The first day of Hanukkah will be on Thanksgiving this year, for the first time ever and never again! So expect to see, or be sure to put, turkey and latkes on the table. This is the only time it will ever happen.
Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest day on which it can fall is Nov. 28. Nov. 28 is also the earliest day on which Hanukkah can begin (actually, sundown on the 27th.) The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19-year cycle and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7-year cycle. You would, therefore, expect them to coincide roughly every 133 years (19 times 7). Looking back, the last time it would have happened is 1861. However, because Thanksgiving was formally established by President Lincoln in 1863, this phenomenon of the two holidays coinciding has never happened before.
Why won’t it ever happen again?
The Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of four days per 1000 years! This means that while, presently, Hanukkah can be as early as Nov. 28, over the years, the calendar will drift forward, so that the earliest Hanukkah can be is Nov. 29. The next time the first day of Hanukkah falls on Nov. 28 is 2146, which is a Monday. Therefore, 2013 is the only time Hanukkah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving.
Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar until it loops all the way back to where it is now.
So, Hanukkah would again fall on Thursday, Nov. 28 – in the year 79,811! Given our present trajectory with global warming, it is fair to say humans won’t be here in 79,811 and, if there are no humans, the holidays will be cancelled!
So, this Nov. 28, enjoy your turkey and your latkes. It has never happened before and it will never happen again.
Editor’s note: Do you have a favorite story from Hanukkah or Thanksgiving? What about bubbe’s or zayde’s famous latke or turkey stuffing recipe? (If you’re the bubbe or zayde, what do the grandkids ask you to make at holiday time?) Send your story or recipe – photos, too! – to Irina Missiuro at (email@example.com), subject line: HOLIDAY, or 401 Elmgrove Ave. Providence, R.I. 02906. If mailing photos, please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for their return.