Hanukkahgiving or Thanksgivvukah

In 1888 the world could celebrate Thanksgiving and the start of the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah (Chanukah {חנוכה}) on the same day. In 2013 this happening now brought for some concerns, because this year the two feasts also come together but are by many mixed.

The convergence of the secular and sacred holidays is presenting opportunities for many Jews and challenges for others — including concerns about everything from extra preparation and party planning to those who think they will dilute or devalue both celebrations.

The dilemma is best illustrated by Hillel Day School teacher Lori Rashty, who recently watched eighth-grade students help second-graders plant their freshly painted hands onto paper to make the turkey, then transform the four finger feathers into candles to incorporate a menorah.

Image from a greeting card made by Jewish online gift shop ModernTribe.comWe are facing a real special Hanukkah – Thanksgiving holiday because we shall have to wait for an other for 79,000 years before we would encounter such an occasion again. Looking at what happens in the world now, this probably would not happen as such, because the Third World War shall have happened already and the Millennium shall also have been a fact, after which Christ Jesus shall have handed over the Kingdom of God again to his Father.

But now we can look at the double-barreled holiday, which in certain countries brings a kind of an exciting way for the kids to realize that it’s a special occasion for them.

The lunisolar nature of the Jewish calendar makes Hanukkah and other religious observances appear to drift slightly from year to year when compared to the U.S., or Gregorian, calendar. Jewish practice calls for the first candle of eight-day Hanukkah to be lit the night before Thanksgiving Day this year, so technically “Thanksgivukkah,” — or “Thanksgivvukah,” as the Hillel students spell it — falls on the “second candle” night.

At Hillel Day School, students entering the library see a colourful poster designed to provoke thoughts about the convergent holidays: Under a Thanksgivvukah headline are several questions, including

“How are Thanksgiving and Hanukkah alike?”

It may be very special to have Hanukkah and Thanksgiving on the same day. We should think about the creation, what God has given us all, believers in God and other believers. The secular element for Thanksgiving has been there always because it finds its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, celebrating the reaping of the harvest. In many countries the heathen also had their harvest-home or harvest-festival, where they celebrated the blessings they got from nature. In lots of places was celebrated that the year came to a good end and was hoped and prayed to the gods to go in a good Winter season.

Origin of Thanksgiving

The radical reformers of 1536, wished to completely eliminate all Church holidays, including the heathen Christmas and Easter, but hose festivals looked to traditionally embedded they did not manage to get them our of the Christian holiday festivals. Though for many serious Bible students and sincere Christians, who knew Christ Jesus was born on the 17th of October 4BCE, the celebration of the goddess of light was a celebration they did not want to associate with. Therefore they wanted to say thanks to their God, and remember the birth of Christ Jesus on an other day.

In the 16th century the heathen holidays were to be replaced by specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving, in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts of special or Divine providence.

English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, ...

The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, Laing Art Gallery (Tyne and Wear Museums) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strangely enough for their holidays they also took secular happenings. Days of Thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705. An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day. In the Autumn of 1621 William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, called for a day of thanksgiving and prayer after the colonists’ first harvest. An other thanksgiving day in 1623 celebrated rainfall after a drought. After 1630 a Day of Thanksgiving came to be observed every year after the harvest and other colonies in New England gradually adopted the practice. In the South the custom did not appear till 1855.

President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 officially proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. Traditionally celebrated on the last Thursday in November, it was changed by the act of congress in 1941 to the fourth Thursday of November.

The first Canadian Thanksgiving or Jour de l’Action de grâce is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher, in thanks not for the harvest but for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs.

In Holland some commemorate the hospitality the Pilgrims received in Leiden on their way to the New World and thank God for His provisions. {Many of the Pilgrims who migrated to the Plymouth Plantation had resided in the city of Leiden from 1609–1620, many of whom had recorded their births, marriages and deaths at the Pieterskerk.}

Most of the U.S. aspects of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey), were incorporated when United Empire Loyalists began to flee from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada. The Canadians celebrate it annually on the second Monday in October.

Origin of Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication, the Feast of Light

Antiochus IV Epiphanes had, because of his frustration not to extirpate the Jewish faith, desecrated the Second Temple of Jerusalem. To observe the rededication of the temple in 165 BCE {Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire} , a celebration of 8 days, beginning Kislev 25 (according to the Hebrew calendar), had to bring to the memory the indistinguishable and ever spreading Jewish faith. The ceremony also recalls the Talmud story of how a small, one-day supply of non desecrated oil miraculously burned in the temple for eight full days until new oil could be obtained.

English: Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanuk...

Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanukiah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Jews use a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah. { חנוכה (Hanukkah) is also the Hebrew acronym for ח נרות והלכה כבית הלל — “Eight candles, and the halakha is like the House of Hillel”. This is a reference to the disagreement between two rabbinical schools of thought — the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai — on the proper order in which to light the Hanukkah flames. Shammai opined that eight candles should be lit on the first night, seven on the second night, and so on down to one on the last night (because the miracle was greatest on the first day). Hillel argued in favor of starting with one candle and lighting an additional one every night, up to eight on the eighth night (because the miracle grew in greatness each day). Jewish law adopted the position of Hillel.}

Today on the first day of the festival the first arm is put on light. The second day a second candle is lighted. Progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash (sometimes spelled shamas Hebrew: שמש‎, “attendant” or “warden”) or gabbai ((Hebrew: גבאי‎) and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden.

In Sephardic families, the head of the household lights the candles, while in Ashkenazic families, all family members light.

A dedication to God

The name “Hanukkah” derives from the Hebrew verb “חנך”, meaning “to dedicate”. the Jews want to show others around them that they are willing to  dedicate themselves fully to the Most High Creator, the Adonai Elohim יהוה {Jehovah} Who created the heavens and the earth and  said, “Let light come to be,” and light came to be (Genesis 1:3). It was the Messenger of יהוה {Jehovah} who appeared to Mosheh  (Moses) in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The God Who spoke often by the flames and should be are light in the darkness, is the One Who needs our attention. Those eight days we can meditate on His Works.

Jesus (Jeshua) also celebrated the Feast of lights or Hanukkah.

“22  then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. it was winter, 23 and Yeshua was walking around inside the temple area, in Shlomo’s colonnade.” (John 10:22-23 CJB)

When  Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon, he wanted to honour his Father and be thankful for all the things He did for him and his followers.

We do not have to go through Solomon’s porch any-more, but we do have to be thankful to our Creator like Jesus was thankful to Him. The Nazarene Jeshua remembered that in 167 BCE Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. Jeshua when he was alive never was called Jesus, Issou or ‘Hail Zeus’ and probably would not have liked it to be called that way. This name in honour of the Olympian “Father of gods and men”, the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology was only given many years later in Constantine’s time to adhere with the Roman Empire their gods and to have him as a part of a three-une god like in the Roman-Greek culture. By calling him the same as Zeus, Jeshua also could be called the god father, like Zeus. It was Antiochus who banned brit milah (circumcision) and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple (the sacrifice of pigs to the Greek gods was standard ritual practice in the Ancient Greek religion).

In the light of today

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today Christians do not need to have a circumcision and do not need to bring any offerings, so there is certainly not needed a  sacrifice of pigs.

Hanukkah is not a “Sabbath-like” holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath, as specified in the Shulkhan Arukh. It is  and is celebrated with a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday, some are family-based and others communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals.

For both occasions,  it is all about remembering the wonders of the Most High. The prayers and songs are presented to the Holy One who give us all things even when we may not deserve them. God has given his only begotten son Jeshua (Jesus Christ) who by giving his totally to his Father, presenting his body as a sacrifice, became the Messiah, the one who brought salvation to all people of the world.

“For Hanukkah, you usually just get presents and then for Thanksgiving you just eat. Now everything is just mixed together and I think that’s a great thing.”

said Jason Teper, an eighth-grader who was helping the second-graders with their menurkeys. But in many countries Hanukkah is in the first instance also a period of saying prayers to think God. In some countries the presents became more important. Also for the Christians the presenting food to the table of the lord, sharing the presents God has given us by the Work in nature,made lots of Christians concentrating on preparing a good festival meal at home for themselves. In many countries presents also became part of the holiday festival. For some Thanksgiving Day was such an important day like Christmas is/was for the Catholics.

Combined festivities

Saul Rube, Hillel’s dean of Judaic studies, said the light-hearted combinations of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah icons underscore a deeper bond: The Talmud, one of Judaism’s core texts, describes Hanukkah as a “holiday of thanksgiving.”

“The fact that you could meld our Jewish culture and the popular culture is such a wonderful opportunity, when so many times in December observant families feel … torn. They want to be part of that whole holiday season,” he said.

Rube said his Thanksgiving dinner table will have one notable addition: a challurkey, a loaf of Jewish challah bread in the shape of a turkey. Some Detroit-area bakeries are selling them but he found one he liked online from a kosher bakery and ordered it. It was only $12, but a good bit more for shipping.

“I splurged — I told my wife if we amortize the cost over 80,000 years ’til it happens again, it’s not so bad,” he said.

American Jews also love Thanksgiving and celebrate it every year with the rest of America. Some Jews consider Thanksgiving kosher, not for the thanking of the Creator, but because Thanksgiving is generally seen as a secular, national holiday in which people honour family and community, regardless of ethnic group or religious denomination. It is also popularly associated with pilgrims giving thanks for their new life in America, where they could practise their religion freely.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the Washington office of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement, says there is “nothing adverse to anything Jewish or contradictory to Judaism” in Thanksgiving.

“For that celebration to happen – as we are in our religious calendar celebrating our own religious freedom, as it was achieved in ancient times – makes it only that more emphatic,” he says.

People preparing meals for the poor at a Jewish community centre in Washington DC

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Additional reading:

  1. Being thankful
  2. Thanksgiving-Hanukkah overlap spurs thanks, angst
  3. What happens when you cross Thanksgiving with Hanukkah?
  4. Barry’s Best Bread for the Challah-Days

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