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Thanksgiving makes Hanukkah twice as festive

Adar Novak with her two daughters, Yael, 5

Adar Novak with her two daughters, Yael, 5 and Jordan, 10, in the kitchen with a tray of latkes, potato pancakes that are coming out of the oven at home in North Bellmore. Credit: Uli Seit

Happy Thanksgivukkah, boys and girls. Time to light the menorah and pass the stuffing.

It last happened in 1888 and won't occur again for another 79,000 years: Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this year, leading many Jewish families to combine the holidays.

Hanukkah starts Wednesday at sunset, when Jews will light the first candle on their menorahs to mark the beginning of the eight-day holiday, also known as the "Festival of Lights."

The second candle will be lit tomorrow night, probably after Thanksgiving dinner for many Jewish families on Long Island. They are making unusual preparations to celebrate the holidays in tandem, Jewish community leaders said.

Adar Novak, 36, a North Bellmore mother of two, said the family will be eating traditional Hanukkah potato pancakes, or latkes, instead of mashed potatoes with their turkey.

"We're just smooshing it all together," Novak said of the mixed holidays.

Others are dubbing the convergence "Thanksgivukkah" or creating menorahs in the shape of turkeys and dubbing them "menurkeys."

"It's wonderful," said Rabbi Steven Moss, leader of B'nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale. He said he bought a "menurkey" for the synagogue.

The holidays are colliding because the lunar Jewish calendar shifts its religious observances each year compared to the U.S., or Gregorian, calendar, said Rabbi Charles Klein, head of the Merrick Jewish Center and former president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

Next year, Hanukkah will fall much closer to Christmas as it typically does, from Dec. 16 to 24.

The religious holiday marks the rededication of the sacred Temple of Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the second century B.C. Jewish warriors retook control of the Temple, and found oil in it to relight a menorah. The oil appeared to be enough only to last a day, but the menorah burned for eight days.

The themes of hope, miracles, religious freedom and thanksgiving predominate Hanukkah, and Klein said the overlapping of the Jewish holiday and Thanksgiving is a wonderful coincidence.

"What a great way to conclude Thanksgiving by lighting the menorah," he said. "I can't think of anything more beautiful than that. This is going to add a lot of spiritual meaning to the Thanksgiving experience, to merge the two together."

Steven Greenfield, 66, of Baldwin, said his family along with their non-Jewish Thanksgiving guests will exchange small gifts, Hanukkah-style, after they eat their turkey.

Moss said other Jews will be cooking their turkeys in oil -- one of the key elements of Hanukkah -- and sprinkling olive oil on their salads. For dessert, some will eat traditional Hanukkah jelly donuts.

"They are two happy holidays, and it is great to put them together," Greenfield said.

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