Hanukkah, Thanksgiving align but most in Triangle keep traditions separate

ablythe@newsobserver.comNovember 27, 2013 

  • Hanukkah, meet Thanksgiving

    • The eight-day celebration of Hanukkah, which began at sundown Wednesday, commemorates the triumph of the Jewish Maccabees over their Greek-Syrian occupiers more than 2,000 years ago.

    • Thanksgiving, a national holiday since Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation, is a tradition started by the Pilgrims, who also waged their own battle for religious freedom.

Social media sites have been abuzz for months about Thursday’s rare convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah – a mashup that has been dubbed “Thanksgivukkah,” “Thanukkah” and “Hanu-giving.”

Facebook pages have been created, Twitter handles claimed, marketing opportunities seized, and culinary traditions blended.

Jews in the Triangle say they have been enjoying the focus on the unusual confluence, but they hesitate to put any great meaning into this Thanksgivukkah.

“The truth is, you do separate things,” said Rabbi John Friedman of Judea Reform Congregation in Durham.

Many families in the Triangle plan to sit down to a Thanksgiving feast that maybe combines traditional fare from the two holidays – such as saying a prayer of Thanksgiving and lighting a menorah.

Foodies have posted recipes for pumpkin challah; turkey brined in Manischewitz, the super-sweet kosher wine; roasted Brussels sprouts with pastrami and pickled onions; and pecan pie rugelach. As some might say, “Gobble tov!”

This holiday combo has not occurred since 1888 – and, according to the calendar gurus and the mathematically inclined, is not scheduled to happen again for another 70,000 years or so.

“Conceptually, they do have a lot in common,” said Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar of Chabad of Cary.

But Cotlar echoed Friedman and others who say they plan to keep with the traditions of both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.

A fairly traditional meal

Felice Bogus, a Raleigh resident whose recipes bring home numerous prizes in local and state cooking contests, has enjoyed seeing all the recipes for Thanksgivukkah. Her sweet and spicy sweet potato latkes have won raves online.

But at her household, the family will plan to sit down to a yummy, but fairly traditional, Thanksgiving dinner.

Her husband will smoke the turkey that will be paired with a mushroom stuffing. She’ll offer an Italian-style tomato-based gravy, a butternut-squash soup, roasted Brussels sprouts, a pumpkin pie and a pear cardamom pie.

She and her husband planned on giving their 11-year-old daughter one big Hanukkah gift this year instead of eight. And they planned to do that on Wednesday after sundown.

A surprise success

Valerie Glassman, an assistant dean of students at Duke University, plans to start her Thanksgiving morning with pumpkin pancakes, then go to a friend’s house later in the day for a Thanksgiving meal. They’ll light a menorah at sundown, she said.

Glassman happened upon a special marketing niche for Thanksgivukkah, but her success surprised her.

Weeks ago, when she realized Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fell on the same day, she decided to make a special onesie for a friend’s baby. She designed a turkey with eight candles for feathers.

That friend posted a picture on Facebook. The requests for more came quickly.

Glassman, who does crafty things in her down time, decided not only to make a similar onesie for her own child, but she also offered them on the Etsy crafting Web page.

Requests soon rolled in from across the nation. Glassman had become a Thanksgivukkah marketing success story.

“It’s kind of cool,” she said.

And a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that won’t present itself again for thousands and thousands of years.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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