Is it true that . . .

  • Thanksgiving falls on Chanukah this year,
  • it’s never happened before, and
  • it will never happen again?


Yes, no, and maybe.

Yes, this Chanukah, if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, you’ll want to light the second candle of the menorah at your turkey dinner.

No, it’s not true that this has never happened before. Let’s work this through step by step:

Chanukah was declared a Jewish national holiday 2178 years ago. Thanksgiving was declared a national American holiday on the last Thursday of every November by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Before then, Thanksgiving was celebrated on different dates in different states, so we won’t count those. But, using the Date Converter, you will see that Thanksgiving coincided with the first day of Chanukah on November 29, 1888. It also coincided with the fourth day of Chanukah on November 30, 1899.

On November 28, 1918, Thanksgiving was on Chanukah eve. But since it’s still Thanksgiving until midnight, and Jewish days begin at night, that would still mean that Jewish Americans would have eaten their turkeys that Thanksgiving to the light of their first Chanukah candle.

It gets more complicated. Originally, Thanksgiving was always on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, FDR decided it would be good for the economy to push Thanksgiving back a little, so he declared the fourth Thursday of that November to be Thanksgiving—even though there were five Thursdays to November that year. In 1942, that became federal law. But not all states went along with it. As late as 1956, Texas was still celebrating Thanksgiving a week later than the rest of the country.

Which means that if you were a Texan Jewish family, you would be eating that turkey to the light of your first Chanukah light in 1945 and 1956.

Will it ever happen again? Interesting question. If we project forward, assuming that:

  1. Thanksgiving will be celebrated on the same schedule,
  2. The people celebrating Thanksgiving will continue following the Gregorian calendar without modification,
  3. The Jewish calendar will continue on its current 19-year cycle,

. . . then the next time the two will coincide would be when Thanksgiving falls on Chanukah eve in the year 2070. That would repeat itself in 2165.

Let’s chart this out:

Thanksgiving Dates

Chanukah Dates


Kislev 25, 5649—2 candles that night


Kislev 29, 5660—5 candles


Kislev 24, 5679—1 candle

11/29/1945 (Texas only)

Kislev 24, 5706—1 candle

11/29/1956 (Texas only)

Kislev 24, 5717—1 candle

11/28/2013 (you are here now)

Kislev 25, 5774—2 candles

11/27/2070 (theoretically)

Kislev 24, 5831—1 candle

11/28/2165 (theoretically)

Kislev 24, 5926—1 candle

You’ll notice that these dates are getting further and further apart. That’s not just FDR’s fault. Both the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish calendar are slowly drifting in relation to the actual solar year—but at different rates. After 2165, Chanukah would have completely drifted out of November—unless one of these calendars (or Thanksgiving) is changed.

The most important codification of the laws of the Jewish calendar was written by Maimonides in the 12th century. The standard medieval commentary to that text points out that the calendar is set up in such a way that eventually it will self-obsolesce. By the year 6000 (that’s 2240 on the Gregorian calendar), the holidays—most importantly, Passover—will start falling in the wrong seasons.

His conclusion: Before that time, Moshiach is expected to arrive and gather the Jews from the diaspora. At that point we will return to establishing the calendar on a month-by-month basis, as was done originally, before the current diaspora.1

Yes, making appointments is going to be a bit of a challenge, but there will certainly be solutions. At any rate, the benefits far exceed the inconvenience.

One thing is certain, however, as Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman wrote in the 13th century:2 We will forever continue to light the Chanukah lamps for eight nights, every Chanukah. Some lights can never be extinguished.

For more on the connection between Thanksgiving and Chanukah, read Thanksgiving Meets Chanukah.

Video: In 1984, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Rebbe, of righteous memory, highlighted some of the correlations between Chanukah and Thanksgiving in a public address: