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jewish mother project

How Do I Make Hanukkah Fun Without Forgetting the Meaning?


Ted Chevalier

Hanukkah starts in less than a month, people.

Those of you who have followed my writing over the years know that I have struggled mightily with this holiday and how to make it meaningful and fun for everyone in the family. Three years ago, I wrote a post about not giving gifts, and then I did a 180 and over the next two years I wrote this piece and this one about showering my girls with plastic princesses, among other things.

I won’t lie. I love giving my daughters the gifts they want. I love watching the joy on their faces and the fun they have playing with their toys, and I love remembering how much I enjoyed getting new presents each year. Yet somehow the gift giving always feels a bit disconnected from the candles, the blessings, and even the dreidel spinning.

READ: Need Hanukkah Gifts for Kids? These 10 Old School Toys Are Perfect

And now I’m doing the Jewish Mother Project, and I want to find out how to integrate these two aspects of our Hanukkah observance. I want to bring more meaning, generosity, and balance to our eight crazy nights. At the risk of sounding a bit hokey, I want the presents and the presence.

I recently came across a post by Glennon Melton about how she manages Christmas with her family. She uses this little tool as a structure for the holiday:

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

READ: Hanukkah Gift Guide for the Moms in Your Life

Seeing as how there are eight nights of Hanukkah, I decided to expand on her poem a bit with this:

Something to see, something to spare, something to cook, something to share.

I envision something to see as attendance to a play, show, or museum. For something to spare, we’ll spend some time deciding how and where to give tzedakah, and for something to share, we’ll decide as a family what we want that to be. Whether it’s an item, craft project, or other experience, it will be something the whole family can enjoy together.

READ: On Observing Hanukkah Miracles, Big and Small

This is where I need your help, my dear readers. I’d love to hear what has worked for you. I don’t need anything Pinterest-worthy (sometimes my life feels like one giant Pinterest Fail), but I need something you’ve done and enjoyed. I’d love to have a Jewish twist to as many of my “somethings” as possible, so please share your recommendations for Jewish toys, books, recipes, activities, and experiences. Please share them ASAP so I can compile and share them in another post in time for the holiday!

Missed the last one? Check out past Jewish Mother Project posts here

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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