Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgivukkah Meshugana

Something about preparing to go away next week, as we've never done before (we usually stay local for the turkey holiday--so local that we walk to Thanksgiving dinner), has made my life cray-cray. Maybe it's the Thanksgivukkah (a word that I can neither spell, nor pronouce) thing that has sent me just this side of over-the-edge this week.

I'm not the only one. I've heard reports that one family member, a preschool teacher at a Jewish school, has been slightly manic trying to cover what should have been two separate months of curriculum over Hannukah and Thanksgiving: two staples of the Jewish preschool calendar. No doubt. Louisa came home today with a the classic hardware-nuts Hannukiah AND a "hand turkey". All in one day. It's enough to make your head spin.

I'm sure the unlikely confluence of these two first-semester holidays is what made our family decide to finally take the plunge and get on a plane to celebrate the most American of holidays in a foreign country (Costa Rica). I've celebrated Thanksgiving in England (something full-circle about that), but never in the tropics. I'm looking forward to eating local sweet potatoes (or some similar tuber) in a land at least closer to whence they actually hail (Did you know that there were no sweet potatoes--or any kind of potatoes, for that matter--in the Plymouth colony?--a little tidbit I picked up this week while researching a freelance story. Because domesticated potatoes come from South America, and they hadn't made it that far north yet, apparently...). Rum drinks and Thanksgiving sound appropriate, too. After all...rum, the triangle all brings back colonial history.

Bella is studying colonial history in school. There's a lot of talk, these days, even in elementary school, about the difference between history and myths. My girls are all over the "truth" about the first Thanksgiving. They ate oysters and clams! And venison! There was not a pumpkin pie to be found. Ultimately, the Thanksgiving story is about the triumph of needy humans over the scourge of starvation. The new Americans figured out, one way or another, how to eat and survive in their new, wild home.

Thanksgiving, like Hannukah, is so much about food. We eat the same things, year after year, such that we forget the origins of the ritual. I'm sure I thought, as a child, that kosher marshmallows were consumed by Native Americans and Pilgrims at their unified feast in 1621. In our family, we usually host a big Hannukah party. It has become our tradition to serve latkes and lox and (non-Beluga) caviar. Yum. Ask my girls and I would venture to guess they believe caviar is a Hannukah food.

Somehow, in the midst of this busy week of packing and finishing time-sensitive projects and cursing myself for not ordering sun-protective gear on the internet, since it is nowhere to be found in stores, we found time, as a family, to go visit a wonderful local organization with a mission to make sure every family in NYC can have a festive holiday meal. The West Side Campaign Against Hunger feeds thousands of families throughout the year. On Thanksgiving, the needy can receive a turkey, and all the accoutrements. For several years an interfaith coalition of synagogues and churches and schools have come together to raise money to support this mission. This year, both our synagogue and our school are members of the coalition.

On Tuesday evening, we attended the kick-off event for the Thousand Turkey Challenge. Bella and Ruby learned about the hunger cycle, and about food insecurity right here in NYC. I hope that they will appreciate our own feast even more, knowing that many families are guaranteed no such thing. Tzedakah and celebration go hand in hand, and what better way to celebrate Hannukah on Thanksgiving, than to donate some gelt to a worthy organization dedicated to feeding the hungry. Please consider donating a turkey, by clicking here.

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

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