potato pancakes, and sufganiot, jelly filled donuts, many families added turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potato mash to their menu. In celebration of the co-occurrence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, Jewish-American families commemorated the rare holiday of “Thanksgivukkah.”
This was the first time in over two hundred years that the two holidays converged. As many Americans know, Thanksgiving always falls on the third Thursday of November. Hanukkah is generally celebrated in December, however the exact day in which the festival begins varies each year. The Hebrew calendar follows the lunar calendar, which is adjusted based on the cycles of the moon. It just so happened that this year, the dates for Thanksgiving was very late and for Hanukkah was very early.
But despite the rarity, many people in the city of Boston took the opportunity to celebrate the unique holiday. Boston resident Dana Gitell coined the term “Thanksgivukkah” over a year ago. Gitell, a Jewish mother and a marketing specialist at NewBridge on the Charles, designed a line of Thanksgivukkah-themed merchandise.
One of her most popular items was a Woodstock-inspired t-shirt design with a turkey and menorah with the words “8 days of light, liberty and latkes.” Another popular design was a Jewish spin-off on Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic.” On the design, which is titled “American Gothikkah,” the farmer has a long black beard and is wearing a shreimel, a fur hat typically worn by married Jewish men, and is holding a menorah instead of a pitchfork. The farmer’s wife is dressed in pilgrim attire, as if she just stepped off the Mayflower herself.
In commemoration of the holiday, President Obama recognized Gitell and her sister, Deborah, during the presidential lighting of the menorah at the White House on December 6. Mayor Tom Menino also officially acknowledged the holiday in Boston. Menino had drafted a proclamation and signed it on Nov. 22.
Since the next Thanksgivukkah is estimated to occur in 70,000 years, many families across the United States celebrated this once in a lifetime holiday. Samantha Levy and her family who resides in Maine was one family who decided to commemorate the event. Levy is a junior who studies at Boston University and she had decided to go home during her school’s Thanksgiving Break. The Levy household celebrated the occasion by preparing foods that commemorated both holidays such as latkes and turkey.
In terms of celebration, Levy said that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah meshed together well. Since Hanukkah is in December, it is usually overshadowed by Christmas, according to Levy.
“In the United States, Thanksgiving is always kind of a big deal. Hanukkah is less of a big deal… But now with celebration of Thanksgivukkah, Christmas can have it’s own celebration in the December.” said Levy.
Similarly to Levy, junior Aaron Kauffman was other BU student who would usually would go home during Thanksgiving break to celebrate the holiday with their family and celebrated Hanukkah with other Jewish students at Florence and Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University. This year, Thanksgivukkah gave Kauffman the opportunity to spend both holidays with his family. But aside from the national hype of the Thanksgivikkah, Kauffman felt there was a deeper sense of meaning to the holiday in terms of values and traditions. He believed the joint holiday was an opportunity for reflection and reunion.
“It’s a really good time to reflect upon your life, your family, your health, and God,” said Kauffman. “The thing that connects the two holidays is that it’s a time of family coming together.”