Chances are, you have never heard of Shabbosgiving. It is likely that no one near you ever made mention of Challoween either, which is my own personal mash-up of Halloween, Jewish-style.
Yet everyone probably knows about Thanksgivukkah, which entered the lexicon in 2013, when Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincided. That coincidence last occurred in 1888 and is next scheduled for 77811 (assuming that Thanksgiving celebrations are not rescheduled). Had Thanksgiving been made an official American holiday in 1861 — rather than in 1863 — Americans could have laid claim to another Thanksgivukkah. But we cannot turn back the clock to reclaim something that never was, and that will not occur anywhere close to our lifetimes.
So what about Shabbosgiving? It is not a holiday for everyone, even if it is a holiday of choice for me. Shabbosgiving is a holiday of choice, not happenstance, so it can occur annually, rather than once every 133 years (or more). The numbers alone certainly support celebrating Shabbosgiving—and its convenience puts it first on my list. Let me explain:
As a physician and psychiatrist, I devote my weekdays to treating patients (by telemedicine, these days). On weekends and other holidays, I (or my covering doctor) field phone calls for emergency refills, questions about unexpected side effects, or—G-d forbid—serious suicidal thoughts. There is only one day of year when the telephone stops ringing, and when emails come to a standstill, and that day is Thanksgiving, a day that virtually all Americans observe, either wholeheartedly with family or friends, or in increasingly popular private or public protests.
I am not protesting my stringent schedule, for it is an expected part of the job, and something that I signed on for. However, besides being a doctor, I am also an author. Like virtually all authors, I always feel like I am behind the eight ball, pushing deadlines to avoid overdue articles, completing chapters for outstanding book contracts, and cocooning new ideas and inspirations that will soon need urgent attention. And that’s where Shabbosgiving comes in.
If I shift Turkey Day to Friday, Erev Shabbos, and switch out a chicken for turkey, I can make the most of these two days of the year. I must prepare for Shabbos on that short Friday afternoon anyway, but there is no Jewish law that forces me to celebrate Thanksgiving on a Thursday. By freeing up all-day Thursday to write, in the stillness and chill of the post-harvest season, I win an extra writing day, most likely uninterrupted by the other obligations I mentioned above. An extra writing day — besides Sundays — feels like a place in paradise. And I save myself two stressful meal preps by combining them into a Shabbosgiving. By my standards, it is a perfect trade-off.
Luckily, my family has the same values, and prefers to write and work on that Thursday and celebrate full-scale on Shabbos. And with Black Friday essentially cancelled this year — shopping is just a click away anyway — that post-Thanksgiving Friday is freer than ever.
I do not expect everyone to share my lifestyle, professional obligations or priorities, and I know full well that not every Jew celebrates the Sabbath, and so this strategy might not apply to everyone. Still, I know there must be someone out there who forgot to defrost the Thanksgiving turkey in time for Thursday (or who didn’t know that a 12-pounder needs a whopping 72 hours freezer time, not counting the hours upon hours of extra prep time the day of). That person then risks roasting a half-frozen bird, with unpredictable — but most likely bad — results. (I know for sure that this oversight can occur because I’ve done it, and my desperate Google searches assured me that I was far from the only unprepared Thanksgiving prepper).
So, by switching to Shabbosgiving for Thanksgiving, and celebrating the secular holiday on late Friday afternoon, as the sun sets and Shabbos starts, the day’s designated cook earns extra time to prep, an extra day off, — and perhaps even a higher place in heaven. Even those who dismiss the stringent traditional Sabbath restrictions, and balk at the pressures to prepare for Shabbos, may still enjoy Jewish traditions. So, if Thanksgiving is a tried-and-true American tradition, why not embrace Shabbosgiving as a new American-Jewish tradition?
Dr. Sharon Packer is a NY-based physician & psychiatrist who writes a column on “Why Psychiatrists Are Physicians First” for Psychiatric Times. She is the author of Dreams in Myth, Medicine & Movies; Movies and the Modern Psyche; Superheroes & Superegos: The Minds Behind the Masks; Cinema’s Sinister Psychiatrists; Neuroscience & Science Fiction Film and many more books chapters & academic articles.