There are certain events that will only occur once or so within our lifetimes. Such events include the Venus transit - when Venus moves past the sun - a back-to-back no hitter in baseball, which as of now was accomplished only in 1938 by Johnny Vander Meer of the Reds, and now we have Thanksgiving and Hanukkah falling on the same day. This event, unlike a potential two-round no hitter, we will never see again.
Hanukkah is based on the Hebrew calendar and starts on the 25th day of Kislev, which falls anywhere in between late November to December. Where it falls each year, no one knows! Well, actually, that is completely incorrect, a lot of people know, I am just not one of those people.
When it occurred to the world that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah would collide this year, grand gestures were made. For one, the Internet deemed that this combined celebration needed a combined name and Thanksgivukkah was born. The Internet also realized that the holidays had a few things in common. According to Time both are about religion - the Pilgrims celebrating religious freedom and the Jews celebrating religious battles. Both are about thanks - obviously Thanksgiving is about thanks because the word is in the name and Hanukkah is about being thankful that little Jewish kids have a holiday in December with which to get presents so they don't feel left out. And they both
er are about big meals that involve potatoes.
But before you all put all your money down on gimel for the win and claim Thanksgivukkah the next greatest holiday in the entire universe, let's get a few things straight. We cannot keep every aspect to both holidays; some things are going to have to go. Being the conscientious Jew that I am, let's pick and choose the best from both holidays.
Firstly, we need to talk about the food. You may have encountered numerous food websites that have playfully combined the holiday's best foods into one; I heartily disagree. While there are some Jewish foods worth saving from Hanukkah, do we really want to eat kugel pumpkin pie? No! Do you even know what kugel is? Neither do I, and I've eaten it many times. So let's call a spade a spade and say that Thanksgiving food trumps the Hanukkah meal any day of the week, with one caveat: potato latkes.
If you have never encountered a latke, do yourself a favor and go to Kenny and Ziggy's for the best latkes in town. The latke is a fried potato pancake, often smothered in some condiment that seems completely foreign. Some people put sour cream, some ketchup, (which is sacrilege), but I put apple sauce and I can't tell you why. It's just good. In terms of the holiday table, this year, ditch your boring old mashed potatoes for some latkes and you will be a winner amongst winners. You can have mashed spuds any day of the week, but latkes only come out once a year like Ricky Martin.
Secondly, Thanksgiving is built around television, while Hanukkah is built around lighting candles and singing in tongues. I think, again, that Thanksgiving's media consumption takes the cake here. Who wants to spend their entire day not watching television? And unless you want to spend three plus hours watching Cecil B. Demille's The Ten Commandments (Jews will watch that movie on any given holiday), I think we should all agree that watching Matt Lauer and Al Roker make poorly written jokes about Snoopy balloons is a much better way to spend your time.
However, let us not forget that Hanukkah does incorporate the aspect of gambling, subtly known as dreidel . Feel free to utilize the festival of lights to rake in some sweet cash from your unassuming younger cousins. My advice, take this game to the kids table - a quarter minimum to get in - and thank me later. If you don't know how to play, here are some easy instructions.
This post continues on the next page. At the moment it feels like Thanksgiving is a much better holiday than Hanukkah, but hold onto your yarmulke as I am about to blow your mind. There are no Thanksgiving songs worth singing. You heard me. Oh you can "1 Little, 2 Little, Indian" all you want at me, but that shit is incorporated into every holiday nowadays. There's that traditional Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts" that we tend to associate with the holiday, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Thanksgiving, and we just assume they are the same because both sects look like they are comprised of working actors from Colonial Williamsburg.
But Hanukkah has a few good tunes worth humming along to. The "Dreidel Song" is beautiful in its simplicity. The verse and the chorus are the same, so there is barely anything to memorize and it's catchy as all hell. Additionally, we have "Chanukah, Oh Chanukah," another wonderfully easy song to learn and have get stuck in your head.
And while we are discussing "Oh Chanukah," let us not forget that there is mention of the hora, which is a dance that Jews do for no apparent reason after they've had a few too many. Does Thanksgiving have a drunken dance? I don't think so.
Lastly, there is the one aspect to Hanukkah that will forever triumph over Thanksgiving and that is the guilt. Unlike Christmas, there is no guilt involved in a traditional turkey day. Why would there be? Everyone is just happy to be together eating pie. Hanukkah, however, is stuffed in guilt. Firstly, there is the religious significance of guilt. We had to fight and all our temples were torn down and those nasty Egyptians; Oye vey!
Then there is guilt over who should cook, which is a typical Jewish family affair. "I'll do the cooking." "No, I'll do the cooking, you did it last year."
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No one wants to do any cooking, but a quiet argument involving cold shoulders and unsettling smiles will ensue. And then there will be guilt over eating, either pointing out the people who eat too much behind their backs or nagging at those who eat too little and make the eaters feel guilty over eating. It's very complicated, I know.
And then when you think you've been guilted enough until next year, there are all these presents involved. Who paid more for whose gifts, whose gifts were wrapped nicer with expensive paper that is such a waste of money and so it must be folded nicely and reused, whose gifts were more thoughtful, whose gifts were food (see food guilt above) and who didn't bring any gifts, which is the ultimate crime. Incorporating Hanukkah guilt into Thanksgiving will make for a much more interesting evening.
As you can see, we don't need to just smoosh these two holidays into one; as with any religious event, it's better to preserve a piece of each tradition rather than integrate wholly.
Whether you are celebrating one or the other or both, make it the best year you can as this will never happen ever again in your lifetime. Abby Koenig shares her own Jewish guilt in the upcoming mixed-media installation and story-telling event "The Jew Who Loves Christmas," opening at the Fresh Arts Gallery on December 6.