November 25th, 2013
12:47 PM ET

Eight ways to celebrate Thanksgivukkah

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
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(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. Daniel

    Since I have received Yeshua as Messiah and Savior, I really appreciate most of the Holidays so much more. It is wonderful to thank G-d most of all for forgiveness of sins. Shalom

    December 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  2. Former Xtian

    That's good. It won't happen again, since in 70,000 years most religions of today will be dead and buried.

    December 3, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Logical default

      One can only hope!

      December 4, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  3. jj

    Don't spend a lot of time on this. It's not going to happen again for 70,000 years.

    December 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Theseus

    Who's the Jewish moron that thinks Thanksgiving is Christian so they have to change the practice? Thanksgiving recognizes an event in the survival of the pilgrims, and has nothing to do with church or Jesus or the Bible. There's no reason to make Thanksgiving into something Jewish, it's already a non-religious holiday!

    December 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Albert

      Good point.

      December 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  5. Maximus Anglicanus: The Old High Churchman

    How utterly entertaining. Nothing like being amused by Jews.

    December 1, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  6. Veritas

    Keep the two separate. Would Rosh Hashanah celebrate with a Turkey. No. Because this is a serious religious matter in the Jewish faith. It is common knowledge(hopefully) that Hanukkah is not high on the totem poll. Nice PR move, it makes national cable news, and knowing Jewish parents–it was a dad/mom creation, but wanted their son to shine.

    December 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  7. fqwkeoifwe


    November 28, 2013 at 12:33 am |

      Happy Jewsgiving/Thanksunaka/ Pilgra-Indo-unka

      November 28, 2013 at 3:24 am |
  8. JM

    Ha. That's great.

    Happy Thanksgivukkah, to one and all.

    November 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
  9. achepotle

    False flag to distract from Benghazi.

    November 27, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Salero21


      November 28, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  10. Richard

    The "coins" shown are actually chocolate coins. They are wrapped in silver paper. When we were growing up, we would "spin the dreidel" and depending on the results of the spin either "deposit" the chocolate "coins" or take them out. After a while, we would simply eat the chocolate. One can purchase these chocolate "coins" in places like Publix, CVS, etc.

    November 27, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  11. Jeremiah E.

    I have been celebrating ThanksMas for years.

    November 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  12. schaz

    Just a quick nitpick.

    If you are going to call the Pilgrims' landing 1621 CE (Common Era) you really ought to call the Macabbee's revolt against the Syrian Greeks 65 BCE (Before Common Era.)

    November 27, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Wonder why people hate you?

      You mean before Christ? (BC)

      If you are avoiding the word CHRIST, then stop using the Christian calendar year

      November 27, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
      • mecanico-tuercas

        I can't help but see the comments of Jew haters and feel the fear of another holocaust G-d forbid! This is a report about a religious holiday that coincides with thanksgiving and even here the Jew haters can't take a rest. Do you think that not accepting a christian calendar is a reason to hate someone? I wonder sometimes about what kind of salvation some Christians believe....
        The truth is most Christians are ignorant even to their own religion and its teachings....

        November 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
      • Which wasn't adopted

        Until 1582. Before then it was the JULIAN calendar.

        November 28, 2013 at 5:16 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.