In Defense of Thanksgivukkah

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Since no good deed, idea, or clever molding of two holidays names on the Internet can go unpunished, the inevitable backlash against Thanksgivukkah, the “holiday” that became a viral sensation thanks to a BuzzFeed post, has finally received the ultimate form of hater (dis)respect: a Slate takedown, in which Allison Benedikt attempts to break down exactly why the “holiday is bad for Jews and bad for America.”

Even though she fails to convince anybody that this once-in-a-lifetime mingling of two holidays is damaging to the country or to the Tribe, Benedikt does get to point out that the Jewish holiday is considered by some to be “a sad wannabe Christmas,” and that she likes how “low-stakes” the eight nights are, but she doesn’t want her kids thinking that Thanksgiving is a “present holiday,” to the extent that they expect gifts to come with their large feast year after year. Her worry, it seems, is that this one time that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving meet will have repercussions that could last for generations, damaging the sanctity of the secular day of thanks by changing it from a holiday “that isn’t in some part about what I am and my husband is not (Jewish), or what he is and I’m not (Christmas-celebrating).”

Benedikt’s worries verge on Glenn Beck-style paranoia, fretting that such a great tradition (one that she admits is rooted in “colonialist origin-story problems,” but “is the one great holiday where you don’t have to explain to your kids why Mom believes this and Dad believes that”) is in danger of being upturned. Her other main complaints are that she likes Thanksgiving because “it’s secular” and thinks mixing it with Hanukkah brings too much God into it (even though Hanukkah isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew Bible), as well as that “[s]weet and sour braised brisket with cranberry sauce is an abomination.” In doing so, she continues the Slate tradition of trying to take the fun out of a holiday that has, for all intents and purposes, only been fun starting sometime in the last century, when secularized Jews figured that having some sort of holiday to compete with Christmas would get Jewish kids more excited about their faith.

I say all of this as one of those Jewish kids who has grown up and tends to prefer the drunken good times of Purim — which I’ve heard described more than once as a “Jewish Mardi Gras” — but always looks forward to the latkes and Sufganiyah (also known as “Jewish donuts”) served up during the Festival of Lights. And even though I will agree with Benedikt that sweet and sour brisket with cranberry sauce does sound pretty horrible, Thanksgivukkah does offer up one foodie idea that is delicious beyond words, but that should, like Thanksgivukkah itself, only occur once every 70000 years.

The Thanksgivukkah leftover sandwich should be the reason that people embrace the fusion of these two holidays: two latkes, a light schmear of cranberry sauce on one side, maybe a little chopped liver on the other (if you’re feeling dangerous), some turkey, and some gravy to top it off. This makes for one of the truly great sandwich ideas, the likes of which you will need to spend ten hours in the gym to work off once you’ve woken up from your tryptophan coma. It is, simply put, reason enough to embrace this rare occurrence — but also why Benedikt and anybody else who is getting all worked up over Thanksgivukkah should eat some pumpkin pie, chase it with some gelt, and just calm down enough to enjoy both holidays.