Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chanukah on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving this year fell out less than a week before the start of Chanukah and that got me thinking: Have Thanksgiving and Chanukah ever coincided? At first, I tried this nifty online tool: but the problem is that the date of Thanksgiving has changed (see Wikipedia):
  • From 1863-1938 Thanksgiving was on the last Thursday of November
  • From 1939-1941 Thanksgiving was on the 4th, 3rd and 3rd Thursdays for some of the country ("Democratic Thanksgiving"), and on the last Thursdays for other parts ("Republican Thanksgiving").
  • From 1942-current Thanksgiving is on the 4th Thursday of November for almost the entire country (execpt Texas, which still celebrated "Republican Thanksgiving" in 1956)
So I whipped together a quick Mathematica notebook to do it (you can download it here). If you want to skip to the results, you can skip this whole description:
Basically, after assembling all the Thanksgiving dates in a list thanksgivings, I used the CalendarChange function to map them from Gregorian dates to dates in the Jewish calendar:
jewishdate = CalendarChange[#, Gregorian, Jewish] & /@ thanksgivings;
Then, I calculated the number of days between Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanuka (note, that Mathematica uses the Biblical month numbering system: Nisan is 1, Tishrei is 7, Kislev is 9, etc.)
daysbetween = DaysBetween[{#[[1]], 9, 25}, #, Calendar -> Jewish] & /@ jewishdate
and extracted the dates corresponding to non-negative days between:
coincideJewishDate = Extract[jewishdate, Position[daysbetween, _?NonNegative]]
which can easily be mapped back to Gregorian dates:
coincideGregorianDate = CalendarChange[#, Jewish, Gregorian] & /@ coincideJewishDate
I did the same thing, to see when the first night of Chanuka ({year,9,24}) falls out on Thanksgiving.

So, enough technobabble, here are the results of when Thanksgiving falls out relative to Chanukah.
1888 First Day
1899 Fourth Day
1918 First Night
1945* First Night
1956* First Day
2013 First Day
2070 First Night
2165 First Night
The two *ed years correspond to Republican Thanksgivings. So, in Texas 1945, Chanukah started the evening of Thanksgiving, and "Black Friday" was the first day of the holiday.

Also, these are the only predictable times it will ever happen. The Jewish calendar drifts around 4.3 days later every 1000 years, and I checked dates for next 10,000+ years. Chanukah does not even fall out in November after 2887. At some point [definitely by the year 15115, when Passover falls out in the summer] the Jewish calendar will need to be corrected/replaced; until such a time these are the date.

So, in 2013 Chanukah and Thanksgiving will fall out on the same day! Ladies and gentlemen, when, in three years, lots of people start talking about this incredibly rare occurrence, remember: You saw it here first!


  1. Do you think people in 1899 realized how unique that year was? We never appreciate what we have until it is gone.

  2. I was just checking this out myself. So when we light that candle on Thanksgiving Eve in 2013, that will be the last time candles are lit before Thanksgiving starts. Ever. Crazy.

    1. not true - last time we light 2 on thanksgiving but we light one a few other times

  3. Hah, awesome.
    Sweet potatoes Latkes and Sufganiot with cranberry-jelly?

  4. lol for notElon's comment!

  5. @Ben
    I was thinking if there ever was a year for deep fried turkey...

  6. I might be the first of "when, in three years, lots of people start talking about this incredibly rare occurrence" to note it here given that it's still over a year away.

    My mom got a 2013 calendar in the mail and she noticed that it showed Thanksgiving and Chanukah on the same day. I had never remembered such a thing (I'm in my mid 40s) so I tried to Google it and the only thing that came up about it was your blog. Wow, it really is as rare as I thought!

  7. Thank you for this insightful discovery!

  8. Very interesting about the Thanksgiving-Chanuka coincidence.

    Here's one for you.

    The civil year 1948 had no Shabbat Chanuka.

    This is more than rare; it seems to have only happened for that year.

    Let me know if you find out otherwise.

    Phil Chernofsky
    Editor OU Israel's Torah Tidbits

  9. Love your calculations! Check us out

  10. this Thanksgivukah, ‘Bubbie and Zadie’ are at the White House

    Posted in: Holiday
    Tags: Chanukah, Dan Bloom, holiday, Thanksgiving, white house




    By Dan Bloom

    ThanksgivukahAccording to Paul McFedries ”Wordspy” website, there’s a new holiday on tap this year, this month in fact, and it’s been dubbed “Thanksgivukah.” Jewish humor. Yes, this year for the first time in almost 5,000 years, Thanksgiving and Hannukah occur on the same calendar day.

    Obviously, God was trying out a new tack. According to Wordspy, Thanksgivukkah is “a combined celebration of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and the start of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.”

    The Houston Chronicle mentioned the new holiday in passing, as did The Boston Globe and a host of other newspapers and websites nationwide.

    McFedries, always the alert and tech-savvy editor, noted: “It should be noted that the Thanksgivukkah Facebook page was created by Dana Gitell on November 15, 2012. For the record, she also received a U.S. trademark for the term on July 26, 2013.”

    So as ”Thanksgivukah” approaches on November 28, here’s a short anecdote about how I plan to celebrate the holiday this year, with the hope and a prayer that some savvy e-publisher can find a way to turn a little book I wrote in 1985 into an illustrated children’s ebook in time for the holiday season in 2014. Do they make illustrated ebooks yet?

    Long story short: Bubbie and Zadie — Yiddish terms for ”Grandma” and ”Grandpa” — had been many places in their lives, but never the White House. So when a kind rabbi in Virginia was invited to the annual Chanukah Party at the Obama White House a few years ago, he thoughtfully brought my Jewish children’s picture book with him as a gift and left it with the Obama family.

    The title? ”Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House: A Story for Hanukkah.”

    1. Now, when is the next time Hanukchristmas is going to happen?

    2. This happens a lot.
      Dec 24, 2014 is 8th day of Chanuka.
      The first night of Chanuka, Dec 24th, 2016 is Christmas Eve.