Tis the season...

Worrying about Chanukah giving is not a new theme here: I've worried about sustainable gift giving, on how we make our oil last longer (can you live on one days energy for 8 days?) and on ethical gifting.
After several conversations this week, it seems friends are increasingly wondering how to allow their kids some of the joy and excitement of Chanukah gifts, without drowning in stuff that is quickly forgotten and losing the meaning of the festival in a pile of plastic and batteries.
There are options out there for add ons; readings and themes that can add learning and deepen our spiritual encounter with the festival, walk us through the 8 nights, and make the ancient meanings of the festival newly relevant for us. But the real challenge for many of us with kids is finding ways to get around the modern minhag of showering each other in 8 nights of gifts.
Gifts and giving are wonderful, but it's so easy for children to miss the part about giving, and become crazy with the receiving. Not meeting the expectations of a small child can be challenging, but I have also found when the plans are clear, they can become just as excited about experiences as about stuff. SO last year we began a new Chanukah minhag. We took the 8 nights and planned what gifting or activity would happen - this is in no sense exhaustive but perhaps some of these would work for others:
1. Grandparents night (instead of 8 little things, one present from grandparents, and the opportunity to give their grandparents a hand made/decorated gift)
2. Parents night (one present. Not 8).
3. Book night - everyone gets a book
4. Party night - together we bake and make a party for friends
5. Shopping - but not as you know it! When there is a public Chanukiah lighting, we end the evening with a visit to a supermarket to do a shop for the food bank - I was amazed by how thoughtful my daughter became exploring what people might want and what might be a special thing to buy for a stranger.
6. Make a gift night - make something for everyone else - even if it's a scrawl on a page, but it might also be a simple craft kit that can be decorated that evening and gifted away
7. Special food night - make something with oil we haven't tried before (olive oil cake, tempura, onion bhaji's, churros) and involve everyone! Also a good chance to discuss why oil is so important... or maybe to learn about how late it entered the Chanukah story and why!
8. Lots of charities offer you the chance to buy a gift for someone you will most likely never meet - leaving you a gift card to present to the recipient on this end.

Other possibilities? Have an experience... What about a night out at the theatre or a concert? A day trip somewhere special? A visit to see a light show or exciting lights and window displays such as on Oxford Street...
I am sure you will have lots of other ways to tackle Chanukah, make it more meaningful and not break the bank on gifts! Do share!


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