Don't Believe the Hype: Hanukkah Starts Tonight

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The epic buzz ushering us into Thanksgivukkah almost made us forget that the festival of lights doesn't actually begin on Thanksgiving. It starts tonight. If you wait until tomorrow night to light the first candle and sing about dreidels and miracles and oil, you will be wrong, and you will be sorry.

As many of you may have read on the Internet somewhere, this year, for the first time in a very long time, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap. Specifically, the first full day of Hanukkah — which starts, as most Jewish festivals do, at sundown according to a lunar calendar — coincides with Thanksgiving this year. This last happened in 1888, and won’t happen again for roughly 70,000 years. So yes, it’s a pretty big deal. 

'Thanksgivukkah' is an enjoyable portmanteau and an excellent branding opportunity, but it is slightly confusing for those of us who just want to know when the Jewish holiday starts. Media coverage of the phenomenon isn’t making it any easier to figure out whether Hanukkah begins tonight or tomorrow night. On last night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel said “Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukah fall on the same day this year,” which is both logically unsound and basically incorrect. An ABC affiliate covering the occurrence is also misleading:

The convergence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah is something that happens incredibly rarely, and this Thursday will be a once in a many-lifetime event. Nov. 28 will be the first time - almost ever - that the two holidays will share the same date on the calendar.

Though the article notes that Thursday is the first day of Hanukkah, it doesn't specify that the holiday actually begins on Wednesday, and writing that the two holidays share the same date on the calendar isn’t particularly helpful, as Hanukkah lasts eight days. Buzzfeed also leaves out the helpful caveat in their explainer: “On Nov. 28, 2013, for the first and only time in any of our lifetimes, the first day of Hanukkah falls on the same day as Thanksgiving.”

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The Kansas City Star provides an accurate, but non-specific, description of the event:

This year, thanks to an extremely rare convergence, Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) falls during the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights. Some are calling it “Hanu-giving.” Others prefer “Thanksgivukkah.”

To be fair, most outlets that are giving in-depth coverage note the distinction, and Jewish websites uninterested in Thanksgivukkah state unambiguously that the holiday begins on Wednesday.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.