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Porch Swings, Chocolate Babka, and Menurkeys…

You may be asking yourself what these three things have in common?

They were all a part of this year’s Thanukah (Thanksgiving and Chanukah) Reunion!

Thanukah 2013 -

For the last 34 years, members of my extended family have been gathering together to eat turkey and catch up on the year’s events.

Blah, blah, blah…  Did I lose you for a second?

I know that everybody has family reunions, so if you’re wondering what all the hoopla is about, let me break it down for you.  Our ritual started in 1979 as a way for my mom to meet her new husband’s family since they only dated a few months before tying the knot, and for them to meet my mom (and 5-year-old me). 

It was an obvious success since we have continued this adventure every year and our numbers have reached upwards of 50.  Our weekend, though crazy and over the top, is rich in tradition.  Watching football, eating turkey, yada, yada, yada. 

That sounds like your Thanksgiving doesn’t it?  Does yours include outrageous invitations, passing the drumstick from youngest to oldest, and a Thursday night sing-a-long?  If not, you are missing out because ours does!  

With it being such an undertaking, different members of the family take turn hosting our herd, thus changing the victim city every year.  We do have a central favorite (Jacksonville, FL) and I was even brave enough to host in 2011 in Waycross, GA. 

Our invitations have included quite a range from poster sized prints of a football stadium with the faces changed to look like family members, various puzzles to solve, and being subpoenaed to a turkey trial.  My aunt was a teacher back in the day so we sing about Turkey Tom and a cranberry bush to the tune of other children’s classics (complete with song sheets and background tracks). 

Believe it or not, for our 30th anniversary, we went on a cruise and broke out in song in the dining room.  Although we received multiple strange looks and some people actually left due to the racket, a few brave souls stayed and watched the show (some members of the family have a few dance moves to accompany certain songs).

Our Reunion is a four-day affair with food and family being the central bond that brings us all together.  Yes, that is the bond that brings most people together, but we have quite a diverse group.  Jewish, Christian, Cuban, Bahamian, Polish, etc., and our backgrounds are as diverse as the food we have. 

Thursday is always turkey and the usual holiday sides accompanied by welcoming hugs.  Friday consists of strategic shopping excursions, our new tradition of tacos at TacoLu when we are in Jacksonville, then hors d’oeuvres while watching football.  

There is a huge rivalry in our family tree with UF and FSU being the main branches so that game is always interesting to watch.  The day’s hectic activities lead to a dinner feast that is a collection of family favorites and specialties: Stuffed cabbage, black beans and rice, spaghetti and meatballs, and brisket. 

Evening quickly turns competitive with rousing games of Poker and embarrassing board games (try having to laugh every time someone else laughs and see how far the game gets)!  Saturday is usually a relaxing day with movies, football at Dick’s Wings (also in Jax), then dining on a menu of the host’s choice. 

This year included Italian night but in the past, we have had BBQ, Mexican night, and a Low Country Boil.  Sunday brunch is bittersweet with sad goodbyes and promises to stay in touch more often throughout the year instead of just this weekend.

This year was extra special because Chanukah coincided with Thanksgiving which hasn’t happened since 1899 and won’t again until 2070.  Lighting the Menorah and spinning dreidels added to the festivities and brought us closer than ever before.   

The few hours I spent on the swing with one special member of the family, brought me closer to her and proud to call her not just family, but friend.  All gatherings have their highs and lows and this year did not disappoint. 

The highs of this year’s fete included babies both newborn and still baking and one of the lows involved a few Bloody Mary cocktails and a chocolate babka.  No elaboration necessary. 

The dual holiday called for a few changes: song lyrics (I am still not quite sure what the Menurkey song was about but it was original to say the least), more holiday-specific food choices (Latkes and Kugel made an unexpected and pleasant appearance) and a new tapas dish to honor the holiday.

The new offering must have been tasty because there were no leftovers to speak of and recipe requests were forthcoming.  Stay tuned to Sunday’s post see what I made for the snacks and get this new recipe.  You can also subscribe via email and have it delivered straight to your email!

By the way, that’s my husband posing like a centerfold down front!