Is it Thanksgivukkah or is it Hannukkahgiving?
Although days of thanks are celebrated in many countries, the Thanksgiving holiday holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Deeply rooted in our history and culture, it was first recognized as a nationwide celebration by George Washington and proclaimed nationally in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln.
The date was officially set as the fourth Thursday in November after Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a Congressional resolution changing the date.
In 2013, that date falls on Nov. 28, as per the Gregorian calendar, a date that coincides with the 25th day of Kislev in the year 5774 of the Jewish calendar, the first full day of Hanukkah, the annual eight-day Festival of Lights.
One Jewish scholar has calculated the dates won't come together again for another 70,000 years.
The coincidence of Hanukkah taking place with Thanksgiving did not escape the notice of members of Congregation Beth Sholom in Dover, who held a special program to recognize both holidays at on Nov. 24.
Following traditional stories and songs, families sat down to dine on traditional foods and to donate nonperishable foods that were donated to the Food Bank of Delaware.
"Hanukkah is not considered one of the most important holidays for the Jewish people," said Congregation Beth Sholom president Cindy Konowitz. "While many want to compare Hanukkah and Christmas, for me there's more of a comparison to Thanksgiving.
"This year, it's a shared date, but I see that as a miracle. Thanksgiving was a celebration of people who had made a journey to escape religious persecution. Hanukkah is about how the Jews fought back religious oppression and how we won our freedom and how we thank God for that miracle."
"There is a correlation between Hanukkah and Thanksgiving," agreed Judy Haiduk of Dover. "We need to celebrate and remember why. It's about leaving one way of life and what we were familiar with and pursuing our own dream of freedom, no matter the cost."
For the Jewish people, Hanukkah celebrates the retaking of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on the 25th day of Kislev in the year 3622. As part of the temple's rededication ceremony, the Jews went to light the temple Menorah but found they had only one day's worth of ritually pure olive oil. By a miracle, that tiny bit of oil burned for eight days, lasting until a new supply could be procured.
In commemoration of this event, the eight days are marked by a nightly lighting of the family menorah, an event repeated at the synagogue Sunday afternoon. It was a special occasion for Konowitz, whose niece and nephew were visiting Dover from Massachusetts.
"You try to pass on to the younger generation how you need to be thankful," she said. "But what surprises me when I sit down with my niece and nephew is how thankful they already are.
"We try to make all holidays about family."
This random confluence of calendars has created some smiles in Jewish communities across the United States. The date even is being used as a marketing tool by the Manischewitz company, whose website urges people to celebrate "Thanksgivukkah" by combining traditional latkes, or potato pancakes with cranberry sauce or making them out of sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.