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How to Get Ready for Thanksgivukkah: Hannukah is Early this Year

Illustration 114005513 © M-sur |

The holiday season is almost upon us; we’re all at the starting gate poised to race toward the end of the year. While many of you are still stressing about turkey and stuffing recipes, I’m in panic mode preparing for two celebrations.

Hannukah, you see, will start on Thanksgiving weekend. I can almost hear other Jewish folks shaking their heads — oy vey — the planning!

It’s a common joke among us Jews: the holidays are early or late but NEVER on time. You might accuse me of having a Gregorian bias; but it would help my menopausal memory if we stuck with the same day each year.

Since we follow the lunar calendar, Hannukah can be as late as December 27 — (hello Christ-mukkah) or as early as November 28, which it is this year. I pray for the later dates which make the whole gift-giving thing easier. But — NO — this year I’m planning a family feast AND practically serving Hannukah for dessert. (hello Thanksgiv-ukkah!).

It’s not the only confusing part about the holiday. Don’t get me started on the whole spelling thing — is it Hannukah, Chanukah or Hanukah? This chicanery is another level of confusion.

With Hannukah on the early side, imagine me as a middle-of-the-night magician — creeping around my house to replace the Autumnal-themed house décor, cinnamon-smelling candles and cornucopias with my holiday box of silver and blue lights, Jewish trinkets, my dreidel collection and multiple menorahs.

Yes, I am that mom.

As far as holidays go, Chanukah doesn’t rank in the top Jewish three; but it’s been elevated to ‘high holiday’ status because of timing. An early Hanukah can be challenging — for children and the parents who gift to them.

When our children were young, an early Hannukah sometimes meant our little darlings were bored with their presents by the time December 25 rolled around. The novelty had long worn off. The three of them would return home from school after Winter Break full of stories (and envy) about the Christmas loot their friends received.

Despite the eight days, Hannukah Harry just couldn’t keep up with old St. Nick. Oh, the peer pressure!

I wasn’t immune to their complaints. I remember that same feeling when I was growing up. The slim stack of presents seemed disappointing. Adding insult to injury, my December birthday meant that my parents often felt justified combining my gifts; at those times I was net zero in the gifting tally compared to my brother who had a bigger gap between celebrations.

When my husband and I had children, I was determined to find a balance between grinch and gluttony. With three kids, though, it wasn’t easy, and trying to compete with Christmas wasn’t going to cut it. There had to be a better way to enjoy Hannukah without going broke.

After many trial and error years, we settled on themes to avoid the greedy gimmees. Instead of presents every night, we had variations on the list below. This list has been the ‘small miracle’ that brought more meaning to the holiday.

With so much less time to shop this year, perhaps these ideas can make present planning a bit easier for you too!

EIGHT NIGHTS OF HANNUKAH BIG GIFT NIGHT — this is usually the ONE big thing they’ve most wanted GIFT FOR MOM & DAD — parents need presents too! GIFT OF CHARITY — let’s remember those less fortunate GIFT OF SELF — these are usually coupons or a home-made present GIFT of READING — books work for every holiday, no matter what GIFTS THAT KEEP GIVING — these are ‘making memories’ gifts like an experience GIFT FOR SELF — this is typically a class, self-improvement item, lessons etc. FAMILY GAME NIGHT — usually dreidels, board games, other shenanigans

For years as we stood in front of our many menorahs (one for each child), I’d watch their small faces glow in the candlelight, anticipating the fun that would follow.

Hannukah 2004 (McHugh and Kravitz Family)

As they got older and left for college, there were times my husband and I only needed one menorah and barely bothered with gifts.

An early Hannukah this year means our three young adults will be home to celebrate the first night. That’s something I’m very grateful for this year. Thanksgivukkah indeed. It will be a festival of many lights again with all of our voices to say the blessings. I can’t wait to sing the Adam Sandler classic along with all the traditional songs.

I’ll also look forward to making our traditional crispy latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), hundreds of which I shared over the years in school classrooms to children who had no idea what they were. Like the menorah, these greasy treats also honor the miracle of the lamp burning for eight days after the battle between the Maccabees and the Greeks.

Last year, my older daughter called me while she was grating potatoes to make her own latkes and I almost cried. I gave myself a parenting pat on the back.

Whether Hannukah arrives early or late in years to come, I hope our grown children (26, 24, and 20) will reflect on our traditions and incorporate some into their own families.

That would be the best Hannukah gift of all — l’dor vador (from generation to generation). Happy Thanksgivukkah everyone!

For more reading on this topic, these are a few sites I really like: JEW BELONG and HEY ALMA (which my daughter shared with me).


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