As anyone who can read or hear already knows, this year the Jewish calendar overlaps with the secular one, and Chanukah falls out on Thanksgiving. There have been some irksome attempts at creating a compound word out of the two—Thanksnukkah, Thansgivukkah and Changiving (okay, I never actually saw that last one used anywhere, but it is definitely more chic).
These are my two favorite yuntifs, and the combination of them both is like creating one happy black and white cookie. Chanukah is easy to love, with the abundance of fried foods, gifts and permission to have fun with fire. It is an obvious preference over a week of thick matzoh, and Thanksgiving, because it’s a freebie vacation from school. I’m not really a turkey fan. I also don’t go to school. I should actually not be excited anymore because every day is really a vacation for me when the kids are away, but on Thanksgiving, they will be home from school and I will have to pay attention to them. Thanksgiving just got demoted, and I now love Veteran’s Day, because school was open then, and there is no obligatory dry turkey.
“Are we going to the city this year?” my daughter asks, because for the past two years, we took the kids to a hotel in Times Square, then ventured down to the parade for 30 seconds, before realizing we could see it better on TV. And the hotel room was much warmer. Last year, my husband and I vowed we would give up the parade routine, as pushing a stroller through throngs of people wearing foam-turkey visors, who seem unable to move, is not really our favorite pastime. Neither is explaining to the kids why there are so many grown men dressed as photogenic Dora the Explorers. We figured we would stay home. We have a TV there too, and a Dora doll.
But this year we got lucky with the added dimension. “We can’t go—it’s Chanukah, so we need to stay home to light our candles and make latkes!” Not the best excuse, but the kids seemed to be accepting. We can spin the dreidel and eat those chocolate coins that will be on sale for 90% off in a week, those coins that will haunt our pantry closets for months to come until they are repurposed as Mishloach Manot or donated before Pesach time. Admittedly, I eat all of the milk chocolate ones when nobody is looking. The pareve ones seem to be less popular, especially when they start to turn white around the edges, deceitfully making us think they are chocolate and vanilla swirl coins when in fact they are just ancient—maybe even from the time of the Beit Hamikdash. We can eat pumpkin doughnuts and fry the turkey, so that perhaps it will be moist because of the miracle of oil on Chanukah—sounds way more enticing than sleeping in a 150-square-foot hotel room with four kids.
Changiving (dare to be different...) truly reinforces the dual curriculum of our yeshivot, the uttering of “Hatikvah” and the “Star Spangled Banner”—paying homage to both our loyalties as Americans and the Jewish nation. This is who we are and what we appreciate—and we are lucky to experience that duality in one day. However you choose to celebrate, I am sure as Jewish Americans, we all have much to be thankful for. And if you can’t think of anything, just be happy it’s not another three-day yom tov.
By Sarah Abenaim