Preparing for Thanksgivukkah: Be Thankful and Pass the Latkes!

goodness gracious living Thanksgivukkah

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; spending time with family, football in the yard and on the television for those who watch, and a delicious turkey brined and roasted to perfection.  This year, though, it’s a double whammy!  The second night of Chanukkah falls on Thanksgiving which makes this Jewish girl plotz with excitement over the blended holiday.  Latkes frying, cider mulling, cranberries jelling, dreidels spinning – oy I’m getting all verklempt!  I’ll give you a topic: Sweet potato pie is neither a vegetable dish nor a healthy dessert – Discuss!  Thankgivukkah, as it has been coined in the pop culture media, is the blending of Thanksgiving and Chanukkah, the Jewish celebration of the rededication of the second Temple after the Maccabees defeated the Greeks and the miracle that happened: One day’s ration of oil for the eternal flame lasted eight days until more oil could be obtained.  On this holiday we eat foods fried in oil (we eat on every holiday but one, Yom Kippur, but when it’s over we eat like we haven’t eaten all year).  Traditionally, latkes – potato pancakes, and soufganyiot – jelly doughnuts are served.  As Jews, we often celebrate our freedom; at Chanukkah it’s our triumph over the Greeks, and at Passover it’s our successful exodus from slavery in Egypt.  As Americans on Thanksgiving, we celebrate our country and the opportunity it affords us and others to practice our religion freely.  So it makes perfect sense that the two fall on the same day and can be celebrated simultaneously.

This Thanksgivukkah will be the only one in my lifetime.  The last one was in the 1800’s and the next one won’t be for another 79,000 years, so we have to pull out all of the stops!  And just as Thanksgiving and Chanukkah come together once in a lifetime, so does this guest list!  My mother and stepfather and my father and stepmother and my in-laws will all be seated around the same gelt-filled cornucopia.  All parties do get along, we just haven’t celebrated a holiday together since the year 33 BD (Before the Divorce).  And to answer your question:  Yes, I am serving alcohol.  Early.

I am already preparing my menu for the event; blending American and Jewish dishes for the main meal.  We will begin the day with latkes and applesauce – a Jewish tradition.  I thought of making cranberry-applesauce, but I needed to consider my guests.  For instance, my father is a stickler for tradition.  Even though it is Thanksgiving and Chanukkah, the latkes are a sacred food (as is most Jewish soul food, in his opinion) and he would not take well to my messing with any part of the tradition.  Then there is the question of the main course.  I am serving turkey – that should go without saying – but, the real question is this:  Brisket on Chanukkah:  To serve or not to serve?  I don’t eat meat and my husband stopped eating red meat over a year ago, so it doesn’t matter to us.  I have a lot to prepare and many of my guests have offered to bring a dish, so I wouldn’t need to make it.  The issue is who to ask:  My mother would happily bring a brisket.  So would my stepmother.  Oh, and my mother-in-law would too.  If I ask one and not the others, it would be like babysitting suicide!   Or I could have them all bring some brisket, but that would lead to an unspoken cook-off gone wrong.  Like the Sophie’s Choice of brisket.  I think my brother would have a field day with it!  Even though I would love to entertain my brother, I think we will play it safe and stick to the 23-pound young, organic turkey I ordered this weekend and skip the brisket.

Side dishes are easily blendable to suit both holidays and I don’t think I will offend anyone with some creative cooking.  Instead of rolls or cornbread, I am going to make a pumpkin challah.  Instead of sweet potato pie with marshmallows, a known favorite amongst the New World Pilgrims and Native Americans, I am thinking of serving tzimmes.  Stuffing is easy – use challah bread instead of white bread.  And just in case we don’t have enough starch at this meal, I’m considering making a kugel (noodle pudding) – a cranberry-apple kugel (I don’t think my dad will mind).  Cranberry sauce will be aplenty and I will have a basic vegetable for those who don’t care what holiday it is, they are sticking with their diet.

As for desserts, those are straightforward – pie and doughnuts – why give up one when you can have both!  I think I will fill my doughnuts with cranberry jelly.  I found a recipe and I am going to rework it and see if I can make a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cranberry jelly doughnut.  Sounds like the hit of the party to me!

Oh and I can’t forget the place cards/party favors I am making.  Here’s a sneak peak:


Thanksgivukkah goody bags

Once the meal has been eaten (and maybe before) we will spin the dreidel.  The letters on the dreidel, Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Shin, form the acronym Nes Gadol Hayah Sham; A Great Miracle Happened There (“there” meaning Israel).  When the dreidel lands on Gimmel (the Miracle letter), the spinner wins the gelt (money) in the pot.  This year, our letters will form the acronym Nes Gobble Hayah Sham, meaning A Great Thanksgivukkah Happened There (“there” meaning Connecticut).  Only nine days left – I’ve got to get on that project!  My grandfather used to make dreidels out of scrap wood blocks and nubby pencils.  If he was here to celebrate with us, I bet he would make one for everyone.

On this Thanksgivukkah, we will continue to follow our family tradition of going around the table and sharing all that we are thankful for.  I, for one, am thankful to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime holiday with my entire family.  I am thankful that I get the opportunity to let my creative juices flow.  And I am thankful to celebrate a holiday where Pilgrim meets Maccabee, where sweet potatoes meet tzimmes, and where it’s okay not to serve brisket.



A Day Of Reflection: 12 Years after 9/11

It feels as if it happened yesterday.  My husband and I were in the car, our 18 month-old baby boy in the back seat; we were all singing along to Sesame Street tunes.  We were heading into the city; my husband was going to work and I was taking my son to meet my mom for a day of shopping.  The sky was a clear blue – so beautiful.  Weather-wise, it was a perfect day.  As we came up over a hill on the Long Island Expressway, we saw the towers on fire.  It was surreal.  We turned off Elmo and turned on the news to hear about an “accident” which quickly changed to a “possible terror attack.”  We were in shock.  My brother-in-law was in one of those towers, along with my former boss and my colleagues from the job I had before my son was born.  My husband pulled across the expressway from the left lane and off the first exit of the highway and we began our phone calls.  But the calls weren’t going through.  I tried my boss, my mom, but didn’t get through to either.  I called my stepfather and told him to find my mom and get her into her apartment as I was worried about how close they lived to the UN and I thought that might be the next target.  Meanwhile, my husband called his brother and his mother.  He couldn’t reach his brother but the plan was to turn around and head back east to Long Island and wait for him at his house with our family for his return.  Four hours later, he walked through the door and my stoic and strong mother-in-law dropped to her knees and cried in front of us all.

Fast forward 12 years and I thank G-d for my son everyday.  Had it not been for him, I never would have left my job and I might have been there too.  I thank G-d for my brother-in-law’s survival instinct to clear his floor of employees and get the heck out of his building, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and hop the last train to Long Island.  I thank G-d for my former boss, a child of the Cold War, who hid under her desk when the first plane hit, and then grabbed her sneakers and walked almost to Harlem on her own.  My heart aches for the families that were not as lucky as mine.  I think about the children in the daycare center I passed on my way into work everyday and wonder if they were all reunited with their families.  I think of my former co-worker and how her courageous brother lost his life that day entering the building as a firefighter, while she had left it two years prior for a new job.  When I think back, I am still in awe of how New Yorkers helped each other by lending phones, giving rides, and offering food and water to those who literally ran for their lives from the financial district on a day no one will forget.

This year on 9/11, I headed back into the city to see my mother, but this time my 13 year-old and his little sister were at school.  I worried that I would be far away from them all day as we no longer live in New York.  The day was hot and sticky; nothing like 12 years ago.  Once in Manhattan, the streets were alive with people.  And although the day weighed heavily on us all, people were living their lives.  As I drove home from my visit, I felt a wave of anguish spread over me.  How many people were mourning loved ones?  How many children never got to meet their fathers?  How many of those daycare kids, now in high school, are missing their moms?  The strength it must have taken these people to move on is awe-inspiring to me.  And yet, I am sure a few of them were amongst those in the bustling crowds.

This year, 9/11 and Jewish High Holy days fall at the same time.  During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish people are reflecting and repenting and making amends.  Recently, I heard my Rabbi say that we should not ask why something terrible has happened, because we will never know the answer.  It is better to focus on who we become by how we respond to tragedy.  While I reflect on the past year during these Days of Awe, I cannot help but look back to that beautiful Tuesday and on the days and weeks and years that followed.   New Yorkers, once considered brash and unfriendly, showed their true colors of resilience, bravery, courage, and kindness.  We didn’t focus on the why, we concentrated on how we as a people responded to it.  As we commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 this year and every year, we should remember those that were lost and we should honor the heroes that tried to save them.  And we should remember how we came together as New Yorkers and as a nation to support each other on that day and on every anniversary that has followed.  9/11 should be a day of remembrance, yes, but not only of what we lost, but also of what we gained – unity, strength as a nation, and a community of citizens who join together to support each other when it really counts.

Never Forget.