This year, American Jews will be celebrating two holidays on the same day: Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.

"It is the first time I have experienced it in my lifetime," said Rabbi Neal Katz, of Congregation Beth El.

The Jewish calendar is lunar, which means it functions separately from the standard Gregorian solar calendar the United States uses. While Thanksgiving always has been the fourth Thursday of November since the government established the set day in 1941, Hanukkah can be anytime during November or December.

The last time that the two holidays coincided was in 1956 (in Texas anyway, which didn't adopt the United States' official fourth-Thursday rule until then. The last time it coincided with the official U.S. Thanksgiving was 1918), according to the Jewish Orthodox website, chabad.org.

Katz doesn't expect that celebrating the two holidays will be problematic though.

"We'll eat our turkey then, after the Cowboys win, we'll light the (Hanukkah) candle," he said.

Some have been trying to combine symbols from the two holidays, Katz said. Among the more creative ones he's seen have been turkey-shaped menorahs and Thanksgiving-decorated Yamakas.

While the two holidays celebrate different events (Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees' defeat of the Greeks and the restoration of the Temple with a small amount of oil that miraculously lasted seven days), Rabbi Alan Learner of Congregation Ahavath Achim said the holidays do share similar themes.

"When the Maccabees rooted out the Greeks, there was certainly a lot of Thanksgiving and rejoicing," he said. "And the pilgrims rejoiced and gave thanks to God for allowing them to survive the winter and sending the Native Americans to help them. Both holidays have similar themes of relying on God and seeing Him come through for us."

 

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