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Some Hanukkah and Thanksgiving celebrations merge this year on Long Island

Ali Kusinitz's front lawn in Plainview is a

Ali Kusinitz's front lawn in Plainview is a holiday mashup - a blow-up turkey in a football helmet sits near a blow-up llama that says Happy Llamakkah. Credit: Ali Kusinitz

This year just misses a repeat of "Thanksgivukkah," the nickname for the rare convergence in 2013 when the second night of Hanukkah fell on the same night as Thanksgiving and celebrants marked it with the "Menurkey" — a turkey menorah with candles protruding from its feathers.

But the first night of the Jewish holiday does start at sundown on Sunday this Thanksgiving weekend. The proximity to Turkey Day has some extended families feeling déjà vu and contemplating whether it makes sense to celebrate both on the same day — with some opting to do so and others keeping the latkes separate from the stuffing.

Ali Kusinitz’s front lawn in Plainview is a holiday mashup — a blowup Turkey in a football helmet stands near a blowup llama that says 'Happy Llamakkah.' "Usually, I would do separate displays for each holiday," says Kusinitz, 51, who owns a lawn sign company. Instead, she divided her lawn and conquered.

TO MERGE OR NOT?

Adam Cohen, 55, of Bethpage, a manager with Staples, says the positioning of Black Friday sandwiched between Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukkah has caused his family to plan candle-lighting and gift-giving the same day as their turkey carving. "My brother and I are both in retail," says Cohen, which means they will be busy during the weekend. "That’s what made us realize we might as well condense the holidays and do it all in one shot."

A dozen family members will gather at Cohen’s brother’s house in East Norwich, some of whom are not Jewish but will exchange gifts anyway. Cohen says he’s looking forward to a different dynamic. "They’ll get to celebrate Hanukkah when they wouldn’t have had the chance to before."

The family plans to make turkey latke appetizers — a potato latke with a slice of turkey and cranberry sauce on top — and challah bread stuffing, says Renie Cohen, 54, a personal trainer. They’ll also play dreidel games and have traditional jelly doughnuts.

Michael Fuchs, 39, of Plainview, on the other hand, says his family, which includes wife Lauren, 37, and their son Landon, 6, won’t be merging their two celebrations. "In 2013, I remember we kind of did one big celebration, we kind of had the menorah on the table and combined it because it was so unique and once in a lifetime," he says. The two holidays aren’t expected to overlap on exactly the same day again until 2070, according to Wikipedia; because Hanukkah is based on a lunar calendar, the dates of the celebration shift each year.

"This year, for me, it feels like that separation of three days and Black Friday and Small Business Saturday in between, there’s a little bit of a buffer," Fuchs says. The fact that Hanukkah lasts for eight nights means that the weekend after Thanksgiving offers the opportunity to celebrate with extended family members on nights six, seven or eight. "We’re probably not going to celebrate until the end of the week and have two distinct celebrations," he says.

SAME WEEKEND, DIFFERENT DAY

For others, having a child home from college for Thanksgiving weekend, or the challenge of extended family traveling to be together two weeks in a row, or even the desire of the snowbird grandparents to be on their way to Florida for the winter has tipped the scales toward celebrating the holidays either simultaneously or on the same weekend.

Gayle Tancer, 42, of Plainview, a special-education teacher, and her husband, Shelby, 43, an elementary school teacher, plan to drive to Shelby’s sister’s house in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. They and their two children, ages 7 and 4, will be part of a group of about 20 relatives. "Since we’re all traveling to New Jersey, we’re just going to do everything in one night," she says. "We might as well celebrate together while we’ve got everyone in the same house."

Meryl and Jack Menashe, retirees from Great Neck, are thrilled about the confluence of timing, Meryl says. "It works out beautifully in our case," she says. The extended family of 11 is gathering in Maryland for Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday, then a Hanukkah/Shabbat on Friday, and then the Menashes will continue driving to their winter place in Delray Beach. "I’m ecstatic," Meryl says. She doesn’t have to miss Hanukkah or feel guilty for not being around for it, especially after they missed having a holiday gathering due to the pandemic last year, she says.

Stacey Cooper, 50, of Dix Hills, who works in franchise operations, says her two children will both be home from college for Thanksgiving and her brother will be up from North Carolina with his four kids. Cooper plans to host Thanksgiving on Thursday and a Hanukkah on Saturday.

"We need to celebrate as frequently as we can," she says or why she will have two separate parties with the same guests just two days apart after a year of limited ability to gather. "Making up for lost time, I’m definitely on that bandwagon."

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