Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are on the same day this year and people are losing it

Every nation is born from a story, a tale of beginnings that, over time, often take on epic proportions. American kids absorb made-up Thanksgiving tales like sponges, drawing Turkey hands and dressing up as pilgrims for the school play. Jewish kids play dreidel for chocolate coins, and light Hanukkah menorahs. And what about the Jewish American kids? Normally, the latkes wouldn’t come anywhere near the turkey. But we’re in luck this year. For the first time in over a hundred years, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will coincide, creating a holiday explosion of turkey-topped latkes and KFT (kosher for Thanksgiving) pumpkin pie.

By the time this goes to press, Thanksgiving will be over, and us Jews of Port Angeles will be facing the last few hours of Hanukkah. But lest any wayward concerned citizens decide that A Very Hanukkah Thanksgiving is no big deal, and doesn’t merit its own little space in this newspaper, I’d like to inform you that this event will never happen again. Literally–this confluence has (technically) never happened before, and, according to a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories, it won’t happen again until the year 79,811 AD.

How is this possible?

The Jewish calendar (lunar) is slowly getting out of sync with the Gregorian calendar (solar), at the rate of about 4 days per 1000 years. While this doesn’t seem like very much, there’s already a pretty slim margin to be playing with. This is because, as it stands, the earliest that the first night of Hanukkah can occur is November 28, which happens to be the latest day that Thanksgiving can occur. By 2146, the earliest that Hanukkah can possibly fall will be November 29 (which is a Monday). Eventually, the Jewish calendar will loop back on itself, but not in this lifetime, or the next few thousand.

We’re living in the age of miracles, people! Not only have most of us survived Y2K, we’ll all (hopefully) live through Thanksgivukkah.

Jewish mothers will rejoice as they slave for hours (days!) over their hot stoves, brining the turkey and cooking the cran-applesauce, anticipating the kvetching they’ll get to take part in over the Thanksgivukkah table.

Why are you so skinny! Eat, eat!

Pass the peas, please. I can’t reach that far with my menopause. It’s not doing so well, thanks for asking. The pilates is helping though.

Your eyes are bigger than your stomach! What a waste of a good kosher turkey. (And then she’ll sigh and inform all of the guests that they want dessert.)

But we Jewish American kids won’t care, because under the light of the menorah candles (red and gold for turkey day, of course), we will forget the years of explaining to our classmates why we eat Chinese food at the movies on Christmas, or how we manage to finagle so many days off from school (answer: there is a Jewish holiday every other week). Like Passover falling on Easter, the coincidence of these two beloved holidays just makes good sense. Consider: Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are both tales of defiance against darkness. The Pilgrims fought against the freezing wilderness of New England. Judah Maccabee and his guerilla gang of Jews took to the hills for a minute, and then came down to beat up an army of Seleucids. The Pilgrims shared their meager food with their new Native friends, trusting that somehow they wouldn’t starve through the winter. Judah’s boys lit the tiny bit of temple oil that surely wouldn’t last them more than a day, though much more was needed to burn every night through the night.

Lo and behold the rewards of faith! The Pilgrims clearly made it through the winter, mostly unharmed, and legend tells us that Judah’s oil burned long enough for the Jews to make more oil to burn–eight whole days and nights.

Or so we believe.

And that’s the kicker. Because to be honest (and unless you still believe in Santa Claus, you probably already know this), the stories of both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are kind of bull.

That’s right.

They teeter between fact and fantasy. They’re the creation of a handful of historians with delusions of Rockwellian grandeur.

In other words, Thanksgivukkah is historical fiction.

But I’m pretty much okay with this.

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are secular holidays. They aren’t about praying in a temple or a church, and they don’t involve making sacrifices, and they don’t focus on the worship of something bigger than ourselves. They’re about hope and defiance and a lot of really good food–all the things that make us so much less than holy. All the things that make us human.

Thanksgivukkah is a fairytale for the ages.

And luckily, because Thanksgivukkah isn’t a religious holiday, the Wandering Jewish Congregation of Port Angeles (which is a decent name for a band) doesn’t need to kvell over services. We can reserve our energy for the most important debate of all: sour cream or applesauce on the latkes. Choosing sour cream renders turkey out of the question for those that keep kosher, but let’s be real, does anyone actually eat applesauce on their latkes?

Or we can just pull a total Port Angeles move, forgo the turkey entirely, and serve a giant plate of salmon. Whatever you choose, it’ll look great under the light of those menorah candles.

Originally published in Port O Call‘s print edition.

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