By Rabbi Rachel Silverman
Getting the house—and table—ready for a holiday is always one of my favorite parts of any festive occasion. Sure, I love menu planning, finalizing guest lists and picking out what I’m going to wear, but a holiday isn’t a holiday for me until the house is dressed too. Usually the decisions are easy: Themed paper goods or fine china? White tablecloth or colored? Centerpiece: yay or nay?
But what happens when two holidays collide, as they do this year? Some might say we should avoid mixing them and do our best to celebrate one at a time. But to do so would miss the opportunity to find the commonalities between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah—and to celebrate this one particular moment in time, which won’t happen again for another 70,000 years!
In creating a table setting for this confluence of holidays, I wanted to take the best of each holiday and combine them together—without, of course, looking like a giant holiday mash-up with clashing colors and decorations. The goal of my Thanksgivukkah table setting is to make sure all of my guests remember and celebrate both holidays.
I chose symbols from both Thanksgiving (the cornucopia, pumpkins and harvest bouquets) and Hanukkah (menorah, candles, gelt and winter colors, like white and silver) to decorate my table. Here’s the result:
And here’s how to make it happen at your house:
A trip to Michaels got me the fake pumpkins, the paint and glitter to paint them, the cornucopia, white spray paint to cover it, and the sparkly pinecones. (I probably could’ve made the pinecones, but for $1.50 for four, it was easier to buy them.)
A trip to Marshalls got me the glass bowl ($7.50 on clearance!), as well as the two harvest bouquets ($9.99 each). With a little more time and know-how, you could also make your own bouquets with supplies from a craft store.
A shopping trip around my own house got me the tablecloth, the place settings and the menorah. Of course, if you jumped on the Menurkey bandwagon, that could be the centerpiece of your table.
I printed name cards using Avery Small Tent Cards 5302 and the provided template. (Here’s my template that you can customize and use yourself. JewishBoston.com is also offering a great template that you can print on regular paper, available here.)
The Israel Book Shop in Brookline saved my design with its silver gelt and blue-and-white Hanukkah candles, which they happened to be selling nice and early!
Want more inspiration for your holiday table setting and meal planning? Check out this feature from Buzzfeed. (I’m oddly in love with their pilgrim kippah…and a little jealous that I didn’t think of it myself!) Want even more ideas? Here’s my Pinterest board dedicated to this amazing holiday. If your holiday celebration just won’t be complete without greeting cards, have no fear; that industry has caught up too.
If you’re like me, your Thanksgiving Day easily becomes a Thanksgiving weekend. My immediate family has a tradition of eating together on “Erev Thanksgiving,” Wednesday night, often at The Cheesecake Factory (but I think I convinced them to come to my house for Erev Thanksgivukkah so we can light candles together and admire my decorations). And I always make the Shabbat dinner after Thanksgiving a “Friends-giving” celebration. This year, I think I’ll try a turkey challah. For Shabbat Thanksgivukkah, or, as I’m calling it, “Friendsgivukkah,” I dipped simple white taper candles in glitter to jazz them up a bit. You can see how I made the sign and download it here (it prints on an 8.5×11 piece of paper and fits in an 8×10 frame).
The Talmud teaches us that we should not mix joyous occasions—such as having a wedding on Shabbat or a holiday—because each simcha (celebration) deserves to be celebrated fully on its own, lest we celebrate one but ignore the other. But in this case, I think we are more than justified in combining holidays and celebrating this unique occurrence in a way that exemplifies how closely tied together our American and Jewish identities are. What better expression of American Judaism is there than celebrating Thanksgivukkah together with friends and family?
Chag Hodu v’Urim Sameach! Happy Thanksgivukkah!
Rabbi Rachel Silverman is the rabbi for congregational learning at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline. She teaches in the Eser program for young adults and at the Jewish Discovery Institute, and she also sits on the education committee of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh in Newton.