"Do you even celebrate Thanksgiving?"
As a Jewish American, this is the question I'm always asked right before national Turkey Day.
Believe it or not, American Jews typically do celebrate Thanksgiving. I mean, what Jewish person (or any person for that matter) wouldn't want to sit around a table with their family, eat turkey, argue about politics all day and then watch some good-old American football?
Growing up as an American Jew, I can confidently say that my family was all for celebrating Thanksgiving. In fact, we were even excited about Thanksgiving. And why shouldn't we be? After all, the majority of Jews arrived in America as immigrants and were given the opportunity build a better life for themselves. That certainly calls for a celebration in my opinion.
However, Jewish Thanksgivings do tend to differ from the traditional American Thanksgivings. I've been to enough "Friendsgivings" over the years to have noticed the subtle differences. Here are six ways you can tell you're at a Jewish Thanksgiving:
1) All the food is kosher and gluten free: Rub a dub dub, thanks for the kosher, gluten free grub! You usually won't find any buttermilk biscuits or a maple-bacon lattice turkey on the table at a Jewish Thanksgiving. Rather, a Jewish Thanksgiving feast might consist of a kosher turkey that was slaughtered and inspected in a specific way that makes it suitable for the Jewish dinner table, along with gluten-free rice bread, quinoa and flourless chocolate cake for dessert.
2) There's ALWAYS matzo ball soup: Matzo ball soup has become a staple during traditional Jewish holidays, so why not serve it up on Thanksgiving? I mean, homemade matzo ball soup practically runs in our cooking genes, why not serve it during every holiday?
3) You're grandmother will ask you 100 times why you're still single: Let's face it, Thanksgiving is largely about spending time with your family and your grandparents are hopeful that they will see great grandchildren soon. So when you are twenty-eight years old and still single, your grandmother can't help but ask you over and over again, "why you aren't dating anyone yet," or perhaps, "why aren't you married yet?" I get it -- it was common for couples to marry at the age of eighteen back 'in the day,' but now might be a good time to remind your grandparents that it's almost 2016.
4) Non-stop yelling and complaining across the table: "Mom, Aaron won't stop punching me in the arm every time I pick up my spoon to eat my matzo-ball soup," your sister whines. In the meantime, your mother is arguing with your uncle about whether or not your grandfather should be placed in a retirement home. Don't be surprised to hear your grandparents complain throughout the meal that the kosher turkey is cold when it's actually piping hot. Who's ready for some football and flourless chocolate cake?
5) Instead of sparkling champagne, you're drinking Manischewitz: "Why does this wine taste funny?" Oh, because you're drinking Manischewitz, a kosher wine that is typically served during Passover. While Passover is still months away though, there's no reason your mom won't whip out her Manischewitz stash during Thanksgiving. Good news is that Manischewitz wine is usually sweet and inexpensive, making it easy to have more than a few glasses during dinner (and get drunk).
6) You give thanks for the land of Israel: Sure, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for America, but as Jews, we like to also give thanks for the land of Israel. After all, it's our homeland!
While a Jewish Thanksgiving does exhibit certain traits that are slightly different from traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, the overall holiday experience remains the same. There is plenty of good food, laughter and time spent with loved ones. What could be better?