Image by Kim DeMarco for ModernTribe. Courtesy of Dana Reichman Gitell
She’s not trying to create a new holiday. She’s adamant this is not another Festivus. But the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving this year, which happened in 1888 and apparently won’t happen again for 78,000 years, so Pittsburgh native Dana Reichman Gitell thought the holiday convergence was worth marking.
Thus, “Thanksgivukkah” was born.
“I was driving to work and came up with the word, and I thought ‘this should be a Facebook page,’” she said. Gitell trademarked the word “Thanksgivukkah” and launched the concept on social media. It grew quickly, buoyed by an article in the Wall Street Journal, and a listicle on Buzzfeed. "We were adding 1,000 new Facebook fans a day at that point, so we knew it had caught on."
Gitell says she thinks a lot of people responded to the natural symmetry between the two holidays.
“Both are festivals of gratitude, so there are a lot of layers and a lot of things in common,” she said. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish American experience and celebrate this country.”
Gitell, who lives in suburban Boston now, credits her childhood in Squirrel Hill with establishing her firm footing in Jewish religion and culture.
“I had an incredible childhood in one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the country,” she said. “It was cool to be Jewish. Outside of Israel, where but in America could I have a childhood like that.”
Gitell and her sister-in-law worked with artist Kim DeMarco to come up with a Thanksgivukkah logo, and contacted Modern Tribe, an e-commerce website that sells “hip Jewish gifts” to see if there was interest in a Thanksgivukkah themed-items.
Not only was Modern Tribe interested, demand for Thanksgivukkah t-shirts, cards and posters was so great that the shop is opening its first brick-and-mortar pop up store this weekend in Atlanta. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a nonprofit charitable organization.
There’s even a Thanksgivukkah song, written by students at Gitell’s son’s Jewish day school in Norwood, Mass. The kids are scheduled to perform the song at Plimoth Plantation this week.
Gitell said her own Thanksgivukkah feast will include turkey and sweet potato latkes, while her sister-in-law Deborah Gitell plans a Thanksgivukkah festival in Los Angeles.
The overall response to the Thanksgivukkah celebration has been positive, Gitell added. “All of the Jewish organizations who have heard of it have had good things to say,” she said. “I think that’s because there is some depth to it, and some legitimate religious ties between the two holidays.”
She plans to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime event, but will put it to rest after this year. “I felt in my heart like this was a love letter to America, and an opportunity for American Jews to celebrate both holidays and enjoy them together.”
Dana Reichman Gitell models one of the Thanksgivukkah t-shirts.