Move over Christmas.
The big holiday buzz this year surrounds the convergence of two other major holidays, an event that won’t take place for another 79,000 years.
What’s happening is that on Thursday, Nov. 28, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap for the first time since 1888, creating what many are calling “Thanksgivukkah.”
Dana Gitell, a care provider for the elderly at Boston’s Hebrew SeniorLife, decided to celebrate and market the rare occasion, so she came up with the mashed-up holiday name and registered the domain, a Twitter account and a Facebook page.
“After seeing the response to the Facebook page, I realized there was a retail opportunity,” Gitell said. “People seemed to want a way to express their excitement for this phenomenon. Additionally, I saw promoting this convergence as an opportunity to really celebrate the Jewish-American experience and give thanks for America as a bastion of religious freedom.”
Among the items Gitell is hawking is a Woodstock-style T-shirt with the catchphrase “8 Days of Light, Liberty and Latkes.” Latkes are potato pancakes often served throughout Hanukkah.
Now Jews across the country are talkin’ turkey as they jump on the bandwagon.
Asher Weintraub, a 9-year-old boy in New York City, has created and trademarked a “Menurkey,” which is a menorah in the shape of a turkey, and he’s selling ceramic and plaster versions online, ranging from $50 to $150.
His filmmaker parents, Caroline Baron and Anthony Weintraub, are helping their 4th-grade son market the product online, saying, “What began as a way to encourage one of our son’s ideas has grown into a mission – whomever we tell about the Menurkey smiles and asks questions, and it’s a great way to discuss these two holidays in which we’re thankful for all we’ve been given. What better way to celebrate this strange but amazing occurrence with your family than with this funny and fascinating conversation starter?”
Rabbi David Paskin is co-head of Kehillah Schechter Academy in Norwood, Mass., the closest Jewish day school to the site of the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock.
He’s promoting “The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah,”a song with lyrics including “Imagine Judah Maccabee, sitting down to roast turkey and passing the potatoes to Squanto.”
“It’s pretty amazing to me that in this country we can have rich secular and rich religious celebrations and that those of us who live in both worlds can find moments when they meet and can really celebrate that convergence. There are a lot of places in the world where we would not be able to do that,” Paskin told the Associated Press.
In Santa Ana, Calif., caterer Hollis O’Brien of Temple Beth Sholom, is heading a Thanksgivukkah cooking class this month, with recipe tips for such dishes as sweet-potato latkes and a Jewish-style brisket with a cranberry glaze.
She told the Wall Street Journal she also plans to showcase doughnuts, since oil ad fried foods are popular each year during Hanukkah.
“Usually, I fill them with strawberry jelly, but this year, I’m going to use pumpkin cream,” she said.
But not everyone is gobbling up the revelry over Thanksgivukkah.
Binyamin L. Jolkovsky, publisher of JewishWorldReview.com is among those crying fowl.
“It’s really pathetic that to sell Judaism to the next generation it has to be made into a gimmick,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Because the Hebrew calendar is based on the movements of the moon and sun, Jewish holidays appear to drift from year to year when compared to the U.S., or Gregorian, calendar.
Thanksgiving itself is not always on the same date either. It was declared an annual holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as the last Thursday of November.
Then in 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress moved the celebration to the fourth Thursday in November, looking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, since there are sometimes five Thursdays in the month.
Jonathan Mizrahi, a quantum physicist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., mentioned the holiday convergence in a blog last January.
Since then, more than 100,000 responses have been posted.
Mizrahi told AP the public interest “has truly blown me away. I’ve just been totally flabbergasted at the number of responses.”