During Passover, the youngest child asks, why is this night different than other nights? But this holiday season all of us are asking why is Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving creating Thanksgivukkah. The answer my friend is so complicated it makes my head burn but the short answer is:
The quirk of Thanksgivukkah is that the Hebrew calendar, which follows the sun and the moon, and the Gregorian calendar, where Thanksgiving sits on the fourth Thursday of November, has aligned this year so that the two holidays are on the same day for the first time since 1888, 25 years after President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a holiday.
You cannot imagine the stress of trying to celebrate both holidays and in my case add on a friend’s son’s bar mitzvah in the same week – Oh Brother Maccabee! Not to mention, this year, the Dangermond household has decided to also include Kwanzaa in our holiday celebration. Look out folks we have just ramped the winter holidays up to a new level here and it starts today. So grab your book of matches and let’s start lighting some candles.
I post this* [below] every year as a reminder of what Hanukkah is, but if you look at how Hanukkah overlaps with Thanksgiving – they are both holidays that offer thanks for our bounty and for the cornucopia of our bounty’s elements, then you can’t help but see that Kwanzaa, a holiday initiated by African Americans to celebrate the cornucopia of an African heritage brought to bloom on American soil overlaps as well. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are about remembering who we are in the diospara. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are about how grateful we are to be surrounded by loved ones who bring light into our dark days.
This month is Native American History month. The irony that there is only one month each to celebrate African American contributions to our culture as well as Native American is in and of itself absurd. What is even more absurd is that Native American History month falls during the same month as Thanksgiving, which for many Native Americans is seen as a day of mourning. How telling of human resilience that when asked how do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, most will say they spend it in the company of their families and loved ones around a meal.
The fact that all of these holidays so wonderfully overlap to create a reason for the season is what is making me joyous this holiday season – I’m giving thanks that we got through another hurricane season here in the Gulf South; I’m thankful President Obama has opened doors in Iran; I’m grateful for my son and having the privilege of watching him grow; and I’m grateful that we were able to buy a house after letting go of the dream house that I built after the 2005 Federal Flood. In our house, we have decorated for both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, the Hanukkah bush stage will morph to our Kwanzaa table and the blue lights will be replaced by red, green and black cloth. The menorah will give way to the kinara.
In the end, the message is the same, in this family of color, we celebrate oneness, our cornucopia of difference that has given birth to who we are. With love, I would like to thank you for reading and joining us on our journey. And by all means, proceed with love.
I’ll leave off with a quote from Mourning Dove who was born in 1888, the last time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving joined together on our calendar:
…… everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.
~ Mourning Dove Salish 1888-1936
The story of Hanukkah is the story of religious freedom. In 168 BC King Antiochus (pronounced an TIE uh kus) the 4th, who inherited his kingdom from Alexander the Great, set up an idol in the Jewish temple and ordered Jews to worship it. He was a zealous Hellenist and wanted all people to follow Greek ways. A revolt led by Mattathias and his son Judah the Maccabee to overthrow Antiochus raged with the odds against the Jews; they were ill-equipped and vastly outnumbered [think the Saints or David & Goliath or Rocky). But the Jews were fighting for their homes, their faith and their freedom as the Syrian mercenaries were not. So, in the winter of 165 BC the Jews were victorious and marched into Jerusalem.
The first act was to clean the temple and get rid of the idol. When they arrived, there was only a single flask of oil to light that should have lasted one day. It miraculously lasted eight.
Later, to commemorate the victory, candles were lit for eight days. There was an interesting dispute between the followers of Shammai and Hillel (Hillel and Shammai were two leading rabbis of the early 1st century BCE who founded opposing schools of Jewish thought, known as the House of Hillel and House of Shammai). Shammai advocated lighting the eight candles moving downward to a single candle. Historians believe Shammai’s basic view was that the glory of Israel lay in the past and there had been a steady downward trend among the Jews. Hillel’s followers foresaw a glorious future for Judaism. Symbolic of their faith and hope, they advocated a rising crescendo of light. Of course, they prevailed. Today the candles are lit from left to right.
The basic issue of the Maccabean struggle was religious freedom. The Jews fought for their right to worship God in their own way. Not long after the victory, war broke out again, this time Judah was killed in battle and the new colossus, Rome, bestrode the Middle East. The Hebrew state [Israel] was crushed until May 1948. It is interesting to speculate on what this victory of the spirit has meant in human history. If Judaism had been destroyed in the second century before Jesus, would Christianity have come into the world, or Mohammedanism? Both were products of Judaism and both derived sustenance from the living Jewish people.