Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 24, 2013

It's Thanksgivukkah

Pass the turkey. Light the Menorah. Jewish community gets ready for Hanukkah and Thanksgiving

By JAMIE PARSELL-NULL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD —  Rabbi Marc Ekstrand knows exactly what he wants to eat with turkey this Thanksgiving. No, not mashed potatoes. Although that is his favorite side dish. For the first time in his life, Ekstrand, the student rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Shalom in Bluefield, will eat his turkey with a side of potato latkes, also known as a fried potato pancake.

It has been 125 years since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving collided on the calendar and the dinner table. It is a solar and lunar calendar collision. Judaism follows the Hebrew calendar and Hanukkah is always celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev. Based on a standard calendar, Nov. 28 is the earliest day the holiday can be celebrated.

“Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are a good fit,” Ekstrand said.

One reason is the two holidays are a culinary dream come true for most cooks. Ekstrand said families can serve traditional fried food at Hanukkah with their Thanksgiving dishes.

“There is also a theory about the development of the holiday of Hanukkah,” Ekstrand said.

Ekstrand said Sukkot is considered a fall harvest and fits in with Thanksgiving.  Sukkot could also be the origin of Hanukkah. The Jews couldn’t celebrate Sukkot — also a eight-day festival — when the Syrian-Greek soldiers captured the temple in 168 B.C. Upon the recapture, they held a overdue Sukkot in late November or December.

The late festival lasted eight days. The celebration in the newly-regained Temple became known as Hanukkah. There was just enough oil in the temple for one night, but it lasted eight days. The Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah every year by lighting one candle every night for eight days.

But Ekstrand said Hanukkah is a minor holiday for Jews. But traditions such as fried foods, the small gifts for children, the Menorah and games such as the dreidel have made it popular for Jewish families.

Doris Sue Kantor, of Bluefield, said her family will travel to Georgia for Thanksgiving.

“I will probably light the first candle on the Menorah for the first night of Hanukkah and give the gifts,” Kantor said.

This will happen after they have their Thanksgiving Day meal. Kantor admitted she likes Hanukkah closer to Christmas.

Thanksgivukkah, as some are calling this interesting holiday, might not happen again until 79, 811.