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November 27, 2013

Overlap with Thanksgiving prompts second look at Hanukkah

WASHINGTON — For most American Jews, the Hanukkah script has been pretty clear for decades: Light candles in menorahs, make potato pancakes (called latkes), play a game with a spinning top, called a dreidel, sing songs, give presents and call it a night (or eight, in this case).

Then came the menurkey of 2013. And greetings cards of pilgrims wearing the long, curly sideburns of the Orthodox. And debates about whether cranberry sauce goes with latkes.

Witness the messy process of holiday-creating, and on a lightning-fast scale. That's because of the extremely rare overlap Thursday of Thanksgiving and the first full day of Hanukkah, which usually falls well into December. Some calendric experts say the event many are calling Thanksgivukkah happens once a century; others say it won't happen for thousands more years.

The merger of two largely happy, fun holidays has triggered a rush of kitschy marketing, including the sale of thousands of ceramic, turkey-shaped menorahs called menurkeys. It has also prompted a flood of new recipes and debate on food blogs about how to appropriately mess with two holiday menus that for many are cherished just as they are, thank you.

But it has also triggered a more deliberate look for many American Jews at a holiday that's not been considered particularly important.

"I'm agonizing over whether to get a serious or silly Hanukkah card — and I never even buy Hanukkah cards!" said Sara Finer, 32, a lawyer from Rockville, Md. who on Monday was in a CVS card aisle in downtown Washington.

Finer was buying a card to go with a gift for an in-law's cousin whom she normally wouldn't see on Hanukkah, but for the fact that it's falling when the family gathers for Thanksgiving. Because some people coming to dinner won't be Jewish, Finer said she's paying more attention to how she will explain Hanukkah. "I was literally Googling it at work."

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