I am NOT a fan of the this-year-minted-phrase:“Thanksgivukkah”

It reminds me too much of the phrase, “Christmanukah,” which is an attempt to combine Chanukah and Christmas. While I readily acknowledge both the commercial and temporal connections between the two holidays, merging them into one is complicated and disturbing, on many levels.

So…my instinct is to react the same way to this once-in-a-lifetime event: the confluence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. The last time this occurred was in 1861, and – as has been often pointed out – Thanksgiving wasn’t made a national holiday until 1868! And the next time, this will occur…well, it will be in the year 79,811!

But…there IS a strong connection between Thanksgiving and Chanukah, one that has always made sense to bundle the two holidays. As Gerald Zelizer, writing for The Forward, explains:

American Thanksgiving had a close affinity to biblical Sukkot. Both holidays included the theme of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. It’s likely that the pilgrims who linked their migration and experience with the ancient Israelites learned to thank God for their harvest from the stories they read in what they called the Old Testament.

And Sukkot, in turn, was very much linked to Chanukah. In fact, Chanukah may have actually been Sukkot. The Second Book of Maccabees records that after the Maccabees cleansed and rededicated the Temple, “the sanctuary was purified on the twenty-fifth of Kislev (Chanukah). The joyful celebration lasted for eight days. It was like Sukkot, for they recalled how only a short time before they had kept the festival while living like animals in the mountains, they observed the joyful celebration, which lasted for eight days. And so they carried lulavim and etrogim and they chanted hymns to God, who had so triumphantly led them to the purification of the Temple.”

So Chanukah was probably a delayed Sukkot, with its theme of Thanksgiving spilling over from the harvest into the cleansed and rededicated Temple. The overlap of American Thanksgiving with the Sukkot/Hanukkah Thanksgiving, then, is not a calendrical oddity, but a calendrical tour de force…So here’s to giving thanks for this unusual but perfect confluence. It’s not just the culinary ease of substituting latkes for sweet potatoes with the turkey. There is a core message that links them together beautifully.”

As we prepare for Chanukah and Thanksgiving (Chanukah comes FIRST!), let us focus on their similar messages of religious freedom (that is what the Hasmoneans fought for and that is why the Pilgrims came to these shores) AND of thanksgiving to God for the blessings we possess. May it be a wonderful confluence and celebration!