Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Thanksgivukkah 101: Navigating the Joint Celebration of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Thanksgivukkah 101: Navigating the Joint Celebration of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

Article excerpt

It's a once-in-a-lifetime event that brings together two holidays, one sacred and one secular; two culinary traditions, both with a signature potato dish; and two guest lists, each with an unimpeachable claim to space at your dining room table.

What could possibly go wrong?

As the historic overlap of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah hurtles toward us for the first time since 1888, complete with turkey menorahs (menurkeys), commemorative T-shirts ("8 Days of Light, Liberty and Latkes") and sweet potato latke recipes, the experts assure us we have nothing to fear.

"It's Michael Jordan with a layup. It couldn't be simpler - it couldn't be more beautiful to put these two (holidays) together," says Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism in New York, who notes that both are joyful, intimate celebrations of religious freedom.

Still, there are potential pitfalls, among them that in the rush to celebrate what friends, fans and marketers are calling Thanksgivukkah, key dishes from either of the two component celebrations will be omitted, to the bitter disappointment of some guests. Experts also caution that non-Jewish guests bearing side dishes may be stymied by Jewish dietary restrictions, and that guests and hosts of different faiths may need to communicate ahead of time.

Both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are beloved holidays, so don't omit a key component such as sweet potato casserole in favor of potato latkes - consider serving both and, for that matter, don't hesitate to add a third, maybe a cheeky hybrid such as sweet potato latkes, says Tina Wasserman, author of the upcoming book "Entree to Judaism for Families: Jewish Cooking and Kitchen Conversations With Children" (URJ Press, to hit bookstores Nov. 15).

The general principle, Ms. Wasserman says: "Add, don't subtract."

"They are both holidays that bring families together, and the table is so representative of family history and dynamics," she says. "What is put on the table brings back the memory of parents, of great-grandparents."

If you're Jewish and you plan to invite guests who are not familiar with Hanukkah, make sure to tell them that Thanksgiving is going to be different this year, says Rebecca Cynamon-Murphy, who wrote about Thanksgivukkah at InterfaithFamily. …

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