Did you know that there are no universally prescribed traditions regarding gift giving during Hanukkah? This must be one reason why each Jewish family has its own ways of celebrating Hanukkah. And for many families, part of the Hanukkah celebration involves gift giving. Let’s look at how you use Hanukkah gift giving as a chance to promote, renew, and strengthen connections to Judaism.
Here are 5 ideas to help you keep Hanukkah gift giving meaningful and connected to Jewish identity and Judaism:
A great miracle happened there, why not use this time to revisit the importance of supporting Israel? Support Israel by purchasing from businesses like JudaicaWebStore.com, who is based in Jerusalem and provides good jobs to local Jerusalemites. This Judaica store also supports Israel’s artisans by bringing their products to a wider audience. Giving tzedekkah to help feed children in Israel is a mitzvah, but so is shopping from a store that employs the fathers and mothers of Israel, allowing them to support their own families. You can also show your support of Israel with t-shirts, flags, hats, buttons, and other pro-Israel merchandise (also made in Israel). Keeping Israel strong is vital to carrying on Jewish traditions and Hanukkah is the perfect time to do so.
Hanukkah is the festival of lights and the celebration of a miracle in Jerusalem. Choose gifts that help remember the true meaning of the Hanukkah miracle – and follow the commandment to remember Jerusalem. It’s easy to remember Jerusalem when you fill your home with reminders, like beautiful wall hangings featuring Jerusalem themes, original or reprinted artwork showing Jerusalem’s uniqueness, or candlesticks, mezuzot, and Kiddush cups with Jerusalem motifs. From signed and numbered prints from Israel’s top artists to key chains that are just for fun, there is a wide range of gifts to remember Jerusalem during Hanukkah that will last all year long. If Hanukkah is meant to strengthen our Jewish traditions, Jerusalem stands at the epicenter.
Give it Serious Thought
It’s not always what you get, but the thought behind it. You don’t need the most expensive, the flashiest, or the biggest gift in order for it to be meaningful. Take any gift, like handmade menorahs from the kids, and add a thoughtful card or note to make it complete. Relaying memories of Hanukkah in the past is a great way to bring meaning and keep family stories and traditions alive. Hanukkah is also a great time to pass on Jewish ritual items, like candlesticks, Kiddush cups, and menorahs, to your kids and grandkids. It really is the thought that counts, so make sure that the person receiving your gift knows your thoughts behind it.
Menorahs Always Win
Hanukkah is the holiday that we light the menorah, so menorahs are a good choice – even for kids. Every home can use a few good menorahs. Not only do menorahs hold up the Hanukkah ritual once a year, they provide us with a beautiful reminder of the Hanukkah miracle and reinforce our identity as Jews year-round. Menorahs are a good gift for kids of all ages, but especially momentous for kids who will be going off to study away from their family soon and will eventually carry their own holiday traditions. And for less observant families, sometimes the menorah is one of the few things in their home that reminds them of their Jewish identity.
Keep It Fun & Jewish
Many families have their own rules about gift giving at Hanukkah, particularly to keep it a modest holiday with meaning and not a commercialized gift-giving extravaganza like a certain December 25th holiday. Choosing gifts that emphasize learning, tradition, and spirituality are great, but don’t forget to keep Hanukkah fun – it is after all a joyous festival! Some gifts that are can be fun and educational are ritual-driven items, like a Torah pointers, menorahs, Shabbat candlesticks, Kiddush cups, challah boards, and dreidels. Hanukkah songs CDs and DVDs are great for the whole family. Younger kids might enjoy puzzles, books, and clothing. For older kids, a mosaic kits are a fun idea, as are Hanukkah finger puppets, and Jewish trivia games. Celebrating and reinforcing Jewish identity should be a source of joy.
Keep Hanukkah gift giving meaningful by choosing gifts that promote, renew, and strengthen connections to Judaism and Jewish tradition. This is no easy task when parents and families are bombarded with “holiday” consumerism everywhere they look. Select Hanukkah gifts that help your family, friends, and loved ones improve their connection to Judaism, whatever that might be.