Every autumn, as sure as the leaves change color, the Jews will be kvetching about the timing of our holidays: too early, with Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, hard on the heels of Labor Day; or too late, so that Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement, when synagogues are packed to the rafters — coincides with the World Series. It’s that damn lunar calendar.
To figure out your Thanksgiving travel plans, count four Thursdays in November and bingo! But if you want to find out when Hanukkah starts, you have to Google it. And this year, just to make everybody crazy, the first night of Hanukkah falls on erev (the eve of) Thanksgiving. Hence, Thanksgivukkah!
There have been a few dire screeds against the dangers of such a “syncretistic abomination.” According to this line of thinking, Hanukkah celebrates Jews who resisted assimilation whereas Thanksgiving demonstrates how American Jews are all too eager to go full pilgrim and pigskin.Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is both.
On the other hand, some Jews are thrilled to have so much daylight, candlelight and twinkling light bulbs between Hanukkah and Christmas, which — if you have kids — always turns into a contest about who has more fun and who gets more presents. (Christmas always wins.)
On the third hand (Jewish arguments are complicated), some see this as a teachable moment about how distinctiveness and individuality are not antithetical to being part of a larger community. Rabbi Hillel’s most famous lines are getting a workout:
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, who am I?
Culturally, what Thanksgivukkah really boils down to is chotchkes (worthless baubles, to be polite), food and jokes.
This image shows an American Gothic Thanksgivukkah Poster celebrating Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. (ModernTribe.com)
The tchotchkes include yarmulkes festooned with pilgrim buckles, t-shirts that mash up the Woodstock guitar with a turkey and the lame logo, “8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes.” Dozens of circulating e-cards feature puns that already seem shopworn.
Among the worthless baubles, the most memorable is probably the Menurkey(trademarked) a turkey shaped menorah invented by a 9-year-old boy who raised more than $48,000 on Kickstarter to get it manufactured. In terms of tacky, the Menurkey is no guiltier than the Moose menorah, the plastic inflatable lawn menorah, and the entire Disney oeuvre, but I suspect this might be the pet rock of ritual items. You really want to hand one of those down as an heirloom to future generations?
The Thanksgivukkah table is set for indigestion: sweet potato latkes, sufganiot (fried donuts traditional in Israel) filed with pumpkin puree, challah and cranberry dressing with a pastrami brined turkey. Foodie blogs, Mommy blogs and Jewish blogs are stuffed with ideas even more, uh, appetizing.
Thanksgivukkah humor runs the gamut from Stephen Colbert trying to draw a “hand” Menurkey by tracing both of his hands with a marker in his mouth (genius) to unfunny, overwritten parody songs [see below].
However, in this season of Boston exceptionalism (Papi for president!), I direct your attention to another video created by JewishBoston.com, in which people on the street are asked if they know what Thanksgivukkah is, the word is translated into Chinese, and Mayor Tom Menino promises to proclaim Thanksgivukkah an official celebration in the city of Boston.
Thanksgivukkah is a tempest in a teapot, much ado about latkes. So I say do your big Hanukkah thing on the day after Thanksgiving. The convergence of these holidays is not going to happen for another 79,000 years — although the number is up for debate. (You’re surprised?) So what the hell? Why not do it up?
In the words of Rabbi Hillel, If not now, when? #passthegravy
As seen on: cognoscenti.wbur.org