Thanksgivukkah!

The place where American traditions and fried foods collide.

I am sitting around with a group of girls one Shabbos afternoon and our conversation heads toward the upcoming holiday. Or should I say holidays.

“Chanukah is starting in November this year!” one girl exclaims with disbelief.

“I know,” another girl adds. “At the same time as Thanksgiving!”

They turn to me, waiting for my cry of disbelief. I smile at them and shrug my shoulders; they are appalled at my obvious lack of enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong, I have high holiday spirits, but I just don’t understand the hoopla over the fact that Chanukah intersects with Thanksgiving this year.

“It’s just so weird, lighting the first set of Chanukah candles after eating turkey and mashed potatoes. I mean, there’s supposed to be snow outside during Chanukah!”

Last year Pesach landed in March instead of April. I imagine having a similar conversation over the peculiarity of an early Pesach. The dialogue unravels all too realistically in my head:

“Pesach is starting in March this year!” one girl would exclaim in disbelief.

“I know,” the next one would add, “At the same time as Easter!”

Perhaps she would throw her hands in the air at the abnormality of it all. I giggle to myself and my friends question my cheery outburst.

“Does it really matter?” I ask. “So what if we have two holidays that happen at the same time?”

They give me a look that questions my sanity. How could I not be mystified by it all?

I refuse to build enthusiasm for the holidays a month before their arrival, similar to the surge of Halloween decorations that pop up in stores and on people’s lawns after Labor Day for one single day of celebration. I’ll be celebrating when I should be celebrating, and enthusiastically for sure! I just am not mystified by the strangeness of it all because when it comes right down to it, the timing of Chanukah is determined by facts. 

Two different calendars are bound to have holidays that intersect. Our Jewish holidays fall the way they do because we run on a lunar calendar. The solar calendar is a more fixed calendar with 365 days in a year plus one leap year.

“The lunar cycle is 11 days shorter than the solar cycle,” said Rabbi Daniel Wolf of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Paramus, N.J. “Therefore, every four years one month is shorter and we add a leap year to the Jewish calendar to catch up. So every couple of years there will be conflicting holidays because the Jewish holidays will fall earlier.” This year it’s Chanukah and Thanksgiving that collide.

Since the two calendars are not in synch with each other, over the years the holiday intersections vary or don’t occur at all. In 2013 (5774 in the Jewish calendar) Chanukah starts on the earliest possible day and Thanksgiving occurs on the latest.

Mix it all together and you’ve got … Thanksgivukkah, as the day is popularly named. People are seizing the day and turning it into money-making opportunities.

The nickname, and other holiday-inspired ideas, are all over the Internet. Recipes are circulating for everything from challah-stuffed turkey to sweet potato noodle kugel. Expressions such as “gobble tov” and “Thanksgivukkah” have been added to our lexicon.

Want a T-shirt to commemorate the 24-hour event? I’ve seen them sold on websites such as zazzle and moderntribe. Sizes range from toddler to adult. You can who pay anywhere from $25 to $37 for a design of a cartoon turkey and a menorah, the date of the event, and a catchy slogan like, “it only comes once in a lifetime!” Yeah, so does the price. (Ten percent of proceeds go to Mazon, a Jewish hunger relief organization. So at least shopping is for a good cause.) 

What’s pretty amazing is the story of the 9-year-old boy who’s invented and trademarked the “menurkey” (another new dictionary entry). It’s a menorah shaped like a turkey and the nine feathers surrounding the head are candle holders. He’s selling the plaster version of a menurkey for $50 online. (Ceramic is selling for $150.) When’s the next time this generation or the next or the next or the next is going to use it? Never.

But you can forever treasure a song marking this once-in-an-eon event. Download onto your MP3, “Hanukkah, O’Hanukkah (Introducing the Menurkey)” by The Dirty Sock Funtime Band. Cost is 99 cents (additional tax not included).

Thanksgivukah has made national news. There is a humorous bit on The Colbert Report making fun of the holiday drama. He brings up the question that plagues people who enjoy tracing their hand and drawing a turkey: how do you draw a hand menorah? Sounds to me like a job for a menurkey.

This whole idea of connecting the holidays through cheesy sayings and tacky clothing is as silly as a turkey filled with sufganiyot stuffing. American and Jewish holidays are usually celebrated independent of each other, regardless of when they fall on the calendar. Last year, Shavuot was celebrated the same weekend as Memorial Day. There weren’t any nicknames or once-in-a-lifetime overpriced products for sale on the Internet. I didn’t hear any holiday terms like Memorshavuot Day either. Have we really sunk to selling overpriced clothing to commemorate a holiday on a calendar?

We should all take a breather from the anticipation of the holidays and save the excitement for Nov. 28. We should focus less on the money-making prospect and more on the family getting together for happy occasions. On Turkey Day and the Festival of Lights, I’ll be stuffing my face by day and lighting the menorah by night. I’m more than happy with that.

Happy Holidays! Gobble Tov!

author's bio: 
Lizzie Zakaim is a junior at Paramus High School in Paramus, N.J.