An Indian, pilgrim and a rabbi

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday since it is not a religious holiday, but an American holiday — most of the time.

This year is different and special for Jewish Americans, as Thanksgiving falls on the first day of Chanukah.

Many, including the national media, are calling it “Thanksgivukkah!” Here on Kauai I coined the phrase, “Happy Chanumahaloka.” For those not familiar with the Hawaiian language mahalo means thanks, therefore the combination “Chanu,”  “Mahalo” and “Ka,” equals a greeting for a wonderful thankful holiday! Many Jews on Kauai just say happy Chanukauai.

The Jews follow a lunar calendar. Since the lunar month is about 29.5 days, the Jewish month varies, some months are 29 days and some are 30. This adds up to an average year of 354 days. The fact that the lunar year is 11 days less than the solar year is problematic.

The convergence has only happened once before, in 1888, and won’t be seen again until 2070 and again in 2165, according to calculations by Jonathan Mizrahi, a quantum physicist at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. After that, the two holidays aren’t set to overlap until 76695.

The Jews and Indians were both being religiously persecuted, “both celebrate overcoming a struggle … and being thankful.” Therefore this Thanksgiving will be the most special Thanksgiving.

It will be …

A day of thanks and matzo balls.

Chanukah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays, not because of any great religious significance, but because of its proximity to Christmas most years. Some non-Jews  think of this holiday as the Jewish Christmas, adopting many of the Christmas customs, such as elaborate gift-giving and lights.

Chanukah, is also know as the Festival of Lights, The orthodox spell this holiday Chanukah, the reform spell it Hanukkah. Either way is acceptable.

Chanukah celebrates victory from the Greeks led by the Maccabees in the year 167 B.C. Upon returning to the temple to rededicate the Menorah. The Maccabees found only one small flask of oil, enough to kindle the Menorah for one day. Miraculously, the flask of oil lasted eight days, hence the celebration lasts eight days. This is why Chanukah is referred to as the Festival of Lights. Growing up in a Jewish household, my mother always said, “the world has it wrong and that the Jews are the ones who should have their homes decorated with lights.”

This year, a deep fried turkey would be the appropriate way to merge two great holidays. Chanukah tradition is to eat deep fried food in memory of the  lanterns only having enough oil to burn one day,  but lasting eight days. The most traditional food is a deep fried potato pancake known as a latke, doughnuts are also popular.

There is also the custom for the children to play with a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. It is used during Chanukah to play popular children’s games. I am thinking of making a dreidel with illustrations of an Indian, pilgrim, a rabbi and a fried turkey  in lieu of Hebrew letters.

Meanwhile, a 9-year-old boy from New York City invented the “Menurkey,” a  turkey-shaped menorah.

The most wonderfully fun thing about Thanksgiving happening on Chanukah according to comedian rabbis is that food has zero calories on this special American-Jewish holiday. Enjoy this untroubled tranquil day which comes but once in a lifetime, although it would be romantically utopian having Thanksgiving and Chanukah everyday.

I have a picture in my head of the pilgrims, Indians and Jews sitting by the menorah feasting on deep fried turkey and matzo balls while drinking Mogan David wine wishing everyone L’chayim (to Life).

Happy Chanumahaloka, Happy Thanksgivukkah, Happy Chanukaua’i and instead of Amen, let us all say, “Oy vey!”

• James “Kimo” Rosen is a retired professional photographer living in Kapaa with his best friend Obama Da Dog, Rosen also blogs as a hobby


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