This year, the first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving Day. (Chanukah begins Wednesday night, Nov. 27th.) Amazingly, this is only the second time it’s happened since President Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863 (it happened in 1888) and it is also the last time it’ll happen until the year 79,811! So let’s make the most of it with a little Thanksgiving/Chanukah humor and a few reflections on both of these meaning-filled holidays.

First: what shall we call this marvelous combination of festivities? Here are some suggestions from Forward.com:

•    Thanksgivukah

•    Thanksnukah

•    Thanks-a-Latkes

Whatever you choose to call that 1st day of Chanukah, what are you going to serve? Deep-fried, lattke-stuffed turkey? Soufganiot (Israeli-jelly donuts) filled with cranberry sauce? Yams candied with chocolate Chanukah gelt?

Here the story behind this calendrical phenomenon:

“Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest it can be is 11/28. 11/28 is also the earliest Hanukkah can be. The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19 x 7 = 133 years. Looking back, this is approximately correct – the last time it would have happened is 1861. However, Thanksgiving was only formally established by President Lincoln in 1863. [So, it happened only once before, in 1888, when Thanksgiving was celebrated on the fifth Thursday in November.] Why won’t it ever happen again?

The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years (not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29. The last time Hanukkah falls on 11/28 is 2,146 (which happens to be a Monday). Therefore, 2013 is the only time Hanukkah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving. […] Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Hanukkah will again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811.”

Thanksgiving, like its biblical cousin, Sukkot, is an opportunity to give thanks for the bounty which is ours and to remind ourselves of those whose needs are real and ever-present. Chanukah is a splendid opportunity to enjoy light-in-darkness and to give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy as Jews living in a free and open society, even as we remain mindful of peoples throughout the world still trying to secure the freedoms we enjoy.

So let’s fully enjoy this wonderful overlapping of sacred days, counting–and sharing–our blessings!

Happy Thanskgivukah!

Reb Elias