This year, for the first time in over 100 years, Chanukah will start before Thanksgiving . It won't happen again for more than 77,000 years. That's right - seventy seven thousand years. The reasons for this are complicated, but if you're interested, there are many websites where you can find the details. The short explanation is the occurrence of two calendar extremes in the same year. Thanksgiving is a "floating" holiday. It doesn't occur on the same day each year, and in 2013 it falls on the latest date possible - November 28th. Although Chanukah always starts on the 25th day of Kislev, the Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle so Jewish holidays fall on different civil dates each year. This year Chuanukah starts on the earliest civil date possible - the evening of November 27th.
But Chanukah is more meaningfully connected to Thanksgiving than it is to Christmas. And some clever people have created fun diversions for this once in our lifetimes event. So, without further ado ... 8 reasons (one for each night) why Thanksgivukah is better than Christmukah:
(1) Religious Freedom
The story of Chanukah is about the Maccabees winning a battle for religious freedom against the Seleucid Greeks. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Puritan Pilgrims who had come to the "New World" to escape religious oppression.
(3) Fried Turkey
Fried foods are a traditional for Chanukah so that we remember the Chanukah miracle - when one day's worth of oil lasted for 8 days. In the United States the most common fried treats are latkes (potato pancakes). In Israel, Jews eat sufganiyot (jelly donuts) to celebrate the miracle. A relatively modern Thanksgiving innovation is deep fried turkey. There's little that's more American than eating a fried bird - and this year it's a Jewish thing, too
(4) Pumpkin Latkes
If you want a special Thanksgivukah treat, you can find lots of recipes (some of which are several years old) for potato pancakes using pumpkin instead of (or in addition to) potatoes. What would you make for Chrismukah - fruitcake latkes? In fact, there's a Jewish backstory for lots of traditional Thanksgiving fare.
(5) It's All About The Food
Eating is so intrinsic to the Thanksgiving experience, that The Sporkful podcast recently spent an entire episode interviewing a professional competitive eater for advice on how to maximize the amount of food consumed at Thanksgiving dinner. There's an old joke that every Jewish holiday can be summarized with the simple phrase, "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat." Q.E.D.
(6) Chanukah Wasn't Always About Giving Presents
There is a long tradition of giving "gelt" (coins) on Chanukah, but the giving of larger and more extravagant gifts was in large part the result of imitating the growing consumerism around Christmas. Of course, many Christians are also upset about how gift giving has become "the reason for the season". It's nice that Jews can make connections to the non-gift-giving holiday of Thanksgiving this year.
(7) Chanukah Is About Giving Thanks
Along with additional prayers of thanks inserted into the worship service, the blessings we chant when lighting the Chanukah candles are about giving thanks to G-d. Thanks for miracles, thanks for giving us life, for sustaining us in health, and thanks for letting us celebrate joyous holidays and life cycle events
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