A Massachusetts Resident Was Invited to the White House For Coining the Term ‘Thanksgivukkah’
President Obama gave Dana Gitell and her sister-in-law Deborah a personal shout-out during a celebration.
When Dana Gitell came up with the term “Thanksgivukkah” last year—a combination of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving celebrating the rare convergence of the two holidays in November—she never dreamed that it would lead her to the White House.
“I’m amazed,” she said, adding that at first her sister-in-law thought the invitation was a hoax.
As the Festival of Lights draws to a close this year, President Barack Obama held the annual presidential lighting of the menorah in Washington, D.C., in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. But it was Gitell and her sister-in-law, Deborah, who got a personal shout-out from the Commander in Chief for their creation of the once-in-a-lifetime holiday, which gained national attention and was designated an official day of recognition by Mayor Tom Menino.
“Now, this is the fifth time I’ve celebrated Hanukkah as President. But this is my first Thanikkah—did I say that right?,” Obama said during his opening remarks, trying to spit out the word “Thanksgivukkah.”
Luckily for the president, members in the crowd familiar with the holiday, which Gitell trademarked here in Massachusetts, and celebrated with help of Rabbi David Paskin, corrected him.
Obama proceeded with his speech, pointing out Gitell and her sister in the audience, and giving them credit for bringing the rare holiday—it won’t happen again for another 77,000 years—to fruition.
“They’ve had a lot of fun with their project,” Obama said, before talking about the traditions of Hanukkah.
Also honored by the president was Asher Weintraub, a 10-year-old from New York, who created the world’s first “Menurkey,”—a Menorah-shaped turkey.
While the celebration of Thanksgivukkah has come and gone, the experience of making it all the way to the White House for a simple concept is not going to leave Gitell’s memory anytime soon. After Obama delivered his remarks and lit the menorah, he went around and shook hands with people in the crowd, and Gitell got to reach over and meet the president.
“We were in complete shock about him saying our names and talking about us. I’m still just—I’m processing that it even happened,” she said. “This type of thing is so rare in anyone’s life, and one of the first things we all say, is if my parents were alive to see this—and to have my mother there with us, and my sister-in-law, it just made it one of the greatest moments of my life. I never imagined it would go this far.”