The once-in-many-lifetimes convergence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah struck Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky as a fitting melding of an ancient tradition with one a bit more modern.
"I think it's beautiful because they really do share a theme," he said, standing among about 70 people who gathered at sunset Wednesday in Montgomery Village to light the first two candles of the menorah.
"They are both about giving thanks to God for the blessings, so it seems very apropos that they would meet on the calendar," he said.
'Tis a meeting that won't happen again very soon.
Debate is rampant over when, exactly, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah will again fall on the same day, with some saying it will take a century and others saying it won't happen for 70,000 years.
"It's once in a lifetime," said Miriah Kellison of Santa Rosa.
Kellison, who is Jewish, and her sister will today don "Thanksgivukkah" aprons and lay a feast mixing the two traditions. She'll serve Manischewitz-brined turkey, a cranberry-apple sauce combination, latkes, rye-pumpkin pie, challah and rugelach.
"It really was fun to be creative with it and do something we don't normally do," she said.
Many celebrants said that because Hanukkah is not one of the most holy of Jewish holidays, it was a comfortable mix to intermingle Hanukkah traditions with those established for Thanksgiving in the hundreds of years since pilgrims established the American tradition in the early 17th century.
The menorah, a candelabra with one central candle and eight additional prongs, is the main symbol of Hanukkah. During the eight nights of Hanukkah, believers light a candle each night, marking a miracle they believe occurred about 2,000 years ago.
The Jews, who had been ordered to worship Greek gods, had just reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem. They could only find a small portion of pure oil for light, enough for about one day. But the oil lasted eight days.
On Wednesday, the center candle was lighted, followed by the outermost candle.
"All of the others have to be level," said Stan Roodman, who attended Wednesday night's event at Montgomery Village hosted by Chabad Jewish Center. "It symbolizes that all Jews, all people, are equal."
Today, Walter Rubenstein of Sonoma Valley will have Thanksgiving dinner with his daughter and her fiance, who is not Jewish. Rubenstein and his wife are bringing matzo ball soup and a portable menorah.
Rubenstein said he expects to say a Jewish prayer and acknowledge the strength and perseverance remembered in both holidays.
"It seems like a nice fit," he said. "It's a general sense of being grateful."
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.