This year was the first time since 1899 and most likely the last time until 2070 that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fell on the exact same day. Well, to be precise, it was the second day of Hanukkah (since Hanukkah has 8 days in total). Usually Hanukkah is not one of the grandest Israeli holidays but this year it was a big deal. Why so? Perhaps because one of the most commercialized American traditions was combined with a Jewish holiday. More shopping, more sweet potato latkes, more feasting, and more reasons to call this year… unique.
And how does America feel about this? I know for some Americans (or perhaps most?) it hasn’t been too much of a big deal. New York however, with one of the biggest Jewish populations outside of Israel, has been putting up some serious advertisement and propaganda campaigns regarding the 28th of November. Bizarrely, it had become more and more of a big deal here with the date approaching fast; so that even non-Jewish people (just like me) have been sucked into believing that all of this is a great way to celebrate two big traditions in the year of 2013.
So, in the spirit of Hanukkah and giving thanks, I started celebrating last weekend already. It all started with me attending a traditional Hanukkah, which had been renamed into “Thanksgivvukah,” last Saturday in Jersey City. My friend had made me believe that there will be some traditional American foods and enough booze
to keep my mouth shut and my eyes wide open. Sure enough, an ugly sweater Thanksgivvukah was more fun than expected and I even got to learn a few handy backgrounds on why and how Hanukkah came into existence. As far as I recall, it has a lot to do with temples, fast contractors rebuilders, and an ending war – composing another good reason to celebrate for 8 days in a row. Just roughly summarized, of course. Many beers had been had until this thesis formed. And since I had no ugly sweater to show, I had to take pictures of other people’s ugly sweaters. These ones being among one of my favorites!
Fast forward a few days, and I am attending the Macy’s Parade Balloon Inflation. While I had seen the actual Thanksgiving Parade back in 2010 (and do not recommend this to anyone who wants to be stuck in the crowds while seeing exactly nada because the lady in front of you is wearing a big hat), this event was much more fun to be a part of: Several balloons, including the signature Spiderman figure, being inflated along two different streets. True, the crowds were still humongous – despite the cold weather and rain. But it was nothing compared to the awfulness I had to endure 3 years ago, and seeing the balloons at night time certainly had a different appeal to it, as well. Whenever you are in New York during this time of year, I can highly recommend stopping by the Museum of Natural History and just walking over to this event. It takes part one day before the parade, right across the street from Central Park. And since Barney was massacred during the actual parade, I was glad to have seen him in one piece shortly before. By the way, did you follow his slow “death”(perhaps on TV)? Weird things happening, huh?
Now, on the actual Thanksgiving Day, I was once again invited by a Jewish friend to join into her celebrations. This time, a proper turkey was present (and also a tofurkey for the vegetarians). Aside from the latkes and other Israeli foods, everything was pretty much the same you would find on a typical American dinner table during this holiday: Mashed potatoes, stuffing, home-made cranberry sauce and deliciously warm pumpkin pie. My first proper Thanksgiving party here in New York had only been a year ago (read more on us eating until we dropped here). Compared to the one I attended 2 days ago, I was probably a lot drunker this year and the group was also a bit smaller. 4 bottles of wine had to be distributed evenly somehow. We were a total of 4 people – composing the “leftovers” who had stayed in New York since our families do not live here. It was certainly a fun group and the location was a real winner: Right in Brooklyn Heights, close to Dumbo, and an easy hop to the subway or a taxi afterwards.
Now, Thanksgiving and Black Friday are both over. Luckily for the latter, as I heard some shocking news on Walmart employees getting seriously injured all over the country. But Hanukkah is still on. So in celebration of it, New York continues to show some sparkling signs. One of them being the most significant landmark here: the Empire State Building. It will glow blue and white in the colors of Israel for the next 4 days. Happy Holidays!
Where and how did you celebrate this year? Did you do it via Hanukkah or without?