"All I got for Hanukkah was a lump of coal!"
Don’t get me wrong. I really love getting presents. But somehow, giving gifts on Hanukkah doesn’t make sense to me. It just doesn’t seem in keeping with a holiday which is about time, light, and miracles.
My husband and I traditionally haven’t exchanged too many gifts over Hanukkah, and now that we have young children, we’re trying to figure out what our family traditions will look like. Last year I kept track of all the gifts the girls would be getting from other family members and friends, and made sure we had just one gift per child per night. I didn’t think it was too extravagant, yet somehow the presents still became the focus of the evening. The girls’ interest in the candlelight and dreidels was quickly replaced by a brief but powerful obsession with the newest toy, which burned out faster than the candles in the menorah. If nothing else, the memories of Hanukkah celebrations should last longer than one night, much like the oil the Macabees found in the second temple.
We’re trying something new this year. Instead of giving gifts, we’re going to focus on experiences that honor Hanukkah for what it is, and don’t try to make it into something it’s not. Each night after we light the candles, we’ll celebrate with an activity we can do together as a family, or with friends. Here are eight ideas that don’t involve presents:
1. Hanukkah party with friends. We’ll have dreidels, gelt, and crafts for the children, wine for the adults, and latkes and sufganiyot for everyone.
2. Craft night. If you’re looking for something straight out of the box, you can try these easy dreidel painting kits. Or, with a quick trip to the hardware store for some wood, bolts, glue, markers, and paint, you and your kids can make beautiful menorahs.
3. Family dreidel night. My daughters are still learning the dreidel game, so we have fun pulling out all of our dreidels, and trying to get them all spinning at once. When the kids are older, you can have a real tournament with gelt. Read the rest of this entry →