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How one family celebrated Thanksgivukkah

  • December 2, 2013 - 6:16 PM

 

I celebrated Thanksgivukkah this year. The whole enchilada (if I may mix the tortured language of the metaphor even further). I spent the long holiday weekend steeped in Christian tradition, Jewish tradition and American tradition. The rare confluence of holidays may be a fun oddity, but at its heart I found something profound.

Thanksgivukkah, for those who missed all the happy chatter about it on TV news shows, was the result of this year’s late Thanksgiving and a periodic recalibration of the Hebrew calendar, creating a mash-up between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. I was lucky enough to spend it with my son and his wife, who come from the Christian and Jewish faiths. It was a holiday made for our family.

Even more, it was a holiday made for our country. Thanksgivukkah is as American as the Fourth of July. It was a perfect celebration of the melting pot of faiths housed in this nation created by refugees from religious intolerance. The news stories talked about families mixing cranberries and sufganiyot. We mixed prayers.

And of course, we ate. Hanukkah is called the Festival of Light, but it’s also the festival of cooking with oil. Its culinary side celebrates in the frying pan the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days during an ancient Jewish revolt. This was the first time I’ve tasted latkas made not out of a box but of real potatoes lovingly shredded by hand. Delve into any faith and you learn that its cooking tradition is an act of giving.

Thanksgivukkah won’t happen again any time soon. Maybe not for 79,000 years, according to those who understand the calendar. That’s too bad. It was such a welcome contrast to most everything else going on right now.

On the eve of Thanksgivukkah, my daughter-in-law lit two candles on the menorah, two small flames against the growing darkness. And she sang. When you hear someone’s singing voice for the first time, you realize what a brave and giving gesture even that simple act can be.

In a sweet, clear voice she sang, “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.”

“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light.”

At our table, and in our hearts, there was light.

SHELDON CLAY, St. Louis Park

© 2014 Star Tribune