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Jewish Festival of Lights falls on American holiday
Last time of Thanksgivukkah was 1888
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Rabbi Mitch Cohen points to a loaf of Challah bread shaped like a menorah. Members of the Shalom b’Harim surround him to enjoy “oneg” in the fellowship hall after the Sabbet service last Friday at Dahlonega Presbyterian Church. The group meets there once a month. - photo by SAVANNAH KING

For Hanukkah recipes, click here.

This Thanksgiving, the American festival of eating will coincide with the Jewish Festival of Lights in a holiday match-up that has been dubbed Thanksgivukkah.

Thanksgiving will coincide with the first day of Hanukkah for the first time since 1888, and it won’t happen again for nearly 78,000 years.

Rabbi Mitch Cohen of Shalom b’Harim in Dahlonega said he loves the two holidays are so close together this year.

“There is a fall harvest holiday called Sukkot, the Jews celebrate it every year. It’s the end of our high holiday season in the fall and it is a celebration of the end gathering of all the crops,” Cohen said. “The pilgrims knew about it and therefore the belief is that when they came and they invited the Native Americans who had helped them to this celebration it morphed into Thanksgiving. It’s kind of cool this year how you have one possible Jewish holiday that became Thanksgiving and the other definite Jewish holiday falling together.”

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over Syrian forces, and the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated during the battles. It also celebrates the miracle of the oil, when a day’s worth of oil in the temple lamps lasted for eight days.

The holiday traditions focus on the oil, which is why Jews light candles on the menorah and celebrate for eight nights.

“There are certain foods we eat for Hanukkah. They’re all fried to represent the oil that lasted for eight days,” Cohen said, smiling. “You never want to go for a physical after Hanukkah.”

Many folks have been having fun with this match-up. Websites and Facebook pages are devoted to the topic, which has sparked any number of products including a turkey-shaped menorah. Of course, the Internet offers no shortage of recipe suggestions for the fusion of both holiday meals.

Traditionally, however, the most popular holiday dishes are jelly donuts and fried potato pancakes, called potato latkes.

Cohen said it’s been fun to watch the traditional latkes recipe change over the years.

After the Sabbet service Friday evening at Dahlonega Presbyterian Church, where the Shalom b’Harim group meets once a month, the congregation headed to the fellowship hall to enjoy “oneg” together. Plates of holiday favorites were laid out buffet style for the after-service celebration.

While congregants loaded their plates with potato latkes and scoops of sour cream and apple sauce, some wondered out loud if member Les Green happened to make his infamous jalapeno latkes this year.

Green, of Sautee, laughed and promised he hadn’t. This time, he made sweet potato and pumpkin latkes fried in coconut oil.

Tanya Applebaum of Gainesville said she often makes her latkes with bits of onion for extra flavor.

Latkes are topped with different sauces, like sour cream or apple sauce, depending on the recipe.

Thanksgivukkah has prompted some creativity with topping varieties this year.

“I’ve noticed some people are doing cranberry sauce now,” Applebaum said. “I’ve not tasted that before, but I bet it’s delicious.”

McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this report.

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