BY MELINDA WiLLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
SALT LAKE CITY – Thanksgiving last coincided with the first day of Hanukkah in 1899. The next time it could coincide is in 2070.
Another calculation says it won’t happen again for 77,798 years.
Some American Jews are making the most of what is being dubbed by some as “Thankukkah,” by melding the two beloved holidays, with a dinner that will feature turkey, perhaps with sweet potato latkes, with cranberry-apple sauce on the side, or maybe a root vegetable-stuffed turkey.
Both holidays focus on family and food.
“It’s a perfect blend,” said Rita Skolnick, community special events coordinator at the I.J Jeanne Wagner Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City.
“It’s kind of fun. I know the Jewish community is excited,” Skolnick said. “I know one family is making their menorah out of turkey candles.”
Other products can be found online, such as a menorah shaped like a turkey and pins and T-shirts marking the celebration.
The center hosts a Hanukkah market each year that was held last week. About 1,000 people came out to purchase food and gifts for the holiday.
Hanukkah was declared a Jewish national holiday 2,178 years ago, according to chabad.org. Thanksgiving was declared an American holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Hanukkah tends to be associated more with Christmas because it generally begins sometime in December, on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kisliv, and is known as a holiday of lights and gift-giving.
It is truly a holiday for families, food and activities in the home, Skolnick said. That’s another reason Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are a perfect blend, Skolnick said.
Hanukkah begins at sundown on Wednesday, Nov. 27 and runs through the evening of Thursday, Dec. 5 this year.
Known as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication or Feast of the Maccabees, Hanukkah commemorates the restoration and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by Judas Maccabee in 165 BC., and is marked by the lighting of eight candles on a menorah or candelabra.
It is not a major Jewish holiday, but is among the best known to Christians because of its proximity to Christmas.
Tradition says that during that ceremony, only one vessel of pure olive oil, sealed by the high priest and necessary for the rededication ritual, could be found, but that burned miraculously for eight days.
Because the holiday celebrates the fact that the oil in the lamp lasted through the rededication ceremony, the foods shared by Jews often involve frying. Favorites include “latkes” or potato pancakes and “sufganiyot” or jelly-filled donuts.
Chocolate, wrapped to look like gold coins are a favorite gift.
As part of the Hanukkah celebration, the Jewish Community Center is planning Turkey Bingo prior to Thankukkah and Hanukkah on Nov. 24 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the center’s social hall. Price is $5 per card.
A Hanukkah luncheon is planned for senior citizens on Dec. 4, at the center, 2 N. Medical Drive, in Salt Lake City. The event is reservations-only, and most participants are brought in from nearby senior living complexes. Participants don’t have to be Jewish.
Then, the Family Hanukkah party will be held on Dec. 5 from 5:30 to 7 p.m., focusing on the center’s preschool and kindergarten program.