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November 22, 2013

Thanksgivukkah is almost here!

Yes, it's the only convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah for 70,000 years – and I've been clicking on the links, considering new recipes, stuffing cornucopias with chocolate gelt, and even buying Pilgrim hats for the kids to wear while they spin their fall-colored dreidels. (We'll see how that one goes!) I've successfully pitched an article about Thanksgivukkah to the local newspaper, talked about Thanksgivukkah on a syndicated television talk show, and – like thousands of other American Jews – really enjoyed infusing my Hanukkah preparations with patriotism and the Thanksgiving spirit.

But with Thanksgivukkah arriving in just a few days, I'm having second thoughts. I'm wondering if by devoting so much to Thanksgivukkah, I'm letting Hanukkah down.

Even though Shabbat, the High Holy Days, Sukkot, Passover, even poor, often-overlooked Shavuot are all more significant religious holidays than Hanukkah, the winter season is a time of year that we see a surge of Jewish activity and Jewish pride. And – with its eight days, built-in kid appeal (even if dreidel's not your little ones' thing, they'll definitely say yes to doughnuts, chocolate gelt, and the opportunity to help you light colorful candles, right?), fun and accessible songs, limited obligations (no fasting or spending the day at synagogue here!), and inspiring messages – Hanukkah is the perfect focus for that activity and pride. So why am I messing with it?

Yes, I'm having a great time with the latkes and cranberry sauce. But I think that I'll shelve the Thanksgivukkah theme once it's actually time to light that first candle on Wednesday evening. When my family gathers around the menorah to welcome the first night of Hanukkah, I want my kids to be fully present, and fully invested, in the beauty and meaning of our traditions. I want them to light not a painted menurkey but the menorah my grandparents bought fifty years ago in Jerusalem. I want the songs we sing to exalt God's saving power and a festival we have celebrated for over two thousand years. I want the foods we eat to remind them of the miracle of the oil that burned eight days. I want them to be thinking not of Thanksgivukkah, but of Hanukkah. And while I am immeasurably grateful for the blessings of living in America – and while we will give passionate voice to that gratitude during our Thanksgiving lunch the following day – I want the first night of Hanukkah to be all about the blessings of living as Jews.

So I wish each of you a happy Thanksgiving, and a happy Thanksgivukkah. But I wish you also a joyful Hanukkah filled with light, with meaning, and with abundant blessing.

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