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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How To Celebrate Thanksgivukkah

Thanksgivukkah holiday celebration
Photo via

There is something special happening this Thanksgiving that won't happen again for another 70,000+ years.  The first day of Hannukah falls on Thanksgiving, creating what many are calling "Thanksgivukkah."  Since we are celebrating Thanksgiving at my mom's house this year, who is not Jewish (I am a convert), I have been thinking about how I will incorporate some Hannukah traditions into the day for my kids, while still honoring the Thanksgiving holiday that is so special to my mom.  

The simplest way to do this is through food.  My family associates specific foods with Thanskgiving (grandma's sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes) and Hannukah (potato latkes, gelt, jelly doughnuts).  My kids asked me last week if they could have latkes on Thanksgiving (they are not fans of mashed potatoes), and I thought "Why not?"  After thinking about what I will contribute to our Thankgiving table, I realize it is going to be a mash up of flavors from both holidays.  Sweet potato latkes and Grandma's sweet potatoes will fill the spread.  How about pumpkin pie and my daughter's and my new creation of "jelly" cupcakes (our take on sufganiyot)?  At Thanksgiving, when we are all stuffing ourselves to the brim, why not add a few more dishes to the mix?  This article from The New York Daily News shares some fantastic inspiration for your menu if you are celebrating both holidays this year.

Beyond food, there is a great opportunity with the junction of these two holidays to talk about freedom. The Pilgrims were seeking religious freedom, and the Maccabees were also fighting for theirs.  Just as I always ensure gratitude never gets lost in between the stuffing and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, I will add in some new activities this year to incorporate the theme of freedom, and encourage my family to express their gratitude for it.  Here are a few that I have in mind:

  • Light it up: When we light the second Hanukkah candle on Thanksgiving evening, I will ask everyone to share what they are thankful for (a new twist on an annual tradition I do during Thanksgiving).
  • Freedom placemats: I will give everyone a blank paper placemat to express what freedom means to them.  Then, everyone can hold up their placemats and share as we go around the table.
  • Read and discuss: I have a great book called Maccabee!: The Story of Hannukah.  This year, when I read it, I will ask my kids what the Pilgrims and Maccabees have in common and use it as a starting point for discussion about the fusion of Thanksgiving and Hannukah this year.
Jewish or not, consider reflecting on the themes of gratitude and freedom this Thanksgiving and how you might express it at your holiday table.  Happy Thanksgivukkah!