From the Commander, Council of Kadosh (November, 2013)

posted May 30, 2015, 2:55 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 30, 2015, 2:59 PM ]
On November 28, 2013, the American holiday of Thanksgiving falls on the same day as the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Thanksgiving is always on the fourth Thursday of November, based on the Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah, an eight-day celebration, begins on 9 Kislev, based on the Hebrew calendar. 
The last conjunction of Thanksgiving and Hunukkah was in 1888. According to one calculation, this will happen again in the year 81056, just 79,043 years from now. Calculating dates on the lunisolar Hebrew calendar is complicated. In fact, the Hebrew calendar has three kinds of years, each with a leap-year variation:
Chaserah year ("deficient" or "incomplete") is 353 or 383 days long.
Kesidrah year ("regular" or "in-order") is 354 or 384 days long.
Shlemah year ("complete" or "perfect") is 355 or 385 days long.
We are now in year 5774, which is a shlemah year and a leap year, with 385 days.
That’s enough complication for me to doubt the 79,043 year estimate and enough for me not to bother trying to calculate it myself.
Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the (second) Temple during the Maccabean revolt from 167 to 160 BCE, against the Seleucid empire. The Seleucid empire was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 312 BCE and included what is today Syria, Iraq, and part of Iran. Seleucus was one of the generals of Alexander the Great. Those guys were Greeks, and they brought the cultural revolution known as Hellenism to their world. While many Jewish people embraced Hellenism, it contrasted with Jewish traditions and practices in many ways.  
In those days, the Jewish homeland was a client state of the Seleucid Empire. The Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanies', decided to turn Jerusalem into a Greek city. He appointed one of his minions to serve as the High Priest of the Temple. Eventually, things came to a head in 168 AD when he outlawed Jewish religious rites and traditions, ordered the worship of the Greek deity Zeus, and looted the Jewish Temple. One account says he sacrificed pigs on the altar, just to rub it in. 
In response, among the traditional Jews there arose a rebel army, called the “Maccabees,” a name derived from the Hebrew word “maqabim” which means “hammer.” The Maccabees lead a revolt that eventually freed Judea from Seleucid control and enabled renewed Jewish religious observance. Today, many historians view the Maccabean revolt as more of a civil war between Hellenized and traditional Jews. Either way, it was a major step toward freedom of religion.
The Maccabean revolt returned the homeland to Jewish rule. The traditional Jews cleaned out the Temple and re-dedicated it in 165 BCE. By the way, this Temple was the one built by Zerubbabel after the Babylonian captivity. After three years of desecration and disuse, the Temple was a mess: 
“There they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates burned. In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains. They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins. Then they tore their clothes and mourned with great lamentation; they sprinkled themselves with ashes and fell face down on the ground. And when the signal was given with the trumpets, they cried out to Heaven.”
They cleaned up the Temple:
“And they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place. They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned ... So they tore down the altar and ... took unhewn stones, as the law directs, and built a new altar like the former one. They also rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the temple, and consecrated the courts. They made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple. Then they offered incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light in the temple. They placed the bread on the table and hung up the curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken.”
And re-dedicated it.
“So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering.” (1 Maccabees 4:38-40, 43-51, 56 NRSV)
Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for dedication. There are multiple versions of the dedication story. A favorite one says that the celebrants had only a one-day’s supply of consecrated olive oil for the menoroth, the lampstands with seven branches used for illumination in the Temple. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days which was enough time to make more consecrated oil.
Today, to commemorate the Temple re-dedication, we light the Hanukkah menorah, which has eight main branches, plus the middle ninth lamp set apart as the shamash (servant) light that kindles the other lights. Most Hanukkah menoroth use candles. Some use electricity. The first day, we light just one; the second day, two; until all eight on the eight day. And we do lots of fun activities that you can read about online.
So beside the coincidence of calendars this year, do Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have anything in common? Besides being a selling opportunity for “Thanksgivukkah” merchandise? An article in the New York Daily News said:
“There are amazing similarities between the Pilgrims’ quest for religious freedom and what the Maccabees were fighting for. This a great opportunity for Jewish Americans to celebrate this country and for everyone to acknowledge the greatness of our shared religious freedoms.”

Daniel Doornbos - Commander, Council of Kadosh