Because of the alignment of the lunar and Gregorian calendars, the holidays of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are in sync this year, a coincidence which last occurred in 1861 and will not reoccur for many more millennia! For many in our nation it will be an occasion for double merriment and creative feasting. Hence the above referenced neologism has appeared in the recent press.
Hanukkah commemorates a particularly difficult time in the history of the Jewish people. In the second century B.C., their homeland, Judea, came under the control of the Seleucid kings of Syria. While Antiochus III was a relatively tolerant ruler who permitted the Jews the practice of their religion, his successor, Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, brutally massacred thousands of the Jews and erected a statue of the pagan god Zeus in their temple in Jerusalem. Judah Maccabee, in a two-year guerilla revolt led by him, ousted the occupiers and arranged for the purification and rededication of the Temple.
Understandably, the days of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are days for our families to consider our blessings and to offer thanks.
But, perhaps the convergence of these two feasts is also an invitation for all of us to think about rededicating and sanctifying ourselves – we who are also “temples,” temples of the Holy Spirit, according to St. Paul – so as to lead lives more conducive to the advance of the Lord’s kingdom.
For Christians, though, the coincidence of these two feasts is also an invitation to reflect on our own Jewish roots and to honor Judaism and Jews through whom we believe our salvation and the salvation of the world has come. Catholics, in particular with our appreciation for ritual, scripture and sacrament (not to mention monotheism, the Decalogue, the Septuagint and the concept a liturgical calendar), would do well to be more aware of the Jewish identity and Jewish roots we ourselves share with our “elder brothers” – to use John Paul II’s term.
So, on behalf of the trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation I hope all of you, our readers, fund holders, and associated organizations, have a wonderful ‘Thanksgivikkuh,’ one in which leads all of us to a deeper and more fruitful bond with God’s Chosen People.