Colette M. Jenkins

What kind of sound does a “menurkey” make?

“Gobble, gobble — like a regular turkey. But it has a menorah with candles to light up the feathers!” said Lily Taylor, 4, a preschool student in the Early Childhood Education Program at the Shaw Jewish Community Center in Akron.

The novel turkey-shaped menorah is just one example of creations inspired by the convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah this year. Thursday is the first time in 125 years that the first full day of Hanukkah and the holiday that marks the Pilgrims’ 1621 first harvest have overlapped. It will be nearly 78,000 years before it happens again.

On Tuesday, Lily and her classmates gathered to celebrate their “Thanksgivukkah” feast. They sang songs, played with dreidels, created menurkeys and ate foods associated with both holidays: corn bread, potato latkes, green beans, applesauce, pumpkin pudding, caramel corn, sweet potatoes, sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and fruit.

Most of the children wore their festive, handmade headdresses. They included turkeys with feathers and bands decorated with Native American language symbols.

“This was a great opportunity to help the students understand more about the traditions of both holidays and incorporate a history lesson as well,” said Pat Delagrange, an early childhood education teacher. “We have done a lot of comparisons, explaining both holidays are very festive, about being thankful and about religious freedom. Much like the Jews under [Greek King] Antiochus, the Pilgrims were also a religious minority deprived of the right to worship God as they saw fit.”

Hanukkah, which means dedication, begins at sundown today. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek army and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. By lighting candles for eight nights, Jews celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple and the miracle of a small amount of the oil lasting for eight days.

Both holidays are also marked by family time — something many of the children at the feast eagerly await.

For Brodie Singer, Thanksgiving Day will be a time to visit family in Tennessee. Although the road trip will take some time, he said that it will be fun.

“I get to take a nap in the car and we’re going to go to McDonald’s,” said Brodie, 4. “We have to pack toys to play with and we get to see all the family and eat turkey and jelly doughnuts for dessert.”

Carly Morrison, 5, is also expecting to have a lively day with her extended family. Their menu also will include the traditional turkey as the centerpiece.

When asked if her day would include watching a football game on television, she quickly answered, “No! But my dad will. We’ll watch the parade together. It’s cool,” Carly said.

Meredith Lowry and Sue Brady, two of the early childhood education teachers, said they hope the children will remember participating in the feast and, at some point, realize that they took part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“They may not fully understand it now, but this will never happen again in our lifetimes,” Brady said. “This Thanksgivukkah has really been a unique opportunity to make connections between American values and Jewish history.”

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or She can be followed at