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It won’t happen again until the year 79811. That’s 77,798 years from now. So if you’re Jewish, enjoy the moment.
I’m referring to the concurrence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Some American Jews are calling it Thanksgivukkah.
Actually, Hanukkah begins on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, which this year falls on Nov. 28. It’s a rare occasion for Jews to celebrate two holidays at once, one uniquely American — Thanksgiving - and the other singularly Jewish: Hanukkah, giving these Jews the opportunity to reclaim the true meaning of Hanukkah, which some say was never about giving (gifts) anyway but about taking, as in taking back the Temple from the Maccabees in 164 BCE; it’s about celebrating and being thankful for such epochal moments.
So, for some Jews, Thanksgivukkah fits nicely into the true meaning of Hanukkah, conveying a historical memory of thankfulness.
Had President Franklin Roosevelt had his way, this confluence of Hanukkah with Thanksgiving would never have happened, for Roosevelt wanted Thanksgiving moved back a week earlier in November to boost retail sales during the Great Depression. It had long been the practice in America to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. President Abraham Lincoln made it official by proclaiming a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Franklin’s effort to move Thanksgiving back a week, dubbed Franksgiving by its opponents, fell flat, and Roosevelt reluctantly signed a bill in 1941 setting Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November.
The emergence of Black Friday surely found Roosevelt snickering from his grave, albeit through clenched teeth on his cigarette holder, for Black Friday virtually redeemed his idea: Use Thanksgiving as a prompt for buying and selling.
So here we find ourselves with Black Friday smearing a pristine Thanksgiving Day with a dreary gray, reducing it from a family celebration of gratitude to a bargain basement retail wake-up call, a nuisance for money makers, delaying their customers’ dash to save cash, stalling the race to keep pace with the competition - much like one of those annoying internet commercials you have to watch for 29 seconds before you can skip it with a click.
Maybe we should just give in, nodding in Thanksgiving’s direction, saluting it as we rush to the mall. Perhaps we’re made for Franksgiving. It’s simply part of human nature to desire the best product at the lowest price, and if Thanksgiving is merely a commercial warm-up for that, so be it.
But then, we are also wired for thankfulness. The spirit of thanksgiving didn’t begin at Plymouth Rock in 1692.
Those early settlers in North America brought thanksgiving with them. And their ancestors celebrated fall harvests with festivals of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is built into our collective consciousness. In reality, when the earliest settlers arrived in North America, thanksgiving was already here, already a part of the Native Americans’ cycle of life. No wonder Squanto met the Pilgrims with gifts of thanksgiving.
Instead of bypassing Thanksgiving, on the one hand, or feeling guilty about shopping, on the other, maybe we should recognize our dual personalities: We are givers and getters, passers and receivers, grabbers and releasers, Thanksgivukkahers and Franksgivers.
So, why not start Thanksgiving with Christmas? I mean, why not combine the spirit of thankfulness with the spirit of gifting (shopping)?
Call it Thanksmas.
Yes, we may charge to the malls on Black Friday, or even on Thursday afternoon, trying to find that deal of the day, in hopes of surprising our loved ones on Christmas morning. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But before bolting for the door, try pausing and letting the spirit of Christmas - the attitude of gratitude for grace - invade your Thanksgiving Day. The commercialization of these two holidays doesn’t have to dominate the entire holiday screen, although it will certainly make its presence known.
But when it does, threatening to dictate its agenda, try retreating if only for a moment to a quiet place - maybe outdoors, or a secluded room, even if it’s a closet - and get alone.
Then, taking a deep breath, thank God for life - as difficult as yours may be today - and for yourself, that special person you truly are, even though you may have difficulty believing it at the moment. And remember to be thankful for others, the special ones that make life so much better, as well as those in the other room right now, the ones aggravating the stew out of you.
And recalling that Jesus was born in a day when people were haggling over the best price for a night in the inn while grumbling about paying their taxes, thank him for life’s messes, for from them can come life’s greatest miracles.
You’ve just experienced Thanksmas.
Editor’s note: Contact David B. Whitlock, Ph.D., at email@example.com or visit his website,www.davidbwhitlock.com.