This Thanksgiving, folks the world over can participate in a once in a lifetime holiday so bring out your turkey shaped menorah (as some call, the menurkey) and get ready to eat some pie. That’s right folks. This Thursday is the only time in your life Hanukkah and Thanksgiving will collide into the wondrous holiday that is Thankgivikah! Be you Jewish, Christian, atheist, agnostic or [fill in the blank], tomorrow is a great opportunity to celebrate two holidays that focus on family, community and the triumph of the human spirit.
One might be surprised at how these two celebrations - based on events thousands of years apart - have so much in common. Here’s a little world history refresher. The size of your pumpkin pie slice will be determined on how well you do on the quiz at the end. (Just kidding!)
The legend of Hanukkah recounts how in 161 B.C.E., a small band of Jews led by Judah Maccabee and his family rebelled when the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes sought to impose Greek culture and religion upon his Syrian empire, which included Judea. Upon recapturing Jerusalem, the victorious Jews rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, thus marking the beginning of an annual celebration of Jewish independence. The festival of lights was born!
Thanksgiving arose from the Puritan Separatists (pilgrims) fleeing religious intolerance and persecution in England in the later half of the 1600s. The puritans wished to purify the church of Roman influences which did not bode well with Queen Elizabeth I who was determined to stamp out any opposition to the Anglican church. In 1609, the pilgrims fled to Holland where they found acceptance and tolerance of their beliefs but lack of economic opportunity lead to settling in the New World. Thanksgiving was the feast that marked the first harvest in 1621.
If there is one thing both of these stories tell us it’s that we, as individuals and communities, are the masters of our own destiny. Just as the Macabees and Pilgrims did, we too must take the future into our own hands. Our fate is something we choose for ourselves and we must act on our choices with courage!
On this day of Thanksgivikah, consider lighting a candle, either on a menurkey, menorah or just a regular candle stick and reflect on those who came before us and lit the way to the freedoms we enjoy now. Kindle the flame for your values as an individual and family. For our family, these values include courage, compassion, tolerance, understanding, the desire to do good and grow better as a person. And of course, eating amazing food in amazing company. Bask in the warmth of the glow of the Thanksgivikah candle and enjoy your latkes topped with cranberry sauce. Gobble tov, friends!