A Once-in-a-Lifetime Thanksgivukkah

Don’t treat this Thanksgiving like any other—it’s a very rare blessing.

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A Thanksgivukkah Menurkey; illustration credit: http://www.karmabee.com/

A year ago, looking ahead at the holiday calendar for 2013, I noticed a terrible typo. “This says that Chanukah is on Thanksgiving. Can you believe someone made that mistake?”

As it turned out, it wasn’t an error. Next week, as families all across America sit down to their turkey dinners with family and friends, Jewish families like mine will have some additional items on their feasting table—a menorah, dreidels and probably some sweet potato latkes too (Huffington Post suggests latke, cranberry and turkey sandwiches, which sound like a delicious way to have a heart attack). Time to put away the Native American headdresses and bust out the yarmulkes: Here comes Thanksgivukkah!

“How is this possible?” I wondered. “Isn’t Chanukah always around Christmastime?” Well, Jewish holidays go by a lunisolar calendar (based on the phases of the moon and position of the Earth relative to the sun), which differs from the calendar we use every day. A Jewish year can last between 353 and 385 days, as an extra month is added every two or three years, and... I’m already confused. According to people who have done the math, the latest Thanksgiving can ever be is November 28, and the earliest Chanukah can ever be is also November 28. So when’s the next Thanksgivukkah celebration? Better mothball those “Gobble Tov” T-shirts, you’re in for a long wait—the year 79811.

No, that’s not a typo. 79811.

Just imagine, the next time we—well, our descendants—carve the turkey by Chanukah candlelight, they’ll be doing it on the planet Zweebob-6, wearing matching silver spandex unitards and communicating with one another telepathically through their surgically implanted iBrains. Of course, I’m speculating. In reality, turkeys will probably be extinct by then, and the plump yallabocks found on Celulon-8 will be the preferred main course.

My point is, this Thanksgiving will be an unexpected and exceptionally rare event. Whether you’re Jewish or not, it’s a good time to focus on moments that we only get to experience once in a lifetime.

I’ll be looking forward to the first time my family and my wife’s family will get together for Thanksgiving. It’ll also be the first time I get to present my cousin’s one-year-old son a Chanukah gift in person. It’ll be the biggest crowd we’ve ever had at my house to light the menorah and sing the three blessings that open the holiday. When we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for, I’ll have a lot of joyful milestones to choose from—my first wedding anniversary, watching my friend’s baby daughter take careful steps in her tiny new shoes, seeing lions in the wild in South Africa, hiring two great editors, Dan and Diana, who are helping Mysterious Ways magazine grow and thrive. Chances to experience these things only come around so often—maybe not for another 77,798 years.

I don’t think it’s just a quirk of the calendar that these holidays coincide. Chanukah means “dedication.” So for Thanksgivukkah, dedicate yourself to thanking God for unexpected and rare blessings he’s given you. What was your once-in-a-lifetime experience? Share your story with us!

Have a happy Thanksgiving, a blessed Chanukah, and please, conserve the turkeys for future generations to enjoy.

Illustration credit: Karmabee

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