I know. Thanksgivukkah is what everyone else seems to dub this year’s rare convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. But I like Thanukkah better not only because it is more balanced, giving Hanukkah an emphasis lacking in the other name, but also because its simple elegance.
Hanukkah and Thanksgiving share a commonality—the theme of religious freedom. The Pilgrims fled Europe to the New World to escape religious persecution while the Maccabim fought for to regain their religious freedom and the Temple in Jerusalem.
I venture to say that neither group envisioned the day when turkey and latke would lay side by side on a dinner plate in America. No doubt they did not conceive of the Manurkey™ (or menurkey to some), the turkey menorah.
Regardless of what you call it, this occasion has been an excuse for Jewish cooks across the nation to come up with recipes that marry the two traditions. No wonder. After all, this is a rare opportunity for our generation as this occurrence will bypass many generations of our descendants before it will repeat in 70,000 years and some change.
The Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle while the Gregorian calendar is based on the sun. The concurrence of the Hebrew and Gregorian date and the day of the week recycle every 19 years. This means that on your 19th birthday and every 19 years thereafter, both calendars’ dates and the day of the week will be the same as on the day you were born.
However, since the timing of Thanksgiving is not date based and comes annually on the fourth Thursday in November, it does not follow the 19-years recycle. Hence it would take about one thousand times the number of years it would take Halley’s Comet to return to earth’s sight.
I have been mixin’ traditions now for quite a while. A few years ago, when I was developing my line of Voilà! Hallah Egg Bread Mixes, I created a bread recipe for Thanksgiving—my Sweet Cranberry Hallah, which is more like a sumptuous babka than challah. The rareness of this year’s occasion also propelled me to come up with something to mix the two traditions: Pumpkin Hallah.
Pumpkin made its way from the New World to Spain, which explains the reason Pan de Calabaza, or Pumpkin Hallah, is a Sephardic Jewish tradition. It is usually baked for Rosh Hashanah, the time when pumpkin is harvested in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Many bakers use recipes that add a bit of pumpkin to their challah dough, for the same reason others use water in which potatoes cooked and/or cooked potatoes. It produces moist and fluffy bread.
My recipe is not quite the traditional Pan de Clabaza. I used homemade pumpkin butter perfumed with sweet spices, but you can use store bought, too. In a moment of sheer inspiration, rather than shape the challah like the traditional turban, I gave it the shape resembling a turkey.
In 2010, while under the mistaken impression that Hanukkah was to begin on Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to host a Pumpkin Soup and Latke Open House. By the time I was made aware of the date mix up, I had already invited a long list of friends. So I held the open house anyway.
It would be most appropriate to do this year. Only this Thanukkah, I will also serve turkey-shaped pumpkin challah, but re-named “turkallah” for the occasion. May be I should have trade marked the name! However I mark this occasion, both holidays are a reminder that I have a lot for which to be thankful.