This year, due to a quirk in the Jewish calendar and Thanksgiving falling later in the month, the first full day of Hanukkah (the second night) coincides with Thanksgiving. This has not happened since 1888, although Thanksgiving fell on the sixth night of Hanukkah in 1899 and on the first night of Hanukkah in 1918. This will not occur again until 2070, when Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukkah overlap.
You may not be aware that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have a lot more in common besides the date they fall on this year. Both of these holidays are built upon foundations of religious and political freedom and the thankfulness of the people who have been able to enjoy such freedoms.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in remembrance of the Pilgrims who fled their homes and came to America in search of political and religious freedom. After arriving in America, the colonists made peace with the Native Americans and they celebrated Thanksgiving together and were thankful to be in their new homeland where they were free from persecution.
In the second century B.C.E., the Syrians suppressed Jewish observances and seized control of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem threatening the existence of the Jewish people. When the Maccabee’s miraculously defeated the Syrians, the Temple was restored along with their religious freedom. Upon the restoration of the Temple, there was only a small amount of oil found to light the eternal flame on the alter. This oil lasted for eight nights until more was able to be found. The oil lasting for eight nights led to the celebration of Hanukkah being known as The Festival of Lights. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the small but mighty Maccabee’s were able to defeat the Syrians. After the Syrians were driven out of Judea, the first Jewish government in over 400 years was established, resulting in political independence. Jewish people thank God every day in their morning prayers as there is much to be thankful for.
No matter what your religion or background, I think we can all agree that there is a lot to be thankful for this season and throughout the year. We’re lucky enough to live in a world of political and religious freedom because those who came before us were brave enough to fight for what they believed in. In this season of thanks, take a moment to think about everything that you’re thankful for and to remember what is truly important in your life.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah full of whatever makes you happy.