Thanksgivukkah comes but once in an epoch, according to the current set up of the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars – not to happen again in almost 80,000 years. It’s because the Hebrew calendar is very, very gradually shifting forward. A change will be made to the calendar at some point, inevitably, so expect them to coincide again at some point in a nearer future.
BUT as the cliche goes, “Is it good for the Jews” that these festivities coincide? Jews have groaned over the transit of Christmas over Chanukah or Chanukah over Christmas year after year. And I am one of them – Chanukah and Christmas just don’t go together. I grew up with both holidays. I obviously have no gripe to direct anywhere at Christians. The fact is still laid bare. To celebrate them both definitely defeats the purpose of Chanukah: to celebrate Jewish independence from dominant or dominating cultures.
But this isn’t the case with Thanksgiving. I have to beg to differ with many peers who see this crossover as the same lamentable phenomenon as “Christmukkah.” Folks, Thanksgiving isn’t definitively a religious holiday; even if it was, it wouldn’t be specific to Christianity, much less an affront to Judaism. For sure, its very name has its origins in religious thought, but religion has influenced political ideas and political thought influenced religious thought forever – not always for the negative. Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States with a universal theme. It’s more a custom than an obligation, but who wouldn’t want a family holiday with tons of turkey?
If anything, it’s a relief that for once and if for only once that Chanukah gets to coincide with a different holiday. Despite Chanukah shining its lights for eight days, it always finds itself darkened by the shadow of Christmas – made worse by attempts to dilute the Jewish festival’s significance by merging it with the Christian holiday.
Chanukah, as indicated by its place in our blessings of “Thanks” whenever we say the final blessings after a meal or during the thrice-daily Amidah prayer, is one of the two surviving Rabbinical holidays in which we explicitly thank God that we survived the events that warranted its celebration.
Chanukah and Thanksgiving dovetail perfectly into each other much, much more so than Chanukah and Christmas ever, ever could. And with that, I will be having my latkes in cranberry sauce this year along with a cornucopia of chocolate gelt.