Remember Thanksgivukkah two years ago? When Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving? That was so awesome. But this year, it’s just Thanksgiving. And then we will have to wait a week and a half for Hanukkah.
Growing up in a traditional Jewish house, Thanksgiving didn’t have the “star status” that holidays in the Jewish calendar had. Rosh Hashanah was a big deal and a big meal, as was breaking the fast on Yom Kippur. Plus, those holiday meals were planned around a lot of rituals and synagogue-going. Tons of ritual foods and candle lighting and Hebrew singing and such.
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Shabbat is a fancy and formal meal for many Jews every week, and it sometimes involves as much work as Thanksgiving meals; imagine that on a weekly basis! Passover is the biggest food-related preparation of all, with weeks and sometimes a month of cleaning and scouring and preparing your kitchen and home for an eight-day grain-free extravaganza. Hanukkah meals revolve around frying things in oil, which automatically makes that a favorite holiday for this particular Jew.
But Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving involves a turkey which, as a meat-eating child, never tasted as good as my mom’s chicken. It was so big and cumbersome, and then I learned that they pump that poor bird full of drugs to make it grow so big that it can’t stand up. That was the end of eating turkey.
READ: The New Tradition I’m Extra Thankful for This Year
The good news is, vegan Thanksgiving is delicious. We make my ex-husband’s great grandmother’s Southern cornbread stuffing (the recipe is in my vegan cookbook) and we make mashed potatoes (also in my book) and we make vegetables and pie and all of those traditional foods. We even put vegan marshmallows on sweet potatoes when we want to. And we have a protein alternative: sometimes a Tofurkey loaf, which I happen to think is delicious, and we also have a soy-free loaf of goodness called a Field Roast, which my kids love.
But the American tradition of Thanksgiving is indeed about being together. And this is the first Thanksgiving my dad isn’t together with us. So we will be together, but without him.
The essence of Thanksgiving is to be thankful for what we have, even if we wish we (still) had some other things as well.
READ: Thanksgiving and the American Jew
Thanksgiving is so many things to so many people. In our family, it will be a time of appreciating what we have, missing what we don’t, and finding a way to celebrate all of it together.