A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence presents itself this year as two holidays — Hanukkah and Thanksgiving — overlap.
For the first time in 125 years, Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, which is not scheduled to happen again for thousands of years.
“The connection between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah this year is a bit of an accident, based on the ways that Judaism calculates its months,” said Jonathan Schofer, associate professor in the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies. “At the same time, we can celebrate this connection as reminding us that both the Unites States as a nation and Judaism as a religion have these important, late autumn ways of reminding us to be thankful for our heritage, for times of creation and revitalization in the past and for the peoples who worked hard many years ago to give foundations for our politics and religions.”
Schofer said the rare overlap is a result of the differences in the Jewish calendar and the Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely accepted calendar. The Jewish calendar is a Luni-Solar calendar that is based off the sun and the moon, while the Gregorian calendar is based strictly off the sun and earth’s rotation around it.
The story of Hanukkah originates from the Book of Maccabees, which recounts a miracle in which a one-day supply of oil kept the candles in the Jewish temple lit for eight days. This year, the Jewish holiday begins when the first candle in the menorah is lit, which happens to fall on the night before Thanksgiving. The convergence of the two holidays has been coined “Thanksgivukkah.” Naomi Lindstrom, Spanish and Portuguese professor who works in Latin American Jewish studies, said this convergence has started an Internet frenzy with products being made for the special occasion.
“The Internet is buzzing with ideas on how to incorporate the two holiday’s together,” Lindstrom said. “One thing I’ve seen is a turkey menorah. It is this goofy-looking turkey, and it has spread out feathers where you’re supposed to place the candles.”
Daley Epstein, a Plan II honors and business senior, said she is excited the two holidays are coinciding with each other.
“Normally, I come home and enjoy Thanksgiving with my family just to turn around and celebrate [Hanukkah] during finals, not really giving it the celebration it deserves,” Epstein said. “The ability to come home for both holidays affords me a much more meaningful [Hanukkah] and allows me to share it with my family and friends.”
Aaron Liener, a Plan II honors and Hebrew language and literature senior, said his family will combine the two holidays this year by lighting the first candle during the halftime show of the Cowboys game and creating food to celebrate both traditions.
“I look forward to trying the new dishes that will make their one and only appearance at our ‘Thanksgivukkah’ dinner,” Liener said. “I’m hoping for sweet potato latkes with cranberry applesauce and sufganiyot (fried donuts) with pumpkin pie filling. My mother, grandmothers, aunts and cousins all enjoy coming [up] with creative new dishes every year, and this year should be better than ever.” Robert Abzug, director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, said he will celebrate the two different holidays separately because the holidays are meal-heavy, but said he enjoys the fun with the holidays coinciding.
“[My family and I] are going to celebrate Hanukkah over the weekend,” Abzug said. “Normally we have family over and have a big meal on Wednesday, but then this year we’d have to turn around and have another on Thursday. I can only imagine the weight gain.”