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By Amy Phillips Penn

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are merging for the first time in history, or are they?

Is this a first, major hype or the sequel?

Do the math: Thanksgiving was established in 1863. The overlapping of the two holidays has been reported as 1861 (doesn’t count) or 1888 (counts). Food for thought: be it kosher or kosher not. So stuff your latkes with pumpkin, shape your menorah like a turkey (a Menurkey), then debate away.

What a potentially poetic merge of similar spiritual values: Dedication to peace between nations, gratitude and love of family and country and a mega feast (Jews eat turkey too, by the way.)

Witness a blending of epicurean traditions: Hannukah is big on oil (think miracle of the lights, when”the little oil that could” oozed a long way) while Thanksgiving is high on harvests from the earth, yes, yes, a turkey, stuffing, and chocolate pilgrims looking too puritan to candy coat. No olive oils need apply.

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck

Flash back to 167 B.C., when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the “gantzemacher”of the Seleucid Empire, bullied the Jews in Judah to give up their religious customs: That again. The Jews rebelled for seven years (the Maccabean Revolt.) Once they liberated Jerusalem, they rededicated the temple.

There are at least twelve ways to spell Hannukah:













It’s a small wonder that no one can really prove that this is a first time macro merger, or just one of those run of the mill holiday mitzvahs.

This year, Hanukkah (or pick your favorite spelling) lights glow from November 27 to December 5.

“May This Festival of Lights bring Blessings

upon you and All Your Loved Ones for Happiness,

for Health, and for Spiritual and Material Wealth,

and May the Lights of Chanukah Usher in the Light of Moshiach

and a Better World for All of Humankind.”

- Hanukkah blessing

Thanksgiving commemorates a 1621 feast celebrated by the colonists at Plymouth, Massachusetts. It reigns supreme on November 28, 2013. For the first time since 1888, the two holidays overlap. See: “Thanksgivukkah.”

What a unique opportunity to express yourself in Yiddish, spin your Dreidel (no its’ not x-rated) and teach your children to give to charity rather than receive gifts.

One of the best Thanksgivings I ever spent was when a friend and I made our excuses to our family and volunteered in a church, somewhere in the East eighties. We served homeless people with puerile and faraway faces, and the gratitude was palpable; not the “I owe you something, or we’re impoverished kind of gratitude… but the natural, shy, tranquil kind of connection that knows no need to bow down to anyone or anything. A simple and heartfelt: “Thank you.”

I have never seen better manners anywhere, or been immersed in an agenda-less community like this before or since.

When we were in school, we brought in Thanksgiving food for the “less fortunate.” I dislike the term immensely, and its clumsier, antipathetic synonyms like “needy.” My teacher, the Drama Queen with golden grammar, stopped what she was teaching. “Who brought the marshmallows?” she bellowed.

I raised my hand. “My mother bought them.”

My mother knew that everyone deserves the marshmallows of life, not just the cans stuffed with practicality and often implicit condescension.

“There but for the Grace of God, go some of us,” at least for now.

We are thankful, indeed for that.


Featured image courtesy of

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