On Hanukkah, it’s not about what we give as much as why we are giving it.
In America, the chaotic holiday season seems to span for months. Luckily for us Jews, Hanukkah is smack in the middle and a symbol of so many positive values.
Let’s put aside the “To Gift or Not to Gift” dilemma (as presented nicely by Chabad) discussing whether Jews should participate in a seemingly “non-Jewish” gift giving tradition and assume we are gifting. Why do we give the gifts we do? Are we creating pursuits of materialistic possessions in our homes == expectations to receive and to be pleased — or is there a greater mission in the gifts we give our children, spouses, and loved ones?
This year, let’s use the fact that we have chosen to give gifts on Hanukkah as a means by which to symbolize certain values and wishes that we have for the key players in our lives. And let’s make the message very clear.
Night One: Jewish Values and Roots
What better way to kick off Hanukkah then by celebrating all that it symbolizes? In the times of the Maccabees, the king Antiochus tried to eliminate Jewish values and traditions. Just as his attempt failed, so too did all others. Night one celebrates our ability to be Jewish in 2016.
For Kids: Chanukah Mad Libs ($5) are a humorous and enjoyable gift that celebrates one’s Judaism.
For Adults: (applicable to kids as well): A Judaica Gift Card ($18+) is a gift card with a purpose; the adults in your life can choose a meaningful book or vessel for themselves and their homes.
Night Two: Self Care
An important wish that we have for our loved ones is that they should take care of themselves, their minds, and their bodies. Night two involves objects that contribute to self care.
For Kids: As kids, my siblings and I would take baths happily with these bath color changing tablets($7). It made bath time a wonderful experience that we very much looked forward to instead of viewing it as a chore like many of our friends did.
For Adults: With essential oils ($15), the miracle of the lasting oil in the story of Chanukah expressed in a Self Care gift. These essential oils can be used in baths and massages (aromatherapy).
Night Three: Dream Big
Reach for the moon! Night Three metaphorically embodies the trait we wish others to have: To dream big with big aspirations and ideas.
All three apply to both kids and adults: When my parents gave me a dream catcher ($7) for one night of Hanukkah before I turned ten, I suddenly became interested in remembering and documenting my dreams. I hoped to dream each night, and was overjoyed when I did.
Whether it is a first journal ($7) or one of many, giving people blank pages can go a long way. In the privacy of a journal, our loved ones can discover so much about themselves and their dreams.
A pillowcase ($16) is another option for those who like to dream excessively in the form of sleeping.
Night Four: Surround Yourself With Family/Friends
One of the most important parts of a person’s life is their family and friends. A beautiful gift to give a loved one is the embodiment of your relationship with them. Whether a parent and a child, a person and their spouse, or a best friend and their better half, picture gifts are heartwarming reminders of a bond and a moment that was shared.
Night Five: Hope
Night Five consists of a Jewish theme: the thing with feathers, the light at the end of the tunnel, hope. Hope belonged to the Jews in the time of the Maccabees and Hope has belonged to the Jews for thousands of years.
For Kids: When I was a toddler I was scared of the dark. My parents gifted me with a night light projector ($16) that displayed stars all over the room. It brought light and curiosity into my nights and allowed me to find a comfortable place in the darkness.
For Adults: Let’s be honest- who doesn’t love a scented candle ($12)? What better way to symbolize hope than through the tiny flame?
Night Six: Gratitude
Night Six consists of the least expensive gift on the list, and perhaps the most impactful. In medieval times, the Jews gave gelt to their children on Hanukkah. The children got to keep some and had to give the rest as a lesson in gratitude and generosity.
There is something so innately humanly and vulnerable in both writing and reading letters. Tonight you can spend close to nothing while having an immeasurable impact on someone else.
The gift: Write the recipient a letter of why you are grateful for them and leave them an empty card for them to write a letter and pass on the favor to someone else.
Night Seven: Surround Yourself With Warmth
Night Seven represents our desire for our loved ones to be encompassed by warmth. The gift is a warm article of clothing that you know they’ll love! Get them a Hanukkah sweater if you want to be super funky.
For Kids and Adults alike: Sweater/Chanukah ($15+)
Night Eight: Resilience (Personal and National)
This night is the story of Hanukkah: Personal and national resilience. This is the story of a tiny army of Jews defeating Antiochus’s huge army and taking back the temple and the ability for Jews to practice their religion!
For kids (also applies to adults): Wonder Woman Socks ($13)
Superman Socks ($8)
Because after all, we can all be superheroes.
For Adults: ($16) Resilience involves longterm planning and LOTS of hard work. Help the adults in your life map out how they plan on accomplishing their goals with a goal planner.
Bonus: The word “Maccabees” actually means “Hammer.” For people who are super handy and would use it, an awesome gift to get for them is a hammer! ($8)
Happy Hanukkah! Happy gifting with a purpose!