It's a turkey. It's a menorah. It's Thanksgivukkah!
An extremely rare convergence this year of Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah has created a frenzy of Talmudic proportions.
There's the number crunching: The last time it happened was 1888, or at least the last time since Thanksgiving was declared a federal holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. And the next time might have Jews lighting their candles from spaceships 79,043 years from now, by one calculation.
There's the commerce: A 9-year-old New York boy invented the "Menurkey" and raised more than $48,000 on Kickstarter for his already trademarked, turkey-shaped menorah. Woodstock-inspired T-shirts have a turkey perched on the neck of a guitar and implore "8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes." The creators nabbed the trademark to "Thanksgivukkah."
Songs have popped up with lyrics such as these from "The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah": "Imagine Judah Maccabee, sitting down to roast turkey and passing the potatoes to Squanto ..." Rabbi David Paskin, the song's co-writer and co-head of the Kehillah Schechter Academy in Norwood, Mass., proudly declares his the Jewish day school nearest Plymouth Rock.
Let's not forget the food mash-ups commemorating the staying power of the Pilgrims and the fighting prowess of the Jews, along with the miracle of one night's oil lasting eight days. Pumpkin latkes, apple-cranberry sauce and deep-fried turkey, anyone?
"It's pretty amazing to me that in this country we can have rich secular and rich religious celebrations, and that those of us who live in both worlds can find moments when they meet and can really celebrate that convergence. There are a lot of places in the world where we would not be able to do that," Paskin said.
The lunisolar nature of the Jewish calendar makes Hanukkah and other religious observances appear to drift slightly from year to year when compared with the U.S., or Gregorian, calendar. But much of the intrigue over Hanukkah this year is buried deep in the history of Thanksgiving itself, which hasn't always been fixed in the same spot. That caused some initial confusion over Thanksgivukkah, aka Turkukkah.
In 1863, Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November (the month sometimes has five of those) and the holiday remained there until President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress fixing it as the fourth Thursday, starting in 1942.
Since 1863, Thanksgiving and the first full day of Hanukkah on the Gregorian calendar have not overlapped. Jewish practice calls for the first candle of eight-day Hanukkah to be lit the night before Thanksgiving Day this year, so technically Thanksgivukkah falls on the "second candle" night.