The Jewish calendar is a strange thing. I’ll spare you the gory details, but the most important things to know are that it’s a luni-solar calendar, and that there are seven leap years in every nineteen year cycle. And “leap year” doesn’t mean you add a day, like in the Gregorian calendar. It means you add an entire 30 day month.
They do it this way because there are rules about certain holidays never being able to fall on certain days of the week, and some math genius who lived 5700 years ago figured out a way to make that work out for all of eternity.
Now, obviously, I live my life by the Gregorian calendar, and I have no idea what month or day it is on the Jewish calendar. If I need to know when a Jewish holiday is, I do a Google search. The cemetery where my father is buried sends me an email every year, letting me know the date of the anniversary of his death on the Jewish calendar, so that I can light a candle. Other than that, I don’t pay much attention. Until this year, when I heard about Thanksgivukkah.
Ah, Thanksgivukkah. It’s a funny concept, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah falling on the same night. Latkes and cranberry sauce. A turkey-shaped menorah they’re calling a menurkey. Presents and pumpkin pie.
Funny, I guess, unless you’re an American Jew who actually celebrates both holidays. Or, should I say, unless you’re an American Jewish mother who is usually responsible for hosting both holidays at her house and who has to buy eight presents for each of her children, plus gifts for nieces, nephews, little cousins, a husband and a raucous family gift-exchange. Ok, maybe I should just say that Thanksgivikkuh is a funny concept, unless you’re me.
I love the holidays, I really do. I put a lot of time into cooking and decorating and buying thoughtful gifts and making the table look pretty. But two major holidays in the same night? And two to three fewer shopping weeks than I normally have? I just put away my Halloween decorations, and now I have less than two weeks to get it together for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah? I know we’re living in a highly efficient, multi-tasking world, but this is just ridiculous.
So, I called a pow-wow with the rest of women in my family, and I proposed that we boycott the whole Thanksgivukkah thing. Does it really matter, I asked them, if we celebrate Hanukkah on the night the Jewish calendar says is Hanukkah? If the Jewish calendar said Hanukkah was three weeks later, would it feel any less like Hanukkah to us? Could any of us even name the Hebrew month in which Hanukkah falls?
On all counts, the answer was no. And so it was decided, that this year, our family would celebrate Hanukkah from December 7th to December 14th, a mutually convenient week for all of us, which had the added bonus of beginning and ending on a Saturday night, which meant less traffic for our family Hanukkah party. And, we still got to take advantage of Black Friday. It was a win-win.
In telling some of my Jewish friends about this decision, I’ve gotten mixed reviews. Some are in full agreement with me, and have also postponed their family Hanukkah parties until after Hannukah. Others feel like I’m letting convenience trump tradition, and that by moving Hanukkah, I’m sending a message to my children that it’s okay to bend the rules as long as it’s easier for you.
I can’t really argue with that. I mean, it’s true. And yet, I don’t really care. I feel like my children probably know that my head would explode if I had to have Thanksgiving and Hanukkah on the same night. And so I prefer to look at the message I’m sending another way; namely, that it’s okay to bend the rules for the sake of convenience, if it will also prevent heads from exploding.
So, I’m looking forward to a latke-free Thanksgiving this year, and I’m looking forward to a turkey-less Hanukkah. I prefer my holidays to be separate, thank you, and I prefer my head unexploded. If that makes me a bad mother, well… I probably wasn’t a very good one to begin ith.