By a quirk of the calendar, Thanksgiving this year falls this on the first night of the Jewish festival of Chanukah.
Both are movable feasts in terms of their specific English date. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Chanukah is on a fixed date in the Jewish calendar, but that calender itself is a complex lunar and solar amalgam, where the lunar months are regularly supplemented by an extra month in order to keep festivals in line with their place in the solar cycle.
This complex arrangement means that Hebrew and English dates coincide once every 19 years, though even these are not exact as there can still be slight adjustments either way of a day or two.
But what it really means is that Chanukah is really only early enough once every 19 years to land square on with Thanksgiving, and even then, it would have to be a Thursday. So how rare is this? Well, so rare that it hasn’t happened in over 100 years, and even though it is slated to happen again in 2070 and 2165, it will then be many millennia before the joint celebration falls again. And I dare say that society may not be celebrating Thanksgiving and Chanukah in 70,000 years’ time, though that’s a musing for a different blog altogether.
I digress. The reason this has piqued Wordability’s interest is that the confluence has created something which is being regarded almost as a new festival, one where the traditions and food of both will be combined in one glorious night. And every new festival deserves a new word. So step forward Thanksgivukkah.
Frankly, the best thing about this is that this occurrence is so rare, so this pretty ugly portmanteau will soon retreat into the realms of linguistic obscurity and history where it so richly deserves to dwell. The problem with it is that it just sounds ugly and doesn’t trip off the tongue. And is it really necessary? No, I don’t think so. Chanukah and Christmas meet often enough, nobody who marks both feels a need for a new word. Same with Passover and Easter. Frankly I am glad that most festivals stay in broadly fixed slots throughout the year to avoid more of these linguistic aberrations.
So happy Thanksgivukkah to all who are celebrating – but please, just ditch the name.