For the first time since 1888, the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and the American holiday of Thanksgiving coincide, creating a once in a lifetime combined celebration called “Thanksgivukkah.” This unusual convergence of usually distinct holidays came about due to the very late date for Thanksgiving this year as well as the fact that in the Hebrew calendar, 2013 is a leap year and since the calendar is based on an entirely different rotation of the months from the traditional calendar we use, celebrations move up each year until an extra month is added to “correct” the dates and keep various celebrations in their respective seasons. In fact, according to what I have read on the subject, 7 of the next 19 years will include an extra month in the Jewish calendar, but 2013 isn’t one of them . This is resulting in the incredibly early celebration of Hanukkah and its coincidence with Thanksgiving.
What makes this particular day so unusual is the fact that people who study these things believe it will be around 79,000 years until the holidays coincide again. I daresay that many people think the days will never overlap again and still others think the next occurrence will be in 2070 and then 2165. Go figure – I guess we’re not sure when the next time will be. There are many different disagreements about the dates and that is, in part, due to the fact that Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November and this wasn’t always the case. Periodic law changes have now made the convergence unlikely although there could be slight overlap later this century, as there was in 1913. And there is something different about whether the first, second, or even fourth day of Hanukkah will fall into the Thanksgiving holiday. I know this all sounds confusing, and it is, but there are similarities between the two holidays.
Many savvy retailers are trying to make the most of the situation. There are a proliferation of turkey menorahs, called menurkies and dreidels with pictures of turkeys that are being referred to as turkels. There are also a number of food dishes that play to the spirit of Thanksgiving with homage to the history of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is the remembrance of the Maccabean revolt when John Maccabee successfully fought against the Greeks in the 2nd century BC. When the temple was re-dedicated, there was only enough oil to light the candle for one evening, yet the flame burned eight nights. It is in remembrance of this that the menorah is lit each evening during the Hanukkah celebration. Jewish people believe that the success of the campaign as well as the oil lasting for 8 nights was indeed a reason for celebration and to be thankful. Of course, the theme of thanks and grateful behavior are also traits of Thanksgiving – which prompts us to see the similarities of the two events.
Numbers 17:18-19, our verse for the evening, relates the offering of representatives of the tribes. The verse is also part of the Jewish reading for this day of Hanukkah. We are told, “On the second day Nethanel the son of Zuar, the chief of Issachar, made an offering. He offered for his offering one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering.” My encouragement this evening is that God desires for all of us to honor him and make offerings to Him in acknowledgment of our blessings. My prayer is that you will recognize all the great things that we have to be thankful for on this Thanksgivukkah day. Have a wonderful day in the Lord, grace and peace…