Thanksgivukkah: Students celebrate two holidays at once

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By Bethany Hooper

This year, Thanksgiving and the beginning of Hanukkah fall on the same day, Nov. 28, leading some Jewish students at this university to combine the two holidays.

This event, also known as Thanksgivukkah, is a rare occurrence for the Jewish community and will not happen again until 2070, according to ReformJudaism.org.

Illustration by Leo Traub

Illustration by Leo Traub

“We always light the candles as a family. So I will do that on Thanksgiving Day,” freshman journalism major Justin Meyer said. “We are having our big dinner … and there will probably be traditional Jewish foods.”

The Jewish calendar, based on the lunar system, measures time differently then the solar calendar. This means that the length of a year varies, so holidays, such as Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah, can fall on different days every year.

Since Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are during the same time this year, Jewish students are evaluating how to celebrate one holiday or both in the same occasion.

“Hanukkah is not a super religious holiday, but I think Thanksgiving is culturally important and my personal favorite holiday because I spend time with my family,” sophomore finance major Zachary Cohen said. “It is just a tradition.”

Some students view Thanksgivukkah as a reflection of shared ideas, not cultural practices, and believe that instead of combining foods and traditions, Jewish students should combine the values of the two holidays.

“I think they both have the same roots, like being with your family and being thankful and happy for each other and that everyone is still here. They both have the same message to me,” freshman biology major Susanna Wach said. “We will probably eat like it is Thanksgiving and give like it’s Hanukkah.”

For freshman special education major Alana Rascoe, Thanksgivukkah is coming at a special time this year.

“We always do a big Thanksgiving dinner with as many family members as we can, but ironically, it is also my grandpa’s 90th birthday that night. So there is 75 members of my family coming in and every single one of them are Jewish. So there will be a menorah there.”

Traditional Jewish foods including latkes, jelly-filled doughnuts and potato pancakes will be included in many Thanksgiving dinners that Jewish students celebrate this year.

“Just because so many members of my family are going to be there, we would do something after with traditional desserts like jelly donuts. I guess you could add potato pancakes or something like that,” Rascoe said. “Hanukkah goes on for eight nights, so I feel that you could move your typical Hanukkah dinner party to a different night.”

Although Hanukkah lasts eight days, the first day this year is special. Seth Finkelstein, Jewish Student Life Coordinator at the Hillel, expressed his excitement for the rare holiday combination and the opportunities it presents for students.

“At Hillel, we think that it is a cool opportunity that [Thanksgiving and Hanukkah] are falling on the same day. It is a good opportunity to explore the themes of both holidays,” Finkelstein said. “A lot of the Jewish world is nervous about it, but we at Hillel are excited about it.”

To celebrate the holiday, the Hillel is hosting a “Fired Up!” event throughout Hanukkah, lighting menorahs and giving students latkes, doughnuts, chocolate coins and dreidels. The schedule for this event can be found on the the Hillel’s website.

Thanksgivukkah is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Jewish community. By combining traditional Jewish and Thanksgiving food and lighting the candles, students intend to make sure they enjoy the most of the special holiday.

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