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For Those Who Dare: A Party Planning Guide for the Thanksgivukkah Host

by and on November 26, 2013 3:50 PM

There’s a name for it: the once-in-our-lifetime joining together of two holidays for the first time, since, practically forever. (1888, according to the Wall Street Journal) And it won’t happen again for another 70,000 years.

It’s called Thanksgivukkah, and it’s got everyone all up in turkey arms.

Just like the name suggests, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will occur at the same time this year: Nov. 28.

Those who observe both holidays may be a little nervous about how to celebrate the freaky fusion of the Day of Thanks and the Jewish Festival of Lights. Or they may be thrilled at the prospect of double the celebration and double the food. But what food to serve? A combination of turkey and latkes? Stuffing and chocolate gelt?

Well, fear not. This self-proclaimed party host and Hanukkah enthusiast has a plan for you.


Sweet potato latkes: This one’s been done before, and is already a well-known favorite, but it’s worth mentioning because it combines a traditional Hanukkah dish – the potato pancake – with a traditional Thanksgiving side dish – the reliable sweet potato. Without making things too complicated, just use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes, and follow the rest of your recipe as you normally would. Or switch it up even more and use yams. And then call it a yamke.

Cranberry applesauce: This one’s for dippin’. A traditional way to eat potato latkes on Hanukkah is to dip them in applesauce or sour cream. You can tie a little Thanksgiving into the gooey topping options by serving cranberry applesauce instead of regular applesauce. Done and done.

Brisken or Turkey? You decide. Luckily, traditional meat dishes don’t vary much from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah, and with both holidays it’s really up to the family’s discretion what animal (or lack thereof) is served.

Traditional Thanksgiving fair usually is turkey or chicken, or sometimes ham. (Please don’t serve ham for Hanukkah.) And traditional Hanukkah fare is brisket or chicken. Or both, hence the “brisken.” So the meat is up to you. Having a few different options (brisket, chicken and turkey) gives your guests plenty of choice and variety, and allows them to experience both holidays. Just make sure whatever meat you serve is Kosher if your guests are Kosher. (Ham is not Kosher.) Fish is also acceptable for both holidays. (Shellfish is not Kosher).

Apple and pumpkin donuts: Donuts are a traditional Hanukkah dessert. And as you already know, apple and pumpkin pie fall under this same category during Thanksgiving. There are a variety of recipes for apple cinnamon and apple cider donuts, as well as pumpkin cake donuts and spiced pumpkin donuts.

Donuts eaten during Hanukkah are called Sufganiot, and they are deep-fried and jelly-filled. If all baking and/or buying attempts fail, buy regular plain donuts and put little pumpkin candies on top of them. (Think mellow crème.) It’s practically the same thing.

Apple wine: This one’s self-explanatory. Wine is consumed during both holidays, so what better way to bring the two together than with an apple wine? Apples, apple pie and other apple dishes are popular on Thanksgiving, so by serving an apple wine you are killing two birds (pun intended) with one stone.

The stuffing vs. kugel debate: Noodle kugel is a sweet dessert pudding, or casserole, eaten during Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays. It can be made with various ingredients, including raisins, cinnamon, cottage cheese and more.

And stuffing? That’s your Thanksgiving go-to. Turkey stuffing usually consists of bread crumbs, dried bread, onion, celery and other spices and ingredients. Stuffing is savory. Kugel is sweet. Any effort to combine the two recipes would send your guests heading for the door. (Or the bathroom.) My recommendation is to serve both, separately. (I read somewhere you can also use Challah as turkey stuffing, if you want to go that route.)


Thanksgiving, as a celebration of harvest, is usually decorated by putting out pumpkins and gourds, pictures of turkeys and pilgrims, and using orange, yellow, brown and red colors. Hanukkah’s colors typically are blue, gold and silver. Unfortunately, not all of these colors mesh particularly well together.

However, I see no reason why you can’t decorate for both a harvest and lights festival. A color appropriate for both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, opt for mostly gold decorations. Paint pumpkins gold, or put chocolate Hanukkah gelt inside pumpkins and use them as table centerpieces. Think shimmery and glowing. A lighted harvest, if you will. Candles are acceptable for, and represent, both holidays nicely. As do twinkling lights.

Games and activities

In the spirit of Hanukkah, you can play dreidel and light the Menorah, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving you can have guests each take turns saying what they are thankful for. At the end of the day, both holidays are about friends and family coming together.

What makes Thanksgivukkah special isn’t just its rarity or the complex combining of foods; it’s who you celebrate with. So enjoy your company and remember to be grateful. Thanksgivukkah is about fun and family, not about getting every detail right. So fill your home with love, smiles and warm food. And sit back and relax: your Hanukkah gift shopping will be done by the time Black Friday rolls around.

About Hanukkah

According to Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world with college students at more than 550 universities across the globe, Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration of the miracle of the Maccabees’ victory over their Assyrian oppressors, and of a single jar of oil lasting for eight days.

Chabad-Lubavitch, a movement that promotes Judaism and provides daily Torah lectures and Jewish insights, says the festival begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev. Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, is described by Chabad as a celebration of triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, and of spirituality over materiality.

At Hanukkah’s heart, to commemorate and publicize these miracles, is the nightly menorah, or candelabra lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on until the eighth night of Hanukkah, when all eight lights are kindled, according to Chabad.

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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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