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November 25th, 2013
12:47 PM ET

Eight ways to celebrate Thanksgivukkah

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Break out the menurkeys and sweet potato latkes, people, it's time to celebrate Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.

A calendrical quirk brings the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together this Thursday for the first time since 1888. Scientists say the confluence won't occur again for another 70,000 years, give or take a millennium.

Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing manager for a Jewish nonprofit in Massachusetts, is the mind behind the mashup "Thanksgivukkah."

(If you think that's a mouthful, her other ideas were "Thanksgiving-ukkah" and "Hanukkahgiving," both of which caused our spellchecker to sputter and die.)

But with the right portmanteau in place, the Thanksgivukkah idea caught fire faster than a deep-fried turkey.

Gitell is gathering an online album of Thanksgivukkah celebrations, and says she's received submissions from places like South Dakota and Anchorage, Alaska - outposts not typically known for having vibrant Jewish communities.

Even rabbis from ultra-Orthodox sects like Chabad have jumped on board the Thanksgivukkah bandwagon.

"At first I didn't know how rabbis would respond to something as irreverent as a mashup," Gittel says, "but they almost uniformly embraced it. It's completely kosher."

We don't know if the rabbis approve of everything on our list, because people are sorta going nuts. Must be that once-in-an-eon thing. But without further ado (and with a nod toward Adam Sandler's "Eight Crazy Nights"), here are eight ways to celebrate Thanksgivukkah.

1. Light a menurkey

Leave it to a fourth-grader to create the ultimate Thanksgivukkah icon.

Asher Weintraub came up with the idea during a family trip to Florida last year. The little genius from New York City thought it'd be really cool to have a menorah, the nine-branched candelabrum used to mark Hanukkah, in the shape of a turkey.

Weintraub created a Kickstarter account, raised $50,000, made a 3-D prototype and heroically fended off his father's attempt to rename the thing a "menorkey." Nice job, kiddo.

The father in question, Anthony Weintraub, says he's sold between 6,000 and 7,000 menurkeys, including a few to famous finance experts and owners of National Football League teams.

"I'm beginning to think my life as a menorah salesman isn't over," says Anthony Weintraub.

2. Make a nice Turbrisket 

Let's face it, Thanksgiving was getting pretty gonzo even before meeting Hanukkah. I mean, turducken? But Thanksgivukkah has taken meal mashups to a new level.

You've got your Turbrisket (turkey filled with brisket), your deep-fried turkey, your sweet potato latkes, your cranberry-stuffed knishes, your pumpkin kugel, your pecan pie rugelach - I could go on, but I'll get fat just by typing the rest of the list.

Marlene Eldemire of Cincinnati says her family wanted to make the huge mashup menu Buzzfeed posted earlier this month.

"I told them they can go ahead and make it," Eldemire says with a laugh. "There's no way."

So her family is settling for a few Hanukkah standbys like brisket that'll sit next to the turkey and sweet potatoes this Thursday.

3. Deck the halls for the Challahday

This is another spot where people are getting really creative, says Kali Brodsky, editor of JewishBoston.com.

They're making pumpkin menorahs, Thanksgivukkah coloring books for kids, and table settings that mix and match Hanukkah and Thanksgiving themes.

Rabbi Rachel Silverman of Boston says she's decorating her table with Thanksgiving symbols (a cornucopia, pumpkins, harvest bouquet) and Hanukkah items (a menorah, gold-colored coins called "gelt").

If you're feeling lazy, Brodsky says, you can just print out the Thanksgivukkah place cards JewishBoston has created and set a place for Bubbe.

4. Watch a really big dreidel spin down the streets of New York 

To honor the confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, Macy's has created a 25-foot-tall, 21-foot-wide dreidel for its iconic parade.

The "balloonicle" (part balloon, part vehicle) will spin just like a real dreidel, and it's the first time the parade has included a Jewish symbol, according to Macy's.

"Inclusion of the dreidel balloonicle is indicative of both a nod to the rare occasion in which Hanukkah's first day falls on Thanksgiving and of the dreidel's inherent entertainment value," says Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras.

5. Party like it's 165 BC (and 1621 CE) 

Hanukkah, for those who need a refresher course, marks the miracle of the successful defense of the Jewish temple by the Maccabees, an army of Jewish rebels, against the Goliath-like Syrian-Greek army in 165 BC.

One day's supply of oil somehow lit the temple's menorah for eight days, and the rest is history.

The Jewish event and the Pilgrims' arrival in America are both celebrations of religious freedom, says Sherry Kuiper.

At Kuiper's synagogue, Temple Israel in Columbus, Georgia, the kids led a service in which they dressed up like the Maccabees and Pilgrims, traveled in a make-believe time machine, and celebrated Thanksgivukkah together.

The parallel isn't perfect, Kuiper acknowledges. After all, the Native Americans certainly don't celebrate Thanksgiving as the birth of their religious freedom.

But Thanksgivukkah offers a reminder that the more things change, the more some things - like the human need to express gratitude - stay the same, Kuiper said.

6. Kvetch about Thanksgivukkah 

Okay, this one isn't exactly about celebrating.

But it must be acknowledged, some folks just aren't into the Thanksgivukkah spirit.

Thanksgiving was one of the few holidays on which interfaith families didn't have to explain to the kids "why mom believes this and dad believes that," argues Allison Benedikt in a recent Slate column.

"I cannot tell you what a relief it is to have this one major holiday—the best one!—that isn’t in some part about what I am and my husband is not (Jewish), or what he is and I’m not (Christmas-celebrating)," Benedikt says.

(And for just the record, sweet and sour braised brisket with cranberry sauce is an abomination, she says.)

Jennie Rivlin Roberts, whose Judaica store, Modern Tribe, is selling Thanksgivukkah gear like hotcakes, says she understands some of the kvetching.

But a mashup of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah is so much better than the usual "December dilemma," the overlap of the eight-day Jewish holiday and the cultural behemoth know as Christmas, Roberts says.

"With Thanksgivukkah, you're not really mixing two religions, so you can really go for it. People may say it's silly, and yeah, some of it is, but it's also full of fun and joy."

7. Watch a rap battle between a turkey and a dreidel

Julie Benko was stuck on the subway in New York City for two hours, and she was bored. So, she did what any sane person would do - she wrote a song about Thanksgivukkah.

OK, Benko is not your average straphanger. She's something of a Broadway belle, having just returned from playing Cosette on a national tour of "Les Miserables." But that doesn't mean it's any easier to find a rhyme for "Thanksgivukkah."

Still, Benko's klezmer-inspired tune has lots of YouTube competition.

There's the rap battle between a turkey and a dreidel sponsored by Manischewitz. (Yes, they rock it old shul.)

There's the slickly produced "Oils: A Thanksgivukkah Miracle."

And there's this cute little number from the the Kehillah Schechter Academy in Norwood, Massachusetts, called "The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah."

8. Watch a scary movie about stereotypes

After all the candle-lighting and the decorating and eating and the kvetching and the singing, let's face it, you're probably going to be pretty tired.

So why not plop down on the couch to watch the trailer for a Thanksgivukkah-themed horror movie?

"Thanksgivukkah: The Movie" is about a nice gentile family who find their Thanksgiving celebration invaded by a family of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Jokes about religious stereotypes ensue.

We don't know if the trailer, which is made by Jewish filmmakers, is completely kosher, but we guess there's enough time for the rabbis to sort it out in time for the next Thanksgivukkah.

So, that's it. We"ll see you next Thanksgivukkah, in 70,000 years or so.  In the meantime, Gobble tov, my friends.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Food • Judaism • Kosher • Traditions • Trends

soundoff (527 Responses)
  1. atlwmn

    It's amazing how many people on here are whining about people celebrating the two holidays together, "since they have nothing in common with one another." You're right, they don't. The point of the story is that the two holidays fall on the same day this year (at least the 1st day). Would you want to choose only one holiday of yours to celebrate?

    It never ceases to annoy me how people can take a harmless, feel good story and make themselves so miserable over it. I for one thought the ideas presented were nice. If you don't like the topic, click a different link.

    November 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Beth

      It is pretty cool to have the both at once. I'm having fun with it. 🙂 I appreciate your positive post.

      November 27, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  2. nuclear mike

    And there is nothingis common with Thanksgiving and this jewish ritual day...nothing...must be bored jewish CNN writers trying to make up something about two different events that have no "crossover" value at all...

    November 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • schaz

      Mike: Actually Thanksgiving and Hanukkah something in common. The American Jews, like me, who celebrate both holidays. If you don't want to play, we won't make you.

      November 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • Beth

        Exactly. The common thing is we are going to be celebrating both tomorrow and it will be fun to combine some aspects of both into one fun meal and one fun day. 🙂 Happy Hanukkah!

        November 27, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  3. Vermonster

    Does this story really need to occupy this much of anyone's time?

    November 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  4. Gwen

    I'm not amused. Thanksgiving is about everyone. It is not a Jewish holiday. It is about everyone that wishes to give thanks.

    November 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  5. anchorite

    Clearly, it's "Chanukksgiving."

    November 27, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  6. Steve D

    Happy Chrismahanukwanzaakah! Or, for the atheists, happy SMWRBS (Secular Mid-Winter Retail Buying Season)

    November 27, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  7. Lauren Mayer

    Here's a newer entry in the 'Thanksgivukkah song' category (this time from a comedic Jewish mother) –
    "Kvelling For Thanksgivukkah" – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvlObc_BAvE

    November 27, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  8. Tattooed Jew

    Reblogged this on Tattooed Jew and commented:
    I had the pleasure of being interviewed for CNN’s Beliefs Blog. The writer, Daniel Burke, called me last week after I essentially answered an request for information on Facebook. Working in the news business, I knew it would be a long shot to get a reply. Sure enough, a few weeks later, Mr. Burke dropped a line. We chatted about Thanksgivukkah and what we did at Temple Israel in Columbus, GA to celebrate. He spoke with a wide array of people to write his blog. Here is the result of his work. You can follow Daniel Burke on Twitter @BurkeCNN

    November 27, 2013 at 1:54 am |
  9. Heavensent

    If u contend that a loving god would not permit hurricanes, then u acknowledge a loving god provided a way to an abundant food source.

    November 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  10. Angela

    Where did Indians get their rifles and bullets from? Did they have weapon factories?

    November 26, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  11. sami

    The gelt pictured, the coins traditionally given on Chanukah, are chocolate coins. We do not have bowls filled with silver coins on our holiday tables.

    November 26, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  12. Angela

    Solutrean Hypothesis

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solutrean_hypothesis

    November 26, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  13. Angela

    Why is it considered their land? Just because they wandered into it first by accident?(There are doubts about this. There are ancient French people called Solutreans who were in North America 17,000 years ago:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/new-evidence-suggests-stone-age-hunters-from-europe-discovered-america-7447152.html

    November 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  14. Angela

    What's stopping the Indians from living in tee-pees, if they don't like the advantages of Western civilization, like Coca-Cola and nuclear energy?

    November 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Stanley

      Oh, shut up. Is it your intention to look stupid? Congrats. You succeeded.

      November 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
  15. Reality # 2

    AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As do BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    November 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  16. Ron

    I thank God for the power of prayer. "Cast all your care upon Him; for He cares for you." ....I Peter 5:7

    November 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Gazork

      Okay Ron, we got ya. Now, cool it!

      November 27, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  17. Ron

    I thank God for His great love. "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us (believers). that we should be called children of God." ...I John. 3:1

    November 26, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.