The fact that Thanksgiving and Chanukah collide this year is a bit mind blowing. Not only are they my two most favorite holidays, but they both have a great message that creates a powerhouse of a holiday week. Apparently, the last time this collision occurred was 1888 and won't happen again for about 79,000 years. It is history in the making and prompted me to look deeper into my own family traditions of both holidays to pull out the most meaningful ones I can pass on to my 3 year-old twin boys.
The theme that threads through both holidays is being grateful - thankful for abundance as we learn on Thanksgiving, and gratitude for the miracle of lights as we learn on Chanukah. Both holidays remind us that there is darkness in the world and we have the ability to share some of our inner kindness and light. The overlap of the two holidays this year just means we have a double dose of goodness to give away. For me, Thanksgiving was a time I fondly remember spending at my aunt's house, sharing stories, laughter, and of course, scrumptious food. Unfortunately, some of the members of my family whom I've shared many Thanksgiving dinners with are no longer here, but their stories and jokes are told and retold at family gatherings and have earned a special place in our family’s history. Whether it means taking a moment quietly introverted, or proudly extroverted (like in my family when we traditionally go around the table and tell each other what we are thankful for each year), Thanksgiving is a time when we can fully acknowledge our blessings. Instilling these values and traditions in my children is a Thanksgiving tradition we will perpetuate every year.
My memories of celebrating Chanukah with my family are equally significant. I remember when my family would gather together to light the menorah. I would carefully place each colored Chanukah candle in a colorful pattern in the menorah. Creating a colorful pattern with our candles was important to me because when we placed our menorah in our window, I wanted the passersby to marvel at the beauty of our glowing menorah commemorating an amazing miracle. Many have postulated that the themes of Chanukah are about hope and overcoming darkness through triumph. I believe that for my young children still grappling with "scary monsters", Chanukah is a time that we can not only teach them, but show them how meaningful the act of lighting the menorah is (in a colorful pattern!). It shows them the light illuminating from our window just might lessen the dark and scary things in their world just a bit.
It is always exciting to use the holidays to find new and meaningful ways to teach my boys lessons in life. However, I think this year they might be teaching me something new. I am so looking forward to the songs they will learn and the artwork they will be coming home with from their nursery class in Beit Rabban Day School. Their teachers have arranged to bring in an olive oil cultivator to show their class how oil is made from olives. They will be making their own menorahs with a special Thanksgiving theme. Our children are showing us how to find new ways to talk about the holidays and without a doubt, new family traditions will be born this year.
Chefs and bakers have already started preparing special recipes for "Thanksgivukkah"- pumpkin spiced latkes, cranberry doughnuts (has anyone invented the jelly cronut yet?). New ideas and traditions are already set in place. It is a remarkable time in history that deserves reflection and discussion. I know I will have a lot to tell my kids around the table this Thanksgivukkah. But more importantly, they will have a lot to teach me. What will you talk to your children about this Thanksgivukkah?
Have a happy and joyful holiday season.
Rhonda Rose is a stay at home mom to twin 3 year-old boys, Sammy and Marcus. In her pre-children years, Rhonda worked as an account executive in various advertising agencies and in the non-profit sector. Rhonda is a participant in the Parent To Parent initiative of The Jewish Education Project, which promotes parent leadership in Jewish Day Schools. Follow her on twitter @nyrhonda212