Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays, partially because it gives me the opportunity to give gifts to my loved ones every night for eight nights! Gift giving with intentionality is one of my favorite ways to express affection while teaching my child about Jewish values and traditions. Here's my gift giving guide for spreading meaning and light this Hanukkah:
1. Gifts of Togetherness
Peace in the home (shalom bayit) is of utmost importance in Jewish life, as all members of the household are expected to work together and make compromises to create an environment where everyone can thrive.
Here are some gifts for everyone in your household to enjoy:
- A streaming service for movie nights
- An ice cream maker or popcorn popper for fun treat options
- An annual membership to a local attraction
- A karaoke microphone if your home is full of performers
- Board games or card games (game night, anyone?)
2. Gifts to Honor Tradition
I'd be lying if I said that the song from "Fiddler on the Roof" doesn't go through my mind whenever I mention tradition as a Jewish value. The Maccabees fought to maintain Jewish traditions and for religious freedom; it wouldn't feel right to celebrate Hanukkah without reflecting on the relevance and importance of our traditions.
Tradition-centric gifts might include:
- Age-appropriate hanukkiyot
- Jewelry that features a magen David, hamsa, chai, or other Jewish symbols
- Challah board (a cutting board often decorated with Jewish symbols used on Friday nights for Challah)
- Shabbat candlesticks
- Home décor that features a blessing or meaningful verse
3. Gifts from the Heart
One of the first prayers I learned in Hebrew, the Sh'ma, includes the line "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." While the original context references our relationship with God, I think this is a powerful reminder of how we relate to each other. The main idea here is giving of our talents and creating things specifically for our loved ones. Gifts don't need to be expensive to be valuable!
Gifts from the heart look different for everyone, but here are a few ideas to help inspire you:
- A painting you've created
- Handmade jewelry
- A heartfelt poem
- Homemade stuffed animals and toys
- Knitted/crocheted clothing or accessories
4. Gifts of Self Care (Menuchah)
As the weather in North America begins to get colder, many folks prefer to stay in the warmth and comfort of their own homes. This gives us the perfect opportunity to practice some self care, which dovetails nicely into the Jewish theme of menuchah (rest)!
Here are a few ideas to give the gift of rest to your loved ones:
- Scented candles
- A gift card to a local spa
- Tea/coffee/hot chocolate variety packs
- Soup mix
- Cozy socks
5. Gifts for Learning
Education and wrestling with difficult concepts are central to Judaism. After all, aren't we also known as "people of the book?"
These gifts are all about sparking intellectual curiosity. Here are just a few ideas for presents that will encourage the recipient to learn something new:
- Educational games and toys
- Hobby kits
- Group classes either in-person or online
6. Gifts of Justice/Tzedek
One of the most provocative verses in the Torah commands us: "Justice, justice, you shall pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:18). This night reminds us that the light of Hanukkah can also be a metaphor. On this night, the focus isn't on gifts; it's about what we can do for others.
Here are a few ideas to spread the light of Hanukkah on this night:
- Volunteer at a local charity
- Donate food, toys, or blankets to a local animal shelter
- Support an organization that has made a difference in your life
- Get the wish list of a family in need through a local charity and purchase the listed items.
7. Gifts of Connection
Connecting with our community is a vital part of Jewish life. Whether your community is your congregation, town, friends, or family, connecting to others isn't just a Jewish value...it's a basic human need! This night is about sharing interests and finding ways to get together with others as you nurture old friendships and perhaps build new ones.
Here are just a few ideas for gifts to help someone connect with others:
- Games meant for a large number of players
- Manuals for tabletop role-playing games
- Childcare so that busy caregivers can reconnect with each other or people in their support network
- Quality time! Set up a time to get together for a meal, share a hobby, or talk on the phone and catch up
The theme of joy is another way the light of Hanukkah can be a metaphor. There is always darkness in the world; sometimes that darkness can feel overwhelming. That's why I like to focus on joy on the last night of Hanukkah. As the holiday draws to a close, this night is a reminder to always look for the light, even (perhaps especially) when it's difficult to find.
As far as gifts go, this is the "wildcard" night. The only criteria I have for the gifts I give on this night is that they should spark joy throughout the year.
This is another time when the gifts look different for each recipient, but here are a few ideas:
- Reading nook/canopy
- Collapsible ball pit (This one might be for my own inner child, too!)
While Hanukkah isn't about gifts, it is an opportunity to show our loved ones that we care about them and spread light and warmth. Doing so with our Jewish values in mind make the holiday that much more meaningful.
Chag Hanukkah Sameach (Happy Hanukkah)!