Religion & Beliefs

Why Thanksgiving Is The Jewish Christmas

Sure, there were no pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving, but it’s still the most Jewish holiday for this part of the year. (Sorry Hanukkah.) Read More

By / November 22, 2011
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

As soon as it’s cold enough to wear a sweater, I start talking about Thanksgiving (and sweaters). Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday with nothing in second place (because, really, who ranks holidays?*). I love the idea of my family coming together to celebrate little more than that we are a family coming together. We don’t go around the table saying what we’re thankful for, because we aren’t playing a family on television, but the prevailing sense is the food and the people with whom we get to share it. Yet when I explain this rosy view of my Turkey Day to my Goyim friends I’m met with a look that’s somewhere between confused and pitying, as to say, “Don’t you know those feelings are for Christmas not Christmas’s kick-off party?”

For many non-Jews, Thanksgiving is just the start of the Christmas season—the poultry course before the ham course (they give ham it’s own course, right?)—the meal you eat before you go camp outside Best Buy.** Much of the ethos I’ve assigned Thanksgiving, for Christians, has already been rationed for Christmas. Basically, everyone has one day a year where they will enjoy spending time with their whole family and if you have Christmas as an option, it’s going to be Christmas (Have you heard the songs? They’re wonderful!). I, and my Jewish ilk, don’t have Christmas. We can listen to the songs and spend the day with our family and friends, but its not Christmas. As much as it has become a National Holiday, a multi-cultural television holiday, it is still Jesus’s birthday party and we can’t really crash.

Hanukkah is also not Christmas. For our little Jews and Jewesses it’s close enough because they just want, want, want but come on, a plate of amoeba shaped hash browns is not in the same stratosphere as Christmas Dinner. Post-Bar Mitzvah, Hanukkah never felt the same so, every year, when people try to pander to me and my candle-based observance, I fight the urge to spend eight days lighting them on fire.

No, Thanksgiving is the Jewish Christmas, my Christmas. Where my Italian or Asian friends might spend the day after Halloween building the Crosby—Sinatra—Carey base necessary for a good Xmas Spotify playlist, I’m talking recipes with my Dad: “So you are saying it’s going to be Asian but only slightly Asian. Not too Asian. The mashed potatoes are going to be just mashed potatoes, right?”

Thanksgiving is an eating holiday, an over-eating holiday; a holiday where it’s expected you make way more food than can be consumed. Your son/daughter has been away at college and looks too skinny (“What are they feeding you? Are you not eating?”), this holiday was invented for that. It’s not to say the Jews had anything to do with its creation; I imagine there weren’t any at the first Thanksgiving, or the first fifty for that matter. It is simply our best chance each year to sit and eat and complain and eat and eat as a family.***

*Gun to my head:

1) Thanksgiving

2) Christmas for Jews (Chinese food + Movie)

3) St. Valentine’s Day

4) Christmas for Christians

5) Martin Luther King Day

**Whenever I hear the words “Black Friday,” I hear the voice of Mom saying, “What, with those crowds? Give me a break.”

***Don’t even try to talk to me about the carb-less Passover.