Hanukkah and Thanksgiving converge for first time since 1888

Posted at 9:56 PM, Nov 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-27 23:56:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Jews around the world are lighting the menorah Wednesday night, and this year's festivities will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for American Jews.

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving happen to begin at the same time. It won't come around for tens of thousands of more years, about 77,000 to be exact.

FOX 13 News went to the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City to find out how American Jews are commemorating the holiday.

Several children were packed inside the JCC on the eve of Hanukkah, celebrating the ancient tradition. Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman of the congregation Kol Ami explained the holiday.

"Hanukkah is a post biblical holiday,” she said. “It has do with the Assyrians coming into Jerusalem and sort of ransacking the holy city.”

The Jews prevail and take back their Holy Temple.

"When they tried to clean it up and rededicate it, they found only enough consecrated oil for one night. Miraculously it lasted for eight nights," said Andrea Alcabes of the JCC. That's the short story of how Hanukkah was born.

From lighting the menorah to playing dradle, trading gelts, or more commonly now chocolate coins, kids at the JCC were excited about the start of their Jewish holiday. Eating food fried in oil is also a big part of their tradition.

"We have to eat fried food right, because the oil is representative of the oil that burned and so we eat fried potato pancakes,” Schwartzman said. “We eat jelly donuts; we just really try to get fat.”

Hanukkah is a festive time of year for Jews, but this year is unique.

"I think what this convergence of the two holidays will do is give us an opportunity to blend some elements of the Hanukkah with the Thanksgiving," Alcabes said.

"With both holidays on the same day, it brings American culture and Jewish culture together, and it's fun," said Maddie Feinman, who celebrated the eve of Hanukkah at the JCC.

"This is actually a minor holiday,” Schwartzman said. “It just happens to coincide, as many religions like Festival of Lights, something to brighten the darkness.”