During most holiday seasons, Jewish families are part of the December frenzy, shopping for food and gifts in preparation for Hanukkah.
But not this year. Jewish families will be lighting menorahs two days before Black Friday begins. The Festival of Lights comes early in 2013 and local families are having fun with the convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving with the day being dubbed Thanksgivukkah. The occurrence is not expected to happen again for more than 79,000 years.
The eight days of Hanukkah actually begin after dusk Wednesday and celebrate the miracle of the oil that occurred in 164 B.C.E.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Rachel Scheinberg, 9, lights a candle on the menorah while her sister Abigail, 8, watches in their Altoona home. The girls are excited about Hanukkah and Thanksgiving converging on the same day.
The story is told in the books of the Maccabees, who were a band of Jewish fighters who liberated Israel from the Syrian Greeks. During the occupation, the Syrian Greeks had defiled the Temple. Under the leadership of the Maccabees, it was cleansed and rededicated. When the Jews lit the Temple's lamp, it only had enough oil for one day, but continued to burn for eight.
During Hanukkah, which means dedication, a consecutive candle is lit in the menorah each day until all are lit on the eighth day. Many families also give gifts, especially to the children, on each of the eight days, which are often observed close to Christmas.
Susan Holzer of Altoona, who will have four generations of her family together for Thanksgivukkah, believes it will be a fun day.
"I am having a great time with it," she said.
Latkes, a Hanukkah tradition, will replace the mashed potatoes on her Thanksgiving table, and she is making a cranberry applesauce in place of the regular applesauce families enjoy with their potato pancakes. A sweet potato kugel will be substituted for her tradition Thanksgiving sweet potatoes and her son, Mike, is making pumpkin-flavored hallah, a traditional Jewish bread.
Holzer said she has noticed creative and lighthearted ideas for the holiday, such as a cheese ball with eight crackers to represent the feathers and places to insert candles.
"It's just fun," she said.
At Sara and Roy Ebersole's Duncansville home, the family will light a Menurkey, a menorah in the shape of a turkey, for this once in a lifetime experience.
She said their 6-year-old daughter, Lorelei, is very excited that the two holidays are being observed at the same time and has made decorations.
Ebersole said they are having friends in for the holiday, something they do not usually do for Hanukkah.
She said she believes having the holidays together makes it even more festive.
"It's always a big celebration anyway, now it's a doubly big celebration," she said.
Christine Scheinberg of Altoona said that family being together for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah is a bonus. Her mother-in-law will be arriving from Florida and they will celebrate with her husband Michael's siblings and their families at her brother-in-law's house.
She said her daughters, Rachel, 9, and Abby, 8, are really excited about the holidays.
On Wednesday evening the family, which also includes two sons, will light the first Hanukkah candle, tell the story and say a prayer. The second candle will be lit with extended family on Thanksgiving.
She said the children receive gifts on each of the eight days, except one. That day they agree to give a gift to a charity, such as St. Vincent DePaul.
Rabbi Audrey Korotkin of Temple Beth Israel wrote in an email that it's great to be separating Hanukkah and Christmas so people don't think that Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas.
For Rabbi Joshua Wohl of Agudath Achim Synagogue, the holidays provide an opportunity for him, his wife and two sons to spend time with extended family in Detroit.
"It will be a lot of fun," he said. "Families will be able to get together who don't normally celebrate Hanukkah together.
"You don't get off for Hanukkah," he said. "You get off for Thanksgiving."