So much ado and fuss has been made of this year’s Chanukah and Thanksgiving coinciding. New names have been coined from Thanksgivukkah to Chanksgiving, new contraptions such as Menurkeys have been invented (and sold), and a there’s plethora of recipes online that blend the two traditional holiday food favorites. But what meaningful connections are there?

These five connections first appeared in the “High-5” weekly feature of the Maimonides School (Albany NY) weekly “MC” newsletter.

(1) A CHANUKAH MITZVAH: Many people may not know this, but along with customs like Dreidels and Doughnuts, a big Mitzvah on Chanukah is called “Hallel v’Hodaah” which means “praise and thanksgiving” to G-d for the miracles (as we say in “Al HaNissim” etc). The Talmud considers Chanukah “days of thanksgiving and praise.” Actually, Lincoln’s proclamation establishing Thanksgiving uses the same exact language: “a day of thanksgiving and praise.” The  similarity in wording and content is striking.

(2) RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION: Many of the Pilgrims were here fleeing religious persecution in England, and religious freedom is at the heart of the Chanukah story. Unlike Haman of the Purim story (or later the Nazis of the Holocaust) the Syrian-Greeks were not attacking our physical existence, they were interested in our souls. The story of Chanukah is not about the survival of Jews, it’s about the survival of Judaism despite Hellenism.

(3) CELEBRATE AT HOME: Yes, there’s Torah reading in the synagogue, & communal events and public Menorah lightings, but Chanukah is mostly an at-home holiday. Most Chanukah observances don’t require a Minyan and can and should be done right at home with family. The same is true of Thanksgiving, in which most of the rituals center around the celebration in the home (before Black Friday shopping started creeping earlier and earlier…)

(4) PUBLIC THANKSGIVING: That’s how George Washington worded it in 1789. Similarly, Chanukah is one of those Mitzvot that have a public focus “Pirsumei Nissah” to publicize the miracle, lighting candles in windows and doorways, and in public spaces.

(5) RECOGNIZING G-D’S HAND: The Maccabees won a physical battle, and the Pilgrims physically survived a winter – but they both thanked G-d. Like Purim, the winning-war aspect of Chanukah is a hidden miracle, concealed in nature, but one that we ought to recognize G-d’s hidden hand as well!