Some in Columbia's Jewish community plan to celebrate 'Thanksgivukkah' next week

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 | 4:00 p.m. CST; updated 9:45 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 20, 2013

COLUMBIA — For the first time in 125 years, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving will overlap next week, a rarity for which we can thank the heavens.

The Jewish calendar, based on both the sun and moon, includes between 353 and 385 days per year. Because of this, Jewish holidays fall on different dates each year.

Although Christmas and Hanukkah are more likely to intersect, each having overlapped about four times in the past century, a joint Thanksgiving-Hanukkah celebration isn't as common.

This year's intersection might not be repeated for more than 75,000 years, according to Jonathan Mizrahi, a quantum physicist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., who blogged about the topic earlier this year.

To mark the occasion, some members of Columbia's Jewish community, such as Jeanne Snodgrass, who works at the Mizzou Hillel as its executive director, will be adding a menorah to their Thanksgiving table. Others, such as MU student Andrea Sak, 20, of Highland Park, Ill., will celebrate both but keep them separate.

"For Thanksgiving, I get together with all of my cousins, aunts and uncles," she said. "We do the same thing for Hanukkah. Now that they fall on the same day, we're still going to have two separate celebrations."

MU student Rebecca Gale, 21, of Charlotte, N.C., has similar plans.

"Usually my family and I, for each night of Hanukkah, we light a candle, say a prayer, and then we open a gift," she said. "For Thanksgiving, we'll probably do the whole Thanksgiving feast — turkey, stuffing, whatever — and then after dinner, we’ll light the menorah and open gifts like we normally would."

Jewish cooks have long found ways to integrate their culture and kitchens, whipping up recipes for pumpkin-flavored Latkes, a potato pancake served during Hanukkah, and turkey marinated in kosher wine.

"I think food-wise is the way most people will combine them," Snodgrass said.

Beyond the dinner table, some savvy entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the hype and making some money as a result.

Dana Gitell, a marketing specialist in Massachusetts, trademarked the term "Thanksgivukkah," and a 9-year-old in New York, Asher Weintraub, put ideas into action when he came up with a "Menurkey" decoration, a turkey-shaped menorah that his family is selling.

"One of the reasons ... people might like to have a turkey menorah was because the holidays were similar – because in some way both commemorate being 'thankful,'" Asher said on his website.

Compared to more sobering religious observances, such as Yom Kippur, Snodgrass describes the eight-day Jewish celebration as more low-key and festive.

"Hanukkah is a minor holiday as far as religious significance," she said. "It's not such a serious holiday. It gets celebrated a lot."

Some celebrate with a different group each night.

"You might go one night and do stuff with just your family . . . then you can go out and do a party with family friends some other night," Snodgrass said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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