It’s not just dreidels that will be spinning for families that celebrate Hanukkah this year.
That’s because the culinary customs of the Festival of Lights will take a Thanksgiving spin in a once-in-a-lifetime combo platter that brings the two holidays together.
“It’s like a solar eclipse,” said Rabbi Jeremy Fine of St. Paul’s Temple of Aaron. “It’s a convergence that only comes once.”
While Christmas is always on Dec. 25, the dates of both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving vary from year to year, with Thanksgiving tied to the fourth Thursday in November and the eight days of Hanukkah decided by the Hebrew calendar. The last time the two overlapped was in 1888, and math wizards calculate they will next sync up in about 77,000 years.
Thanksgivukkah, as the day has been termed, has its own Facebook page and Twitter account. Celebrants can get into the spirit with greeting cards, “GobbleTov!” T-shirts and even a Menurkey — a turkey-shaped menorah designed by a 9-year-old boy.
But mostly, talk about the dual celebration on the second night and first full day of Hanukkah revolves around a nosh like no other.
“The majority of the Jewish holidays involve a story about how we survived, followed by food,” laughed Leora Itman, founder of the TwinCities Jewfolk website. “With so many interfaith marriages, there’s already a mashup of Hanukkah and Christmas. This throws one more piece into the party. It’s a good excuse to think of creative ways to eat.”
A blend of ideas
Across the Internet, Jewish sites, food sites and Jewish food sites are stuffed with ideas about combining cuisine from both holidays. Dual dishes include the green-bean casserole topped with crispy latke chunks instead of fried onions, mixing challah with pastrami for delicatessen dressing and braising brisket in cranberry juice.
Even leftovers take a Hanukkah twist, with suggestions about substituting latkes for bread for next-day turkey sandwiches or using turkey broth as the base for matzo ball soup.
“It’s been fun to play with this,” said David Weinstein, owner of Rye Deli, which has worked up double-gobble delicacies to be served in the Minneapolis restaurant over the next month and offered for takeout in advance of the big day. The Jewish-Pilgrim fusion includes a harvest-flavored noodle kugel and latkes made from grated sweet potatoes.
“I think they’ll be a hit,” Weinstein said. “They’re healthy. At least until they get dropped into the oil.”
The Hanukkah story honors the miracle that kept candles burning in a temple for eight days when there was only enough oil for one. That’s why frying figures heavily in foods for Hanukkah.
In honor of Thanksgivukkah, Michelle Pulford of Stillwater plans to deep-fry one turkey and roast another this year. She and her husband will host a four-generation, interfaith gathering for about 20 family members at their Stillwater home.
“I always do Hanukkah and I always do Thanksgiving,” said Pulford, 50. “We’re all so busy that we decided on one big meal. It’s going to be a long day, but it’s going to be a fun day.”
Her daughter-in-law Sara Rice, who converted when she married Pulford’s son Eric, always brings her mother to the holiday get-togethers.
“We make rosettes from an old Norwegian cookbook, but when we bring them for Hanukkah we call them ‘fried cookies’ and that makes them work,” Rice said. “This year I might put a half-teaspoon of pumpkin-pie spice in the batter.”
An early start
Hanukkah in November jump-starts the holiday, from gift-giving to charitable events. Deb Savitt, volunteer coordinator at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis, is burning the midnight oil to fill slots for the agency’s annual Hanukkah parties for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and clients receiving mental health services.
“We always get a great response, because giving back is a value in Judaism,” she said. “But people are startled by how early we’re having our parties. We’re scheduled for mid-November. We’ll be all done at the time our volunteers start thinking about it some years.”
Despite that, Savitt is delighted with the convergence. Her three children — two in college and one a recent graduate — will all fly in from out-of-state.
“Because they don’t get a Hanukkah break, we wouldn’t have had the chance to celebrate together,” she said. “But they get Thanksgiving off. That works. I’m happy!”
Orthodox and observant Jews are less likely to combine the holidays. Rabbi Fine plans two distinct meals with his family on the big day, first tucking into turkey and later lighting the menorah and passing the latkes.
He already has a plan for what he will do between the rituals on the holiday doubleheader. Rabbi Fine, whose sportsblog the Great Rabbino (http://www.thegreatrabbino.com) highlights the accomplishments of Jewish athletes, will be in front of the television.
“Football that day is tradition, too,” he said.
Kevyn Burger is a freelance writer and a newscaster at BringMeTheNews.com.