Rare Convergence For the Holidays
Rabbi Edward Boraz says a prayer following the ceremonial lighting of the menorah on the first night of Hanukkah outside the Roth Center in Hanover, N.H. on November 27, 2013. This year marks the first time that the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving since 1888, and only because Thanksgiving used to fall on the last Thursday in November instead of the fourth Thursday. The next time the two will coincide in the sme way is the year 79,811. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Max Garland, 6, of Grantham, N.H., lights a menorah on the first night of Hanukkah as his mother Jamie Lynn steadies his hand at the Roth Center in Hanover, N.H. on November 27, 2013. This year marks the first time that the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving since 1888, and only because Thanksgiving used to fall on the last Thursday in November instead of the fourth Thursday. The next time the two will coincide in the sme way is the year 79,811. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Norwich — Sweet potato latkes with a side of cranberry sauce.
That’s one of the dishes that Norwich’s Wendy Teller-Elsberg will bring to her parents’ dinner table in New York City today, as she and her family combine their celebrations of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.
Or, as she and many others across the country are calling it, “Thanksgivukkah.”
“We’ve been actually calling it ‘Thanksgivukkah’ and joking that we’re going to say, ‘thanks-a-latke,’ ” Teller-Elsberg said Wednesday, standing on South Main Street in Norwich with her husband and two daughters following a public menorah lighting ceremony.
The convergence of the two holidays is a rare occurrence, as one analysis of Jewish and Gregorian calendars suggests it won’t happen again for more than 70,000 years. It happened most recently in the 1880s, long before the power of the Internet could volt it into a pop culture phenomenon.
Indeed, said Rabbi Edward Boraz, of the Upper Valley Jewish Community, “it’s very strange to have these two holidays coincide as they do.”
Or as 11-year-old Sara Linsey put it during a Upper Valley Jewish Community event in Hanover Wednesday night, the two holidays have become “jumbled together.”
In the Upper Valley, reactions at two menorah lighting ceremonies Wednesday night ranged from mild amusement — several people joked that they couldn’t do Thanksgivukkah simply because football games would conflict with the time to light the menorah — to full-on embrace, like Teller-Elsberg.
She and her family will probably be lighting Hanukkah candles around the same time that they’re eating turkey, she said, and will keep in mind the holidays’ shared themes, like thankfulness and spending time with family.
Not to mention, Teller-Elsberg said, eating.
“There’s an urge to overeat,” she said, laughing.
Teller-Elsberg and her family were attending an outdoor menorah lighting hosted by St. Barnabas church, which was followed by a “Thanksgiving eve” service presented by the Norwich Interfaith Council.
A short drive away at Dartmouth College’s Roth Center for Jewish Life, Boraz was overseeing a ceremony there.
It’s true that the two holidays have “common themes” he said in an interview before the ceremony, in which a few dozen people stood outside in rain jackets, singing the three blessings as a young person hit the switch to light a large electric menorah, before everybody gathered inside for more songs and food.
“Each are very thankful for the events that have transpired,” Boraz said. “Thanksgiving here, having the wonderful freedoms we have in our country and being blessed with so much bounty, and then Hanukkah is the festival of light, and light is the symbol of hope and being thankful, to be able to worship in our way and free from tyranny.”
A few people said they were glad to keep the holidays separate, like Jeff Lubell, of Norwich. The first and last nights of Hanukkah are generally the most celebrated, so having the first night Wednesday and Thanksgiving today meant that his family could “let them both shine.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Hanukkah. I don’t want to take anything away from Thanksgiving,” he said.
Rob Shumsky, of Hanover, agreed. It “seemed like too much” to do both in one night, so his family is postponing a larger Hanukkah celebration until the weekend.
But 11-year-old Shira Hoffer, who sat at a table with Sara Linsey, said she thought it was “cool” that the holidays would be overlapping because they’re both about being thankful.
Plus, she said, she and her family always get together with extended family on Thanksgiving, but rarely for the Jewish holiday. Today, coming together for Thanksgiving will bring them together for Hanukkah, as well.
Antoinette Jacobson, of Norwich, was also at the Hanover UVJC menorah lighting — in fact, she’s the artist who created the large outdoor steel menorah many years ago. Because of Thanksgiving, she said, “we’re doing both of them” today, and will be making minor tweaks to the Thanksgiving menu, such as serving latkes instead of mashed potatoes.
But calling it Thanksgivukkah?
“I have a hard time with that,” she said, laughing. “To me, that sounds too much like that guy who makes those songs ...”
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3220.