In Defense of Thanksgivukkah

facepalm

By this point everyone knows that Thanksgivukkah is occurring this Thursday.  By some accounts, this is the greatest culinary event in history; by other accounts, it’s a horrible occurrence that needs to be ignored.  Almost every possible article has been written about it, even The 8 rules of Thanksgivingukkah Sex (just click on it now, we know you’re going to. We can wait ..questionable content for work).  While there are some valid reasons to want to separate the two holidays, many of the arguments, such as those presented by Allison Benedikt, are overblown.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. When dealing with any event that is several centuries or even millennia old, certain liberties are going to be taken with the story. Much like a plot twist in Homeland or 24, facts can get in the way of a good story.  Historical purists would probably take umbrage with the way both stories are told in elementary schools. However, the underlying principles of the holidays are both commendable. Personally, Thanksgiving is about gratitude and being thankful for what we have. Hanukkah is about overcoming adversity against challenging odds, it’s not about presents.

But Allison Benedikt’s complaints go far beyond historical critique, and her article needs a response because there are not enough face palms in the world to express my disdain for it. Why Slate chose to publish this is beyond me, because she is someone who appears to have a very limited understanding of Judaism as a whole and whose love of Judaism is itself questionable as shown in her own writings. Let’s proceed:

I don’t want my kids to think Thanksgiving is a “present holiday.”

This shows a complete lack of understanding about Hanukkah. If you think Hanukkah is a presents holiday, you are doing it wrong. This woman has completely secularized and commercialized Hanukah so, to her, it has little value beyond a night to give kids gifts and maybe eat fried foods. She has already lost the true meaning of Hanukkah, the continued struggle of the Jewish people against unmistakable odds and violent attacks that was overcome by our community’s famous strong will. It’s true that with the recent exception of Black Friday hysteria, Thanksgiving has largely escaped the commercialism that plagues so many other holidays.  She should try to keep Hanukkah free of commercialism as well.  Also, her failure to teach her kids about the story behind Hanukkah, rather than just presents, demonstrates her own misunderstanding of Hanukkah and deficiency as a parent.

Combining the Holiday foods is an awful idea.

First, if you don’t think sweet potato latkes sound amazing or think pastrami with Brussel Sprouts (since bacon is out of the question) is awesome, I can’t help you. More amazing Jewish fusion food for me! Due to Hanukkah’s connection with oil, basically anything imaginable on the Thanksgiving menu can now be justifiably deep fried like a state fair. Fried foods are better than their regular counterparts; this is an inarguable fact of life. Anyone who disagrees should probably just pack up and move to North Korea. . Our food is one of the things that bind us as not just a religion, but as a culture, and we should embrace the culinary hybrid of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

Jews should not feel ashamed to be different.

I spoke with two individuals whose parents were intermarried and they mentioned they liked Thanksgiving because it didn’t highlight the differences in the two sides of their family.   Those of us from dual Jewish parent homes can still relate to the awkwardness of the holiday season. As Jews we often can feel like outsiders and Thanksgiving is a bonding time where regardless of our religious differences we are like everyone else in the Country. These differences are most obvious during the Christmas season.  There are holiday parties which are, to be honest, Christmas parties at work and with our friends. Our desire to socialize and celebrate with friends and coworkers can often be in conflict with our religious roots.  As the incomparable Kyle Broflovski says, “It’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas”, but on Thanksgiving it doesn’t matter.

Hanukkah’s rise and specifically its association with gifts is at least partially related to our exclusion from Christmas activities. In the realm of religiously important holidays, it’s not particularly high.   We spend our holy days not eating, while others get a Federal holiday to celebrate their biggest religious occasion.   However in our desire to fit in, we shouldn’t ever be afraid to embrace who we are and the addition of latkes to the thanksgiving table shouldn’t alarm anyone. We can still appreciate Thanksgiving as a secular American holiday even if we happen to give it a Jewish twist this year.

This is the only chance in our lifetime where the first day of Hanukkah will occur on Thanksgiving. Something fun and unique is happening in the Jewish world, and we should embrace it.

Happy Thanksgivukkah,

Jon Halperin

The opinions reflected in this article are that of the author and do not represent the views of Gather the Jews or its staff.