By Hannah Reich Berman
Can someone please tell me what the big deal is about Chanukah and Thanksgiving falling on the same day? Other than the obvious, that it last happened in 1888 and won’t happen again for another 77,798 years, why is everyone so excited about it? My take on it is simple. My first thought was It’s weird, but who cares. My next thought was Now that I think about it, I do care. And I don’t like it. It feels like I’m being cheated. Who wants them both together?
It may be that I’m just a kid at heart, because kids think like that! For example, any child in the Christian world whose birthday falls on Xmas usually claims that he gets cheated in the gift department. And in my world, no kid I ever knew was thrilled when his birthday fell on Chanukah, for that same reason. In some respects, Jewish youngsters have it easier, because Chanukah’s dates on the secular calendar change each year. So sometimes one’s secular birthday that falls on the holiday and other years it’s not even close. But December 25 is always December 25. So if a kid was born on that date he’s stuck with a Xmas birthday forever. Bummer!
Going forward here, gift-giving (or gift-receiving) is not my issue. For all the obvious reasons, I love Chanukah. I love the lighting of the menorah, seeing the glow of the candles, the Chanukah songs, and those infamous Chanukah parties that bring entire families together. I love it when everyone congregates for a festive meal and some fun and games. We gorge on potato latkes and on sufganiyot (doughnuts) and we play “spin the dreidel.”
This is one Jewish holiday without the usual yom tov restrictions. The hostess can cook or warm up food at her convenience, and—best of all—there is no bed linen to change. Since everyone can get in his or her own car and drive off when the party is done, there is none of that sleeping over for 24 or 48 or (as happened recently) 72 hours! There is none of the frenetic weeks of menu planning, shopping, and cooking that can sometimes drive a hostess crazy. It’s pure joy.
True, there are many gifts to be bought, but it’s not a holiday that breaks the bank with multiple dinners, lunches, and assorted breakfast meals for the guests. In my book, it doesn’t get better than that.
All of the same is true of Thanksgiving. It isn’t a Jewish holiday, but a uniquely American one that unites us all. The television may be left on to provide the sights and sounds of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The men can watch a ballgame. The radio can be left on to provide soft sounds of background music. What could be better? So, if one loves Chanukah and loves Thanksgiving, tell me again exactly why anyone would want them to fall on the same day? In my case, the answer to that question is an easy one: I don’t!
Just as the Jewish kid with a Chanukah birthday or the Christian child with a Xmas birthday, it feels like I’m being cheated. But every cloud has its silver lining, and along with bad news there is always good news. One just needs to have a little optimism in his life. From my perspective, the good news is the knowledge that the simultaneous convergence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah won’t happen again in my lifetime.
And as is true of any optimistic soul, I look forward to enjoying the day as much as I am able. It is upon us now, and I pray for no family squabbles. My family is no more likely than any other family to face that issue. It happens to the best of us. As the matriarch in my outfit, I often sit and I watch and hope that no one person gets on any other family member’s nerves.
Last Thanksgiving, a close friend of mine had a mini-disaster when one of her sons nearly came to blows with one of her daughters-in-law. It happens that son number one is not now, nor has he ever been, a fan of his brother’s wife. Unfortunately, the feeling is apparently mutual. The daughter-in-law isn’t too crazy about him either. Their disagreement was over something insignificant (it always is), but it did happen and it put a damper on the day. It took several weeks to resolve the problem between them, but the good news was that the resolution took place before their annual Chanukah party. Like I said, there is always good news!
So far, my family has managed to avoid any all-out wars, but I don’t want to get too cocky, because one never knows. I hope and pray for a safe and happy Thanksgivukkah, as it is being called in some circles. These days, everything has to have a catchy name, and right now it’s the combination of the two celebrations. That’s the way it is! v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.