There has been more than enough media attention paid to the fact that Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving this year. There have been menu suggestions, historical comparisons, mathematical calendar explanations, and rabbinic messages regarding the coincidence. It’s all been fun and interesting, but in the end nothing too serious since it only will happen this year for any of us living today and for hundreds of generations to come. (Apparently the next time it happens will be almost 80,000 years from now.) It’s a once in many lifetimes coincidence with no deeper hidden meaning. And yet here I am, looking for meaning.
Aside from planning to have latkes with the turkey, I hadn’t given this whole thing much thought myself, but now that the two events are about to occur, I have been thinking about what this means to me. Both holidays celebrate freedom and specifically freedom of religion. The Pilgrims left England and came to the New World to be able to practice their own form of Christianity; the Maccabees fought the Syrian army in order to be able to practice Judaism. When we light the menorah, we not only celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. we also celebrate the miracle that we have survived—not only then, but every time before and after that time when some army, some nation, some maniac tried to exterminate the Jewish people. It is indeed a miracle that we, the Jewish people, are here.
Although Thanksgiving has no particular miracle associated with it (aside from the miracle that at least for a short time, the settlers were not trying to kill the natives who lived here first), we celebrate the miracle of America—its bounty, its beauty, and its identity as a place of refuge not only for the Pilgrims, but for all the immigrants who came later to escape religious, political or economic oppression. This year when we eat the turkey and light the candles, I will be grateful not only for what I have now, but for all those who came before me. I will think of Joseph and Bessie and be grateful for their courage and determination. It is in many ways a miracle that they were able to come here with their children and survive with few resources or skills other than hard work, determination, hope, and love. I am so thankful for all they did and for everything their descendants—my grandparents and my parents —have done to provide me with the life I live today. It is indeed a miracle that we, all of our family members, all of the descendants, are here.
Of course, this year I am also grateful to have found all of you, my long-lost cousins, and for all my relatives everywhere. Enjoy this crazy coincidence of Thanksgivukah in whatever way you celebrate it, and let’s hope for continuing miracles in our lives and the lives of all people everywhere. It is indeed a miracle that we are here.
- Hanukkah Meets Thanksgiving For First Time In 125 Years (ny1.com)
- Happy Thanksgivukkah! Five Things Thanksgiving and Hanukkah Have in Common (newsfeed.time.com)
- Thanksgiving, Hannukah collide this year (abc2news.com)
- Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this week. The result: ‘Thanksgivukkah’ (post-gazette.com)