A great miracle happened there. Pilgrims. NativeTribe. Religious freedom. Family. Gratitude. Rededication. Gifts.  Sharing the bounty of food. Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberries. Wine. Sweet potatoes. Latkes. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have much in common, although it is spectacularly uncommon that they coincide on the calendar. This year Thanksgiving 2013 occurs on the first day of Hanukkah 5774.

By now, you have undoubtedly been preparing for this Holidaypalooza, whether or not you celebrate Hanukkah. Our American culture in 2013 emphasizes food and shopping as the significant features of holidays. American holidays become legally designated as holidays so that they can stimulate the economy. Black Friday has become a tradition over the last fifty years, as the day after Thanksgiving initiates the holiday shopping season. It is not a legal federal holiday, but since so many retailers  have joined the ranks of encouraging shoppers, and so many people take off for the long weekend following Thanksgiving, over time, Black Friday has become a tradition. Although in recent years some mega-retailers have extended their hours to entice more shoppers, there has been a bit of fallout in reaction. The most recent extension of hours and requirements for retail employees seems to offend those who value other traditions more than the tradition of shopping.

We carry the tradition of Thanksgiving through our family get togethers and foods .Traditionally, school children have donned Pilgrim and Native American costumes and seen cornucopia associated with the first Thanksgiving. The historical accuracy is not as significant as the traditional values of the holiday, exemplified by family feasts gobbling turkey and cranberry sauce and over the years, “traditional” dishes including green bean casserole, ambrosia, stuffing, and as many dishes as possible infused with ambers and deep reds and the colors of autumn. We have images of American family and abundance for which we are thankful. Then we watch football.

Like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah is celebrated through distinctive foods and objects. Potato  latkes (pancakes) and donuts are eaten to symbolize the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days upon the rededication of the Temple. The dreidel, the four-sided top with a hebrew letter on each side that together form an acronym translated to “a great miracle happened there”, was traditionally a decoy. The story goes that when the Greeks outlawed the practice of Judaism, children would hide their torah scrolls and take out their dreidels when soldiers were approaching. The story of Hanukkah is the story of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid monarchy. Hanukkah means rededication, and in that case, it was the celebration of the victory against those who prohibited religious practices and defiled the Holy Temple. The nine branched candelabra or menorah, (chanukkiah in hebrew) is lit in commemoration of the story of Hanukkah, and symbolizes rededication as well as the victory for religious freedom. Miracles.

The traditions of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are both iconic and evolving. Shared customs become traditions over time. Our foodie culture and ever increasing diversity as well as global availability of foods have enabled us to expand our holiday menus to logically incorporate ingredients that were not available or known in earlier times. Turkey and sweet potato latkes makes perfect sense! They are not only delicious, but reference earlier themes of the holidays and reflect our current modern blending of cultures and ideals. I suspect that although the Thanksgivingukkah holiday this year is unique, the features are in fact the stuff of new traditions. The abundance that we share and seek to create in 2013 and 5774 (tomorrow), is the essence of Thanksgiving. Religious tolerance. Sharing beyond one’s tribe. Family gatherings. Abundance.These are traditions that we seek to pass on. Why not rededicate yourself to creating more opportunities  to be thankful. Why not create traditions that include better working conditions, fairer wages and hours, and benefits? Shopping on Black Friday is not a tradition in my family. Being together and connecting to the ones far away is our tradition.

Despite all the problems and injustices that we must overcome in our country and in our culture, I am thankful for the promise that is America. A great miracle happened there. Pilgrims. NativeTribe. Religious freedom. Family. Gratitude. Rededication. Gifts.  Sharing the bounty of food. Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberries. Wine. Sweet potatoes. Latkes. Happy Thanksgivingukkah–no matter what your tradition!

2 thoughts on “Tradition

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