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Thanksgivukkah shines light on modern Jewish culture

Published: Sunday, Oct. 27 2013 4:00 a.m. MDT

Her family’s Hanukkah usually consists of cuddling up, chowing on Chinese food and watching a movie. Once night falls, the kids are ripping open their gifts.

Now they'll be mixing that with Thanksgiving dinner.

“It’ll kill two birds with one stone," she said.

Hanukkah is shifting away from its Christmas ties and opening up the door for more Jewish families to partake in the festivities, Baskin said, adding that Thanksgivukkah will help “decouple-ize” Christmas and Hanukkah.

“You don’t have to do this whitewashing thing like Americans will do with Christmas and Hanukkah being about giving and lights and all of these generic terms,” Baskin said.

Knuckey's fine with Hanukkah's decoupling from Christmas this year. Her husband is Christian, and her immediate family exchanges gifts under the willowing verdant branches of a Christmas tree anyway. Knuckey said Thanksgivukkah will make December easier. The chaos to find Hanukkah and Christmas gifts will subside, she said.

Zimmerman said some are thrilled with Thanksgivukkah because it’s going to bring families together. Others, she said, are excited about mixing latkes and cranberry sauce or blending dishes together.

Knuckey and her family hail from the American Jewish hub of New Jersey, where 6 percent of the population identifies as Jewish, according to the Pew Research Center. And they plan on mixing the two holidays together.

But even across the country in the Midwest, Jewish families are gearing up for Thanksgivukkah. Jane and Harvey Baker, from Missouri, where only 1 percent identify as Jewish, are looking forward to the super holiday. Harvey Baker praised Thanksgivukkah because it’ll be a breath of fresh air for their Hanukkah celebrations.

"In all other years, some come to our Thanksgiving dinner and some come to our Hanukkah celebrations," said Harvey Baker, an American Jew from St. Louis. "It will be great to combine the holidays and the people who are part of each separate holiday."

Jane Baker said she’s going to make yam potato latkes and apple turkey. Her family will be mixing games — they’ll spin the dreidel and build pilgrim hats, both traditions they do each year for the two holidays — before lighting the menorah.

Thanksgivukkah is restoring some identity to the Jewish holiday. Though it is not a major holiday on the Jewish calendar, it's often been associated with Christmas and the winter holiday season, said Baskin, the editorial assistant.

Now, being that the eight-day stretch ends in the beginning of December according to the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah will find its own footing and be a unique holiday that American Jews can celebrate, Baskin said.

Zimmerman said Thanksgivukkah may make December a little more difficult for some families, but the restoration of family time and faith is ever present.

And for others like Knuckey, things will be easier. Unlike years past, Knuckey can easily bring her family together and enjoy the celebrations on time.

She won't be late to the holiday this year.

She'll be precisely on time.

“It’s really nice to get the family together and celebrate happy occasions,” Knuckey said. “It’s a happy day.”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: hscribner

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