I'm really annoyed with God.
Of course this isn't the first time. God has let me down tons of times over my life. He lets wars and famines and pestilence happen all across the world. He sits idly by while dictators and religious fanatics kill innocent people. He turns a blind eye to earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. He refuses to intervene in catastrophic wars. He did nothing to help the Phillies get past the Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS. Worst of all, he let Duck Dynasty happen. God has a lot of answering to do.
And now he's just gone too far. He's letting Chanukah fall on Thanksgiving this year. It's happened only once before (1888, a great year for making money in America and killing Jews in Russia) and won't happen again for another 70,000 years.
What is Chanukah, you ask? As a Jew I can explain. Well actually I'm not that religious. So let me offer you the next best thing. Wikipedia's explanation: "It's an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks of the 2nd century BC. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised branch."
In other words, it's the Jews' Christmas. It's not really a big holiday. But we've turned it into one so we've got a fallback position for when our kids complain why they're not getting presents in December like their non-Jewish friends. Jewish parents, throughout history, hate saying no to their kids. So there's Chanukah. Or Hanukkah. Why are there different spellings anyway? Oh, whatever.
No, not whatever. Because this year Chanukah falls on my beloved Thanksgiving. The best holiday of the year. My favorite time. It's been ruined for me and millions of other non-observant Jews by yet another Jewish holiday. It's just another cruel joke played by God. What's being ruined this year? Oh, I can think of five big things.
1. The Food.
Thanksgiving is all about food. Really, really great food. Turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and goblets of boxed wine (of course I buy it in a box. You have to ask? I'm Jewish!). But with Chanukah falling on the same day I'm now going to be forced to endure the Jewish foods of the holiday too: greasy latkes (these are potatoes deep fried in oil but they ain't McDonalds fries if you get my drift), fattening sour cream, stale Challah bread and sickeningly sweet Manishevitz wine. Oh, and brisket and tongue too. Yummy! And not only that but each dish has a "symbolic meaning." For example, today's latkes are similar to the cheesecakes of ancient times that were "served by the widow Judith" which she probably made before joining the Army and then giving birth to Kate Hudson. Why does it all have to remind us of our horrible, depressing history? Just pass the gravy and rip open another box please.
2. The Religion.
Thanksgiving is awesome because there's no religion. It's just an American thing. I don't have to be reminded why I suck and God is great. I don't have to say prayers or sing hymns or mumble ancient, nonsensical incantations in Hebrew (for the record, I'm mumbling because I really don't know the prayers very well, but neither does anyone else, so mumbling gives the impression that we all know). But not this year! This year, thanks to good old God, I've got to let religion invade my happy Thanksgiving holiday. I have to stand by while we light candles, spin the dreidel, sing Chanukah songs, chant nonsense and struggle mightily to keep the damn yarmulke from falling off my head because I don't have any hair to keep it on and do I really have to be reminded of this fact on the one holiday of the year that I enjoy? Yes I do, because Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving. Damn.
3. The Gifts.
Kids of my faith, there is good news for you. I may hate the fact that Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving but this is a once-in-every-70,000-year opportunity for you. Of course you're going to get presents for Chanukah. You always do. We made up this holiday for that very reason. But if you play your cards right, you might be able to swing another day of gifts in addition to the one over Thanksgiving. That's because Christmas Day this year is a full month away! That's like a century of potential guilt. It gives you plenty of time to really take advantage of your parents. You can come home from school day after day sad because all your non-Jewish friends have Santa Clause and all you got was a measly battery-powered mini-Corvette that only goes 15 miles per hour way, way, WAY back in November. Show a few tears, remind your dad how many days he spent away travelling for work, tell your mom that she's been looking very pretty lately and to top it all off, ask them both why Christopher and Frank get to celebrate Christmas and you don't (make sure to have tears in your eyes when you do this last one). And then watch the Jewish guilt take over. If you do this right, you could be in for another round of gifts come December 25th. What a goldmine for you. What a misery for your parents....and me.
4. The Days Off.
I love Thanksgiving because you get at least two days off. Plus by noon Wednesday everyone's pretty much checked out. And if you work in my company, you're probably checked out by the Monday before. That's cool. It's Thanksgiving. It's time to eat, watch some TV, sit back and relax. Except in my neighborhood. I have the inconvenience of living in an area filled with orthodox Jews. Why is this an inconvenience? Because these people are law abiding, religious, upright citizens who fulfill their duties to family and to God 24/7. And they make me look like a putz. Because this Thanksgiving I can't just go and throw a football around my yard with my kids. This year, there will be hordes of orthodox streaming by my house on their way to synagogue to commemorate Chanukah. They're always very nice and smiling to me. But I know what they're thinking: "Heathen." "Naysayer." "Throws like a girl." I don't need these reminders of my faults on my days off. I get enough of this during the week.
5. The Holiday Season
Every year I love Thanksgiving because it kicks off the holiday season. I watch the shows. I go to the mall. I play holiday music around the house. I can't have a tree or Christmas decorations in my house (God forbid!) but at least I can take advantage of all that the season offers. And I've always had that great built in excuse shared by millions of my brethren: well, Chanukah's falling near Christmas so why not, right? It's fun for the kids. Well not this year. Why? Because friggin' Chanukah is falling on friggin' Thanksgiving. Sure, I can still celebrate the time of year. I can enjoy. I can even chug a few eggnogs. But I'll have to do this surreptitiously. I don't want to show that I really like this whole Christmas thing, now do I?
Thanksgiving will be terrible this year. So thanks, God. Really appreciate this. Great job.
A version of this post originally appeared on Philadelphia Magazine.
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