As most of you now know, this year through some bizarre confluence of the Hebrew Calendar with the Western Gregorian Calendar, many people are looking up the word "confluence." Additionally for the first time since 1888, the usually close-to-a-month apart holidays of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving will strikingly coincide.
This unique situation presents a singular opportunity for two traditional underdog holidays both regularly overshadowed by Christmas to team up and take on the champ. Think of it as Rocky times two vs. Apollo Creed. And together as one, Thanksukkah/Hanusgiving* have more than enough seasonal goods to give Christmas a run for its over commercialized money.
There's 12 collective days of holiday if we count Thanksgiving as four, great food, presents for the kids, interesting backstories, spinning dreidels, shoes with adorable buckles, Hannukah Gelt, lots of pie, and a common and well resonating message of religious freedom and tolerance. The only drawbacks are the six or more days of leftover turkey forced feedings associated with Thanksgiving and Hannukah Gelt itself, which tastes only marginally better than the gold wrapping in which it comes.
Interestingly enough, there have been at least five other relatively recent instances in which two usually widely time-disparate holidays have managed to coincide:
1) Christmas and the Fourth of July. Of course many of you aren't old enough to remember when Christmas and the Fourth of July fell together on the same date for the first time in 56 years in 1974. It was a banner year for the City of Philadelphia as pilgrims worldwide converged on the Quaker City and led light stick processions to Independence Hall, many of them wearing small replicas of the Liberty Bell around their necks. The Pope that year held a special Christmas Eve Mass in which he mentioned all four Philadelphia sports teams by name.
It seemed in 1974 that there were carolers on every street corner favoring seasonal fireworks shoppers with old favorites like "Rudolph, the Red, White, and Blue Nosed Reindeer," and '74 was the year that Santa Claus and Uncle Sam --- long suspected to be one and the same --- were finally outed when Uncle Sam forgot to tightly fasten his 490 pound fat suit before diving down the chimney of one Ralph Merkle of Jersey City NJ, as captured in the now mega-familiar photo at right.
2) Mardi Gras and Labor Day. When these two holidays fell as one in 1952, Labor Day with its ever depressing augury of the end of summer knocked Mardi Gras for a loop from which it almost never recovered. Jazz bands remained unbooked, drunk and disorderly arrests were down sharply nationwide, and many people reluctantly went out to buy notebooks for the new school year. In New Orleans, the bars were closed.
3) Memorial Day and New Year's Day. These two holidays have already coincided three times in this century alone but it being that both holidays fell the day after New Year's Eve, no one ever noticed.
5) Simchat Torah and Shavuos. Simchat Torah normally takes place in the early fall and Shavuos takes place in late spring. Unfortunately no Jewish person other than the most extreme among the Orthodox knows enough about them to write a halfway decent joke here.
So will Thanksukkah/Hanusgiving come out swinging this year and finally deck the holiday that "decks the halls?" I dunno.
We'll have to see what Santa has up his sleeve.
Or Uncle Sam in his fat suit.
*aka Thanksgivukkah (I actually wrote this piece before I heard that term.)
This piece also appeared in the Broad Street Review on November 6, 2013. They went with my original title even though they knew better.