By Stephanie Lewis
Remember when Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincided together in November of 2013? The holiday was dubbed Thanksgivukkah, (even though I suggested “Chanksgiving,” but nobody could pronounce that!) and I celebrated by serving Manischewitz-brined turkey with challah stuffing, latkes with cranberry applesauce, and a turkey shaped menorah with eight feather candles.
But why wait until this calendar phenomenon occurs again? I didn’t! The past few years I integrated every single one of our culture’s festivals and holidays … not just Chanukah. Let’s just say my family found this extremely creative. Okay we can say that, but in reality they found it extremely confusing.
One year, I intertwined elements of Passover into our November feast. There was a ceremonial “Seder plate” on my table, (which I deemed a “Gratitude Platter”) containing appropriate symbolic foods. No shankbone, but turkey giblets signified Jews having big hearts (and also we’re not chopped liver!) and in place of charoset (the mortar which adhered Israelite’s bricks together) there was a spoonful of yummy cornbread stuffing depicting how overeating bonds us together during hard times. Cranberry sauce stood for Jewish blood running through our veins, which many of us cite as the reason we’re Jewish even though we never step foot in synagogue. Green bean casserole was “karpas” dunked in salt water. Traditional Pesach hardboiled eggs were still on my Thanksgiving display, but now they symbolized being grateful that doctors reversed their decision about too much cholesterol in our delicious omelets. Okay work with me here, I made this last one seem very legit — trust me!
No wine glass out for Elijah, but a plate of food for Squanto – the Native American who taught pilgrims everything. Instead of singing Dayenu, we made “Gobble” sounds and declared, “We’ve eaten enough!” When it was time to deal with the “Afikoman,” I broke a slice of (unleavened!) pumpkin pie into two and hid it inside a bookcase. (The ants found it first!) But the best part of our meal was whomever pulled the wishbone (and got the larger side) had their wish granted to be “Passed Over” as we went around the table in our mandatory game of “What are you thankful for?” (I’ll skip telling you what happened as guests mixed up mashed potatoes with white horseradish!)
Next Thanksgiving I merged with Purim and so instead of saying “The Mayflower” I said “The Magillah” and dressed up as Queen “Chosen For Her Beauty and Foils the Plan” which I decided would’ve been Esther’s Indian name. People just scratched their heads. Another year I fused Rosh Hashanah elements and substituted shofars as centerpieces instead of cornucopias. Hey, same shape! After that bit of decorating genius, I was stymied so I served apples and honey instead of apple-pie and called it a night. Guests were underwhelmed.
Incorporating Sukkot into Thanksgiving was less contrived since it’s a Jewish agricultural festival considered a thanksgiving for the fruit harvest and has obvious similarities. Easy peasy lemon squeazy (yes, we had an estrog!) so our huge meal was partaken in a sukkah and people stayed overnight, though they never intended to — it was the result of too much turkey which contains tryptophan and makes you sleepy. We let them think they fulfilled a Thanksgiving mitzvah.
However Judaism and Thanksgiving don’t always mix! I won’t say “pogroms” when talking about pilgrims. And though many unite football with Thanksgiving – as a Jewish mother, all I associate are concussions. Oy! Going to practice instead of Hebrew school? I think not. And black grease marks under his eyes messing up his handsome punim? Enough said. PS. One important Jewish holy day I’ll NEVER weave into Thanksgiving…Yom Kippur. Fasting is completely off limits in November!
Find Stephanie D. Lewis in The Huffington Post and at OnceUponYourPrime.com.