Hanukkah: In Festival of Lights, Jews welcome Thanksgivukkah

SUNSET WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 27: Light the candles, fry up the latkes and try your luck at a game of dreidel, because the first night of Hanukkah has arrived! Though not as religiously significant as some other Jewish holidays—Yom Kippur, Sukkot or Passover, just to name a few—Hanukkah is widely celebrated, and is easily recognized even by non-Jews.

NOTE: You will find the English spelling of Hanukkah varies widely—even within the pages of ReadTheSpirit magazine. Often, the English rendering of the word begins with a “Ch …”

WANT TO TRY LATKES—with a Thanksgiving flair? FeedTheSpirit columnist Bobbie Lewis reports on the rare occurrence of Thanksgivukkah and shares a tasty recipe for Apple Cinnamon Latkes.

Each evening during Hanukkah, Jewish families light candles on a menorah, in honor of the Maccabees’ victory over Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Greeks in the 2nd century BCE. As the traditional story is retold to this day: Once the Second Temple had been reclaimed from the Greeks, purified and rededicated, there was only enough sacred oil found to burn for one day—but, miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. (Learn more from Judaism 101 and Wikipedia.)

In celebration, Jews today partake in foods fried in oil, light candles, play traditional games and sing songs.


Hanukkah is faithfully observed by most Jews with the lighting of candles in a nine-branched Menorah, with one candle for each of the eight nights and one extra candle (the shamash), which is often placed separately from the others. The shamash must be used for “practical” purposes, so that the remaining candles may be used solely for publicizing the miracle of the oil. (Access the Menorah Lighting Guide, Chanukah prayers, stories and more at Chabad.org.)

While a menorah lights up a window, a game of dreidel is often played. The four-sided spinning top that is the centerpiece of the game has a Hebrew letter imprinted on each of its sides. The letters are an acronym for “A great miracle happened there.” (Read more from the Jewish Virtual Library.) Candies, money or chocolate gelt (coins) are often wagered in a game of dreidel.

Meanwhile, the sound of spattering, hot oil fills the Jewish kitchen, as devotees cook latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyots (doughnuts) and other deep-fried foods. Some partake in dairy foods, too, in remembrance of Judith and her involvement in helping to defeat the enemy.


The popular term this year is “Thanksgivukkah.” Some are wary of this linguistic mash-up (our FeedTheSpirit column includes some of the backlash)—but columnist and Jewish author Debra Darvick argues that Thanksgivukkah is a far better mash-up than when Christians try to turn Hanukkah into a Jewish version of Christmas.

In any case, no one will have to worry about the word for another—ohhhhh, 70,000 years, according to one scholar.

The term “Thanksgivukkah” was trademarked by Bostonian Dana Gitell, a marketer whose brainstorming led to a Facebook page, T-shirts and posters. But “Thanksgivukkah” comes with heart: 10 percent of the profits go to MAZON, a Jewish anti-hunger group, Gitell claims.


Foodies worldwide are weighing in on New York’s Zucker Bakery’s four themed doughnuts—including one stuffed with turkey. (Check out the story in TIME. For a European take, check out the UK’s The Independent.) Zucker Bakery also intrigued customers with a sweet potato doughnut stuffed with toasted marshmallow; a spiced pumpkin doughnut with turkey and gravy filling; and a spiced pumpkin doughnut with cranberry filling. Yum???