Happy Whatever

By Peggy Bird, author of The Second Chances Series

Hanukkah turkeyMy family is a diverse group. About the only thing we share besides our love for each other is our slant on politics. Well, we mostly agree on politics but…wait. That’s not the subject of this blog post. Let me get back on track—my eclectic family.

We were born in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Montana, Oregon, California, and Washington, D.C. We moved to the Pacific Northwest following husbands, jobs, parents, and memories of camping trips. We work at socially responsible marketing, staffing elected officials, medical editing, lawyering, office administration, romance writing, and engineering.

And God knows (as one would expect God would) we have very different approaches to religion. I’m the token Protestant; one daughter’s family is Catholic; another daughter’s family is Jewish. There are one or two agnostic/atheists thrown in as well.

Come December our religious traditions often collide as we celebrate that all-American mashup holiday, Christmakkah. During that one month, what with Christmas parties and Hanukkah dinners, more food is eaten, more candles burned, more gifts exchanged, more parties hosted than in all the other months combined.

We incorporate as much of everyone’s tradition as possible which often leads to strange encounters of the religious kind. One year, Max, then about five, was curious about the manger scene on the bookcase close to where, on Christmas Eve, we were lighting the menorah for the second (or maybe third) night of Hanukkah.

I explained the cast of characters and added that Jesus, like Max, was Jewish. Which led him to ask, “Did Jesus celebrate Hanukkah?” After much scrambling around consulting sources, we determined that the Maccabees had predated Jesus so he likely knew the story but, sorry to say, we didn’t think he knew how to play dreidel.

And at an all-family Hanukkah dinner we once heard the assertion of another young family member that Jesus and Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer had a lot in common because their friends treated them very badly but in the end it all worked out.

As you can see, we have managed to find a way to celebrate the December holidays in a manner perhaps not usual but very comfortable for us.

Then came the year 2013/5774. This year our accommodation has to move a month back because it is not Hanukkah and Christmas that overlap but Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. This year we will have to invent another set of traditions for a holiday that has never happened before and will not occur again in our lifetime—Thanksgivukkah.

My family is not, of course, the only one to have noticed this phenomenon. Google “Thanksgivukkah” and you’ll find a Facebook page, a Pinterest board and a Twitter account all in aid of the mashup holiday. An imaginary list of books has been invented.

T-shirts, special gelt, and a turkey menorah (a menurky to the inventor) are all advertised because this is America and selling stuff is what we do.

And, of course, there are menus. There would have to be when a Jewish celebration (as one of our family says, Jewish holidays are all about “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”) collides with the great American food holiday (another family member considers his annual bout of turkey coma to be his one and only chance at a Zen state of being).

From appetizers to dessert, recipes combining the two holidays are on line. Don’t wrap your gobbler in bacon; brine it in Manischewitz. Add cranberries to the applesauce for the latkes. Use challah for the stuffing. It goes on and on. One place to check it out is: http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/thanksgivukkah.

So, this year, we’ll be inventing another series of ways to accommodate our family cultures and the holidays. I don’t know what that will be yet, although I’m claiming the challah stuffing for my contribution. One thing I’m sure of—no matter how unusual the convergence of the solar, lunar and Gregorian calendars with the holidays are, one thing will be as always: Thursday the 28th of November, 2013 (or Kislev 26, 5774 in the Jewish calendar) will be, like every other holiday we celebrate, full of family, food and fun. As I hope your Thanksgivukkah is, too.

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