Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jews Love: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving may or may not be a goyishe (non-Jewish) holiday, but many Jews celebrate it nonetheless.

Jumpin' Jewess at Jew York City is very excited about what she calls the "impending foodfest," and I can't say that I blame her. I personally parlayed a bit of sibling rivalry into two types of potatoes... hey I know which battles I can win. Phoebe seems a bit less excited about Thanksgiving, if only because the preparations require a trip to Fairway, which is mobbed. Josh Goldman of Why Josh Can't Be Left Alone doesn't focus on the food, but instead on the football. In his case the Indo-Jewish football game, apparently a Chicago tradition among his high school friends that has been getting a lot of press lately.


Not everyone is so sure about the holiday though. Dovbear presents two views, for and against the observance of Thanksgiving, and whether or not it is in line with traditional Judaism. However, for some others it is not just a question of the holiday itself. On the side Beyond BT there is a great deal of discussion about how to navigate a family-centered holiday if one has less in common with family than one used to. Issues dealt with are kashrut, shabbes, and how to preserve shalom bayit*.

There is some question as to whether or not Thanksgiving is a specifically Christian holiday. Danny Sims, a Christian blogger suggests that Thanksgiving is an "American Sukkot."I'm not sure about that, but within Jewish families the observance of Thanksgiving often mirrors that of Passover, as described by Mark Rubin in his blog Chasing the Fat Man. The latter comparison actually makes more sense to me, as both Passover and Thanksgiving have a large festival meal as the focal point, where family are gathered around a table. I guess that technically Sukkot is a harvest festival, but for me the defining characteristic is being outdoors in the somewhat cold, so the meal is rushed. But then again, I am from the (sort of) South.


harley said...

Historically, the Pilgrims explicitly molded Thanksgiving after Sukkot. The effect may be Passover, but the intent was Sukkot.

Anonymous said...

Historically, the Pilgrims had a harvest festival to celebrate their first harvest in Plymouth. A harvest festival was a common English and Wampanoag tradition. You could argue that the harvest festival tradition in England was a Christian tradition that originated in Judaism, but there is no direct link between the Pilgrims and Judaism(beyond the Bible).

Technically all 3 of the Jewish pilgrimage festivals had a harvest component to them. The only reason Sukkot is associated with Thanksgiving more than Passover or Shavuot is that it falls in the fall.

Your association of Thanksgiving with Passover is most likely a result of the fact that most Jews only celebrate Passover so it is viewed as the Jewish dinner holiday even though every Jewish holiday has festive meals associated with it.

Speaking of Jewish festive meals, the NY Times had a good article on dealing with family at a large meal. My thought while reading it was how this wasn't an issue for traditional Jews since they are used to the whole large family meal concept.

AnnieGetYour said...

Anon- while I agree with you that "all three of the Jewish pilgrimage festivals have a harvest component to them" I disagree with your statement that my association is "most likely a result of the fact that most Jews only celebrate Passover."

What I think you meant to say is that Passover is the most universally celebrated of the Jewish holidays. However, I come from a traditionally observant family, so festival meals are pretty common. I think that there are a combination of ritual (everything in the seder leads to the meal) and social factors which lead me to my characterization of Passover as "the dinner holiday."

Thanks for the tip on the NY times article. And I agree, as some Jblogger said a few days ago, I am tired of all the goyim complaining about how hard it is to make Thanksgiving. Clearly they need to try 3-day chag.

Anonymous said...

"I am tired of all the goyim complaining about how hard it is to make Thanksgiving. Clearly they need to try 3-day chag."

But I like 3-day holidays. =(