It’s never happened before, and won’t happen again for 80 millennia.
Thanksgiving Day and the first day of Hanukah fall on the same day this year.
November 28th, 2013 is going to be epic.
You already know that the Jewish calendar is screwy.
Some years the big fall holidays pop up around Labor Day, and sometimes we’re juggling Rosh Hashona and the World Series. And this year, the daffy dating gives us a once-in-an-eternity collision.
The standard calendar has leap years. The Jewish calendar has leap months.
A standard year is based on one circuit of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The orbit actually takes 365 days plus about six hours; we add February 29th every four years to catch up to those extra hours.
The Hebrew calendar is based on 12 lunar months, each of 29 or 30 days, but with a nod to the 365 day solar year. Sticklers will note that a moon cycle is 28 days, but it takes an extra day or two to chase the Earth while it’s orbiting the Sun. Still, 12 lunar months only add up to 354 days, so every few years the Jewish calendar plays catch-up by inserting a 13th month (7 out of 19 years, to be exact).
Hey sticklers, here’s another one for you.
The mathematically inclined are scratching their heads. It looks like the cycle should repeat every 133 years (7 x 19), so how can this be the first time we’re seeing this overlap?
It’s because even with all the leap year tinkering, the Hebrew calendar is still a little bit off. The Jewish year is 3½ seconds too long, so Chanukah is drifting a tiny bit ahead of Thanksgiving every year. It’s picking up a day every 217 years, and at that rate it’s about 80,000 years before the calendars are back in sync.
Once every 80,000 years sounds about right. Both holidays have traditional meals that sit like lead in the belly. You really don’t want to eat them in the same week very often. In fact back-to-back feasts are so daunting a prospect that most Jewish households plan to combine the two into a single gala event that’s been dubbed Thanksgivukkah.
Pilgrims and rabbis. Turkey and latkes. Cornucopias and gelt.
You’ll soon be staring down a double barrel of hybrid holidays. You’re going to need help.
There’s no shortage of holiday merchandise. Of course you’ll find the usual t shirts, sweatshirts, and greeting cards. You can fill your menorah with autumnally-hued candles and your dreidel with kosher candy corn. Extravagantly trim your house with single-season menornaments (menorah + ornament) and menurkeys (a turkey menorah with tailfeather candleholders), while the more practical-minded might opt for a double-duty cook’s apron. The dreidel side reverses to turkeys, giving it life beyond Thanksgivukkah.
After dinner you can gather Grandma and the kids for an old-timey game of Thanksgivukkah Bingo, courtesy of sisters Dana and Deborah Gitell. The holiday’s most enthusiastic boosters, Dana owns the trademark and URL to Thanksgivukkah.
Get ready. Thanksgivukkah is coming….