BANGOR, Maine — Drew Matlins told his co-workers he’s starting a new Thanksgiving tradition since it coincided this year with the first day of Hanukkah.
“Maybe, instead of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, it will be potato pancakes,” he said Wednesday night in the kitchen of the home he shares with his wife, Paula Matlins, and their daughters, Hannah Matlins, 4, and Gabrielle Matlins, 2.
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee in 165 B.C. after the temple had been destroyed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of Syria. The oil found in the temple should have lasted just one day but miraculously burned for eight.
The holiday lasts eight days, with an additional candle in a menorah lit each night by the shamash, or, servant candle, and includes the exchanging of gifts. The Jewish Sabbath and Hanukkah begin at sundown and end the following sundown.
Thanksgiving last coincided with the first day of Hanukkah on Nov. 29, 1888, according to Chabad.org, a Jewish website. The next time the first night of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving Eve will collide is in 2070.
For the Matlins family, it’s an opportunity to share two special meals with family and friends.
“ Hanukkah is about food, Thanksgiving is about food,” Drew Matlins said as he sliced onions for latkes, the traditional food associated with Hanukkah.
While he prepared the potato pancakes to be fried in oil, Paula Matlins and Hannah stirred the filling for a pumpkin pie, a traditional Thanksgiving dessert.
“One of the exciting things about having the holidays at the same time is that it allows the children to be out of school for a couple of days so they can do Hanukkah,” Paula Matlins said. “This is the first year Hannah’s been old enough to understand the excitement of Hanukkah and this is the first year Gabby will be able to open her own gifts.”
After the family and close friends lit the first candles on three different menorahs, the girls opened their first Hanukkah gifts — a Doc McStuffins toy for Hannah and a Sofia the First set for Gabrielle.
“This is what I’ve always wanted,” Gabrielle said as she unwrapped her present.
Drew Matlins said that Hannah made her Hanukkah list weeks ago.
The girls’ godparents, maternal grandmother and other friends will join the Matlins on Thursday for Thanksgiving and the lighting of a second candle in the family’s Menorahs.
“The point of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah is community,” Paula Matlins said as she poured pumpkin filling into a pie crust. “It doesn’t matter who’s celebrating what, what matters is we’re celebrating together.”
Congregation Beth El, 183 French St., Bangor, will hold a community Hanukkah party at 3 p.m. Sunday at the synagogue.