In less than seven days, over 5 million American Jews and untold numbers of others hosting Jewish guests at their Thanksgiving dinner will need to reconcile an event that will not re-occur for another 77,000 years. Chanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day! Currently, the crisis has not been resolved. Experts have not been able to agree on how Americans will observe the confluence of these two important but dissimilar holidays .
The holidays are not easily reconciled; one holiday celebrates peace and one memorializes a victorious war. Chanukah celebrates the story of Judah Maccabee, who led a Jewish sect’s military victory over the Greeks in the Second Century, B.C. In contrast, Thanksgiving honors cooperation between two distinct cultures. The Pilgrims left their European homes in the 1620s to create Plymouth Colony so that they may live in peace and enjoy religious freedom. No such luck with the Maccabees, also known as the Pharisees, who stood their ground against the Greeks (and the Hellenized Jews who were miffed about having been evicted by their more traditional Pharisean brethren…..it got complicated.) The closest link is that the Pilgrims succeeded in forging a peaceful relationship with the indigenous peoples there until 1675, when they went Pharisean and lapsed into a three-year war with the “Indians” which pretty much but the kabosh on any future Thanksgiving dinners shared by the colonists and the Native Americans.
The divergent histories of the holidays mirror the divergent menus for their respective feasts. Thanksgiving features largely seasonal New World foods, such as wild turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes , corn and pumpkin pie. Whereas Chanukkah dinners feature foods from the really, really Old World. These Holy Land favorites include boiled meat (charitably called ‘brisket’ by some), noodle kugel, potato lattkes, and other fried olive oil-cooked foods which commemorate the miracle of an olive oil flash lasting 7 days. If its greasy and fried, it’s good for Chanukah and Paula Deen. The Pilgrims, probably distant relatives of Jamie Oliver, were more into Jamie’s embrace of healthy, fresh and local foods.
The top chefs around the world, including Deen and Oliver, were enlisted to try to reconcile the differing celebratory menus. It didn’t go well. Their solutions included stomach-turning Manischewitz-brined turkey with green apple stuffing and latkes with cranberry applesauce. Others proposed latke-crusted turkey cutlets, boiled turkey with matzoh and prune stuffing, pumpkin pie rugelach, turkey doughnuts, pumpkin kugel and squash, corn and carrot tzimmes. Casualties from such menu items are expected to be high; the CDC has been put on alert.
Where the famous chefs failed, some less adventure hosts may have succeeded. They are planning on trying horseradish-crusted turkeys accompanied by sweet potato latkes, assorted steamed…but not boiled… fall vegetables and cranberry macaroons. Most of their guests are expected to survive the dinner. But experts have not come to any observance accord and diplomats for the Jewish and Pilgrim nations are still working out language in a draft proposal that is scheduled to come before the UN for ratification in 77,779 — or about two years before the next convergence.
An added complication about which no one is talking, is the rumored appearance of a celestial guest on Chanksgiving. If it survives its pas-de-deux with the Sun, Comet ISON will become visible to the naked eye on Chanksgiving. Working an ISON sighting into the already complicated Chanksgiving dinner schedule has thrown thoughtful hosts into a tizzy of dizzying logistics. And sommeliers are at a stand-off over whether Chardonnay, Cab or Chianti should be paired with a Comet, kugel and fried kippers.
We should all be Thankful that this Thanksgivukkah travesty doesn’t happen again for about 77,000 years. Perhaps next time, we’ll be better prepared. By then, someone will have hopefully discovered Turkorahs so that we’ll have something to hold the candles.