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Thanksgiving-Hanukkah Convergence Creates Fun, Worry

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November 25, 2013

In 2013, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the American holiday of Thanksgiving overlap. Technically, Hanukkah begins on Thanksgiving night. That overlap is creating opportunities for fretting, fun, and extra forgiveness.

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. An eight-day holiday involves the lighting of the menorah, a nine-branched candle-holder, the eating of special foods, and the exchanging of gifts. Jewish children commonly play with a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with each sided having a Hebrew letter, during Hanukkah.

Thanksgiving commemorates the harvest feast of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag in 1621. Americans commonly gather in groups of family and/or friends and eat a variety of holiday foods.

In general, the menus of the Hanukkah meals and the Thanksgiving feast do not overlap. Traditional Hanukkah meals include latkes (potato pancakes), bimuelos (fritters), and pontshkes (jam-filled doughnuts). Traditional Thanksgiving meals include turkey, potatoes, and pumpkin dishes.

In 2013, Jewish people in America are combining the two traditions with things like a "menurkey," a design that blends the figures of a menorah and a turkey; a "challurkey," a traditional Jewish bread called challah baked in the shape of a turkey; a "turkel," a combination of the figures of a turkey and a dreidel; and even a new name for the dual holidays, Thanksgivvukah.

Some people worry that two holidays means two separate celebrations and two sets of expansive food preparations. For many people, that will be entirely the case. Other people worry that the convergence will tax people's celebration capabilities, such that observances of both holidays will be diluted.

Some Jewish religious scholars have noted that some sacred texts refer to Hanukkah as a "time of thanksgiving."

The last known convergence of the two holidays was in 1888. The next expected convergence, according to some Jewish calendar-watchers, isn't for another 79,000 years.

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