Eight Nights of Giving: A Budget-Friendly Gift Guide for the Festival of Lights

Published November 27, 2007, issue of November 30, 2007.
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Eight days of gifts can get pricey, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Here are eight ideas that will work within most holiday budgets.

Texas Dreidel

Attention, parents: If your son or daughter has absolutely zero interest in spinning dreidels this Hanukkah (and let’s be honest, the dreidel game rarely holds a child’s interest for more than four consecutive minutes), we advise you to trick your child into thinking that dreidel is actually poker.

At least that seems to be the idea behind a new game called No Limit Texas Dreidel (www.moderntribe.com, 877-324-1818; $18). This is not a bad concept. Poker has traditionally held more fascination for kids than a game of dreidel. Poker has all the money that goes on the table, all the exhilarating risk and the maddening mathematical calculations. It is — to put it mildly — a lot of fun. Dreidel, well… it’s just spinning a dreidel, isn’t it? Even though there’s often chocolate involved, it can’t really compete. And even though when you hear the words “No Limit Texas Dreidel,” you immediately think that this is a shameless attempt to capitalize on the ESPN generation, No Limit Texas Dreidel creates a reasonable facsimile of poker — but without the insane $1,000 bets and the cigar smoke at the table. The stakes are small (chocolate gelt), and figuring out the odds of your hand are much, much easier.

Each player spins his or her own personal dreidel — what the game calls the “hole” dreidel. (Like your hole cards in poker. Get it?) You cover it in a little plastic shaker, and then the table has a round of betting. Chocolate gelt goes into a pot in the middle of the table. Then there are two community spins of the dreidel, followed by another two rounds of betting. “Gimel” is the highest-ranked letter you can get. “Hey” the second highest. “Nun” the third. “Shin” the worst. You have to match up the three highest dreidels — as you would in poker — to create three-of-a-kind hands or pairs.

“Remember,” the rules of the game advise, “this game is ‘No Limit,’ so PLAYERS can go all in at any time, betting their entire stash of gelt and forcing players to match their bet or fold. Bluffing is allowed and encouraged. Practice your DREIDEL FACE!” — Max Gross

Soapy Style

Say It With Suds all-natural soap is bubble bath and shower gel in one. The rich, spicy “piping hot cinnamon doughnut” scent might help soothe frazzled nerves after the annual family latke-fest. (www.notsoapradio.com, 310-659-5102; $14)

Prefer old-fashioned bars? Out of Eden, a family-owned shop in Wilmington, N.C., sells handmade glycerin soaps in fragrant “fresh ginger-lime,” complete with a wooden dreidel. (www.outofedensoap.com, 888-210-0858; $8.50)

Bright Idea

Who needs Bratz dolls or Barbie when you can have a fuzzy replica of the man responsible for the Theory of Relativity? Add more brilliance to the festival of lights with an Albert Einstein Little Thinker doll. (www.philosophersguild.com, 718-243-9492; $16.95)

Book Smart

Mark Binder has been penning holiday stories about the villagers of Chelm for years, and 11 of these works — many of which have been printed in publications around the world (including the Forward) — have been compiled in the new book “A Hanukkah Present” (Light Publications). The colorful cast of characters, including the Shlemiels, Rabbi Kibbitz and Mrs. Chaipul (whose lethal latkes made everyone ill), bring surprising snippets of wisdom to readers of all ages. (www.lightpublications.com, 401-272-8707; $19.95)

Hot Rod

Whether it’s a beat-up clunker or a shiny new Benz, holiday-themed Car-Tatts, removable art for cars, dress up any ride. The new dreidel and menorah decorations are the perfect way to show Hebraic pride. (www.car-tatts.com, 973-219-0329; $8.05-$22.50)

Tea Time

Hand-painted boxes filled with Wissotzky tea bags feature floral, still-life and contemporary designs created by Yad Sarah, the network of volunteers who aid the elderly in Israel. All proceeds help the organization purchase medical and home-care equipment. (www.yadsarah.org, 866-YAD-SARAH; $25, $45)


The delicately detailed Tree Canopy Full of Life earrings, created by Sydney-based design duo Polli Australia, are laser cut and made of nontarnishing stainless steel. These pieces are funky and unique. (www.moderntribe.com, 877-324-1818; $39)

Culinary Arts

Jamie Geller’s “Quick & Kosher: Recipes From the Bride Who Knew Nothing” (Feldheim Publishers) is not only a gentle nudge for novices hoping to find their way around the kitchen, but also a bountiful addition to the library of experienced cooks. The tome includes some 160 15-minute recipes, ranging from traditional to exotic. Easy-to-read instructions for “speedy” coq au vin, butternut squash soufflé and chocolate liqueur pie, as well as detailed holiday menus, can be found among Geller’s inspiring collection. (www.amazon.com; $34.99)

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