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This year, for the first time in my lifetime, American Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided. Thanksgiving is always the 4th Thursday in November, so it can range from the 22nd through the 28th, depending on what day of the week November 1st is that year. This year it fell on the 28th, the latest possible date.
Meanwhile, the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Months always begin with a full moon, so we can’t have a “leap day” every 4 years without messing up the days of the month. So we get a “leap month” every few years. Most years have 12 months but leap years have 13. The whole cycle repeats every 19 years. This year is the earliest possible point in the cycle, when Hanukkah begins on the night of November 27th.
So, we have an early Hanukkah combined with a late Thanksgiving, making the two holidays overlap. Somebody coined the term “Thanksgivukkah” and it’s fun to use- so why not? We won’t get to use the word again until 2070, when Thanksgiving falls on November 28th and Hanukkah starts that night.
Thanksgiving has never had much special meaning to my family, or I might have resisted the silly term combining the holidays. Most of us were off from work and school for Thanksgiving, and we either got a free turkey or we got one on sale, plus the rest of the “traditional Thanksgiving foods” were readily available, in season, and on sale.
We’ve always been flexible about having the turkey another day that weekend if Thursday wasn’t convenient. When I was 10, we moved during Thanksgiving week, and weren’t ready to host a big dinner on Thursday, so we had the traditional foods on Sunday instead. The year my son was born, his Bris (ritual circumcision) was on Thanksgiving Day, so we had the turkey and trimmings on Friday night instead of Thursday.
I’ve never found Thanksgiving cooking to be that much more work than what I prepare for Shabbos every Friday afternoon- only I’m making a larger amount at once and using leftovers for Shabbos that week. I made brown rice the night before, and added raisins and apple chunks to the rice. I put onion and ginger slices on a foil pan, put the turkey on that, then stuffed with the prepared stuffing. I sprinkled dried dill over the bird, covered with foil, and put in the preheated oven. I uncover it in the last hour of cooking, basting every 15 minutes, so the skin gets crispy.
I also made a pumpkin pie with a rice and almond flour crust. The pie filling itself was a can of pumpkin with eggs, homemade rice milk, honey, and spices. I made cranberry sauce by combining 1/3 cup of raisins, 1/3 cup of unsweetened dried pineapple, cut into small chunks, with 2 cups of water and 3 cups of frozen cranberries. I let that simmer on low a long time and chilled before serving. I also opened up a can of jellied cranberry sauce, since Hannah prefers that to the homemade kind. When basting the turkey, I removed some of the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and thickened that with rice flour to make gravy. The final dish was simply steamed broccoli.
I’d originally intended to make latkes as another side dish, but I ran out of energy. We truly did have enough food without it. I’d made latkes the night before, and have made them several times since. We don’t need to have latkes EVERY day of Hanukkah!
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