It Is on the Calendar: Thanksgivukkah Brings Together Two Holidays for One Night Only

November 26, 2013
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At the Satter House on Revere Beach, Thanksgivukkah is alive and well as Chef Al DaCunha and Jewish resident leader Norma Siegel have worked to combine the traditions of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah in a fun way – having sweet potato Latkes and Challah bread stuffing. The two holidays won’t converge again for another 79,043 years.

At the Satter House on Revere Beach, Thanksgivukkah is alive and well as Chef Al DaCunha and Jewish resident leader Norma Siegel have worked to combine the traditions of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah in a fun way – having sweet potato Latkes and Challah bread stuffing. The two holidays won’t converge again for another 79,043 years.

Roasted Turkey, Challah bread, Latkes (potato pancakes) with a side of cranberry-applesauce don’t often converge on the fourth Thursday in November, but Hanukkah and Thanksgiving don’t often coincide either – and, in fact, after this Thursday, they won’t coincide again for 79,043 years.

So, basically, it’s a one-time shot and many Jewish residents are playing up the novelty to its fullest this week – finding creative ways to blend the foods and feelings of the holidays.

One local organization has even come up with a unique name for the dual holiday, Thanksgivukkah, which was coined by the marketing directors of the Jack Satter House (run by Hebrew SeniorLife) on Revere Beach.

The name, and dual holiday, have now become nationwide sensations – both in real life and online.

“People are getting so excited about it, and there is a wealth of information about it on the Internet,” said Rabbi Joseph Berman of Temple B’Nai Israel in Revere’s Beachmont neighborhood. “Part of it is that this has never really happened and it probably won’t happen ever again. It’s also a convergence of American/Jewish identity. Not often do people get to experience these two different parts of their identity on the same day, identities that are often separate. I hear a lot of kids are really excited more than usual for Hanukkah. Both parts of their identity are coming together. I think most of us have that experience in some ways. There are different parts of our identity and sometimes they do come together.”

Hanukkah – which is not a major Jewish holiday – is typically associated with Christmas, as the eight-day observance marked by the lighting of Menorah candles each day usually falls during the same time as the Christmas season. However, due to the differences in calendar – Jewish calendars are based on the moon and Christian calendars are based on the Sun – Hanukkah falls during Thanksgiving this year. That rarity hasn’t happened since 1888, and even more noteworthy, it won’t happen again for another 79,043 years.

Hanukkah will begin at sundown on Wednesday, Nov. 27, and the first day of Hanukkah will fall on Thanksgiving Day.

Berman said some members of his congregation are keeping the holidays separate, but others are excited to blend the two together.

“Thanksgiving is actually much more comparable to Hanukkah than Christmas,” Berman said. “People who are doing this are excited because they usually get together for either one or the other. They feel it’s nice to be able to get the whole family together for both this time.

“Others are excited that they can combine foods,” he continued. “All Jewish holidays are big food holidays and so people are coming up with fun things that mix the two holiday foods. A lot of people are talking about fried turkey or turkey Latkes. Others are talking about dipping the Latkes in cranberry sauce instead of applesauce. People are doing some creative things and it’s pretty interesting.”

At the Jack Satter House, they have already scheduled a dinner for Weds., Nov. 27, that will combine the best of Hanukkah and the best of Thanksgiving.

They’re calling it Thanksgivukkah – a term that Hebrew SeniorLife marketer Dana Gittell came up with last year.

“Thanksgivukkah is being used everywhere now, but interestingly enough, it originated from a Hebrew SeniorLife employee – Dana Gittell,” said Jane Baker of Hebrew SeniorLife, which runs the Satter House. “She came to me about a year ago when the calendar came out and she noticed the confluence and noted what a rare and historic date it was. She decided to put together celebrations and came up with the idea of calling it ‘Thanksgivukkah.’…It’s central to our beliefs of freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and giving thanks.”

At the Satter House, preparations are already underway with Director of Dining Services Adelino ‘Al’ DaCunha coming up with a unique Thanksgiving stuffing made from traditional Hanukkah foods like Challah bread, dried apricots and dried cranberries. There are also sweet potato Latkes, to add to the twist.

“Actually, it’s been a very unique experience coming up with the menu,” said DaCunha. “We’re going to work in both of the traditions and that has been fun. Obviously, none of us will be around to see this the next time.”

Norma Siegel, who leads the Jewish contingent at the Satter House and is a Chelsea native, said she is excited about the convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. At the celebration, following a nice meal of turkey and Latkes, she will be lighting the first candle on the Menorah.

“I love it,” she said. “I think it’s going to be very interesting.”

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