Thanksgivukkah, that rare phenomenon where Hannukah overlaps with Thanksgiving, returns this year for the first time since 1888 and the city's Jewish community is delighted.
Families celebrated the chance to celebrate two holidays together, cooks tasked with honoring both occasions looked forward to a creative challenge and rabbis hailed the overlap between celebrations with similar themes.
NYU student Hannah Orenstein, 20, celebrated "a cosmic collision that is pretty special." Because many employers give workers the day off and schools typically close on Thanksgiving and Friday, more people will be able to spend Hannukah with their families, Orenstein said. When Hannukah, which begins at sundown , falls in early December, that is rarely doable.
When it comes to cooking, "we're melding the two holidays together!" exclaimed Rebecca Robin, owner of RR Personal Chef Services on the Upper East Side. Robin is making a challah bread pudding in lieu of stuffing, sweet potato latkes in place of mashed potatoes and jazzing up her cranberry sauce with apples to reference traditional Jewish dishes. But turkey will be, well, turkey.
"A traditional Jewish holiday dinner is a roast chicken or a brisket," explained Robin, and this Hannukah, "a turkey is just a big roast chicken." Her mother, she added, "is doing a whole Thanksgiving-Hannukah tablescape with menorahs and turkeys."
Hannukah celebrates the outnumbered Maccabees' reclamation of the Jerusalem temple in 165 BCE, after they defeated oppressors who tried to force them to abandon Judaism. The lighting of the menorah for eight nights marks the miracle of a single jar of oil that lit the temple for a full eight days.
The triumphing-against-all-odds-with-faith theme of Hannukah dovetails beautifully with Thanksgiving, said New York rabbis. After all, Thanksgiving is believed to have roots in 1621, after pilgrims and Puritans feasted with Native Americans in Plymouth, Mass., celebrating a successful harvest after many brutal winters.
Both the pilgrims and the Maccabees were pursuing religious freedom, noted Ari Hart, a rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.
"There is a natural overlap of themes," added the West End Synagogue's Rabbi Marc Margolius. "One of the themes of Hannukah is having a sense of abundance, even when there's a fear there will be too little," as evidenced by the skimpy amount of oil that miraculously stretched for eight nights, he pointed out.
Both Hannukah and Thanksgiving, Margolius observed, "are about not being crippled by fear and working with what you have," in a spirit of abundance, even when scarcity reigns and fear seems a natural response.