The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 7, 2013

Remember Thanksgiving — the forgotten holiday

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Poor Thanksgiving, we hardly knew you.

Thanksgiving used to be a major holiday in this country, the day when Americans paused to count their blessings and to thank the Almighty for the bounty they enjoy.

It was a day for food, family and football, with some televised parade action thrown in for good measure. More important, it was a day off work, a day to gear up for the Christmas shopping marathon that began the next morning.

But now Thanksgiving is a mere speed bump on the long road from Labor Day to Christmas.

Christmas catalogs commence showing up in mailboxes in September, Christmas television commercials start airing in October and pre-Christmas sales begin in November.

I was driving home one evening earlier this week and saw a home completely decorated for Christmas, with the lights burning brightly in the chill of an early November evening.

Even Black Friday, that consumer-driven day of crazy sales and resulting shopper stampedes, is slowly losing its punch.

Macy’s, JCPenney, Toys R Us and Kohls plan to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day. Kmart stores will remain open from 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day until 11 p.m. on Black Friday. Walmart has already launched its early bird online specials, more than three weeks before Black Friday.

It’s getting so mom or grandma had better serve up Thanksgiving dinner to go, so we can gnaw on turkey legs and drink our mashed potatoes and gravy through a straw while we’re standing in line to shell out our hard-earned cash for holiday gift bargains.

As if that wasn’t enough, now Thanksgiving is running smack dab up against Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights.

The dates for Hanukkah are determined by the Hebrew calendar. It begins on the 25th day of Kislev, and ends on the second or third day of Tevet, since Kislev can have either 29 or 30 days.

That means this year Hanukkah begins at sundown Nov. 27, the eve of Thanksgiving Day, and concludes at sundown Dec. 5.

This has happened only one other time since Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. That came in 1888. The next time will come in the year 79,043, which makes it, for most of us, at least, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Call it, Thanksgivukkah. That, in fact, is the name of a Facebook page started by a man in Boston. Through the page, Dana Gitell is promoting a series of commemorative items like a T-shirt patterned after those sold at Woodstock. Except instead of reading “3 days of peace and music,” they bear the slogan “8 Days of Light, Liberty and Latkes,” referring to the potato pancakes commonly served at Hanukkah meals. Some wags have suggested that in honor of Thanksgivukkah, sweet potato latkes should be served.

During Hanukkah, Jews light one candle for each night of the festival, which celebrates the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting eight days during the rededication of the holy temple at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks in the second century B.C. The candles are held in the traditional candelabrum known as the Menorah.

Asher Weintraub, a 9-year-old Jewish boy from New York, has combined the two holidays and invented the Menurkey, a Menorah shaped like a turkey.

Young Asher, who is selling his Menurkeys in both plaster ($50) and ceramic ($150), also developed an iPhone app surrounding the holiday and wrote a Menurkey theme song, which includes the phrase “Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, come light the Menurkey. Once in a lifetime the candles meet the turkey.”

Thankfully the date of Christmas never shifts under the Gregorian calendar. It is always celebrated Dec. 25, though many Biblical scholars believe Christ was actually born in the springtime.

Don’t forget Thanksgiving, as you hang the tinsel, shop for gifts, munch on candy canes and sip egg nog, or nosh on sweet potato latkes and light the Menurkey, for that matter.

If for nothing else, pause and give thanks that we’ll never be subjected to a holiday called Thanksmas or Christgiving, in celebration of which trees are decorated with colorful lights and gilded giblets, and a jolly old fat man delivers toys in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny turkeys.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.