Friday, December 22, 2006

Guest Posting From My Wife - Chanukah Gifts, Unwrapped?

(Picture courtesy of

It seems that I learn more and more gift giving tricks with each passing Chanukah. A Simple Jew and myself have really down-played the whole idea of gift giving during Chanukah. Our children receive gifts from some of our family members. These gifts I save for during Chanukah so the children have something to open the first night. We definitely do not associate gift-giving with the lighting of the menorah. We learned this the hard way after the first time our then 2-year old daughter screamed every time we lit the menorah just so she could get to the gift. Now, she is 4 1/2 and barely even asks for a gift after the menorah lighting. It almost seems as though she does not even expect a gift from Mommy and Daddy.

I've been speaking with many friends lately who are all disillusioned by the way their children act during Chanukah, especially when they seem to reject or be ungrateful of gifts that people give to them. A friend of mine told me that her two eldest daughters seemed totally unappreciative of expensive digital cameras that were given by their grandparents and that her two youngest boys could have cared less that they got brand new scooters. She said to me, "What have my husband and I done to create such spoiled and ungrateful children?" To this, I have no answer. It just makes me ponder the whole idea of gift giving during Chanukah and how I can try to do things differently with our children. The worst feeling a parent can have is when their children seem to act ungrateful, especially around people who have been thoughtful enough to buy gifts to them.

Admittedly, I do have a bunch of gifts that I did stockpile before the holiday in case I felt pressured to give the kids each a gift. However, this year I did not even wrap the gifts. I find that if I present the children with unwrapped gifts, they are much more appreciative and do not act disappointed. They are just simply thankful to have something new to play with or wear. I am not professing to be an expert in child-rearing or gift giving, but it this day in age when it is becoming more and more challenging to raise grateful, unspoiled children in a materialistic society, this is just a glimpse of our simple way of looking at gift-giving during Chanukah.


At December 22, 2006 at 8:23:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

ASJ-- This is yet another reason to make Aliya. Israel is a much less materialistic society, although that is starting to wear thin over here, too, unfortuately. But keeping up with the Cohens is still easier than with the Joneses! Good Shabbos!!!

At December 22, 2006 at 9:00:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a number of years, we've been giving gifts like English or Hebrew language seforim, and Jewish recordings.

At December 22, 2006 at 11:02:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as I know, there is no legitimacy to Channuka "gift giving" - and this is merely a Christmas custom that crept into Judaism which is loosely related to the real Jewish custom – to give Children some money - Channuka Gelt. Two of the reasons that I remember offhand are:

1. To commemorate the donations that were made for the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash (and what is often forgotten about this is that it is also to encourage charity)

2. Money - coins especially - have an imprint, "a seal," like the seal of the Kohein on the cruise of oil. So we give money as a commemoration of the oil that was found.

For this reason I only give my children money, and usually on the 4th or 5th night. (But I can't help it of others give them gifts)

At December 22, 2006 at 11:04:00 AM EST, Blogger Alice said...

My husband and I were never Christian but did attempt some minor secular Christmas celebrating a few years back for no particularly good reason. (He's a Swede and they do a BIG secular Christmas thing over there to shed a little light on a very dark winter. So despite my lifelong loathing of that day I tried.) Well, we both hated it. The forced gift giving instead of genuine acts of kindness was kind of soul sucking.

Now that we are raising our son with the Torah, winter has been brighter and fresher than ever and the pressure is gone, gone, gone. Free at last! : ) I'm so glad my son won't be exposed to that explosion of materialism every year.

I am totally in agreement with you about the gift thing. Down playing is the way to go.

At December 22, 2006 at 11:06:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: You are 100% right, and this is precisely the reason we try to down play it.

At December 22, 2006 at 11:09:00 AM EST, Blogger Alice said...

Chabakuk Elisha, thank you for giving me even more reasons to get the holiday shopping out of my life. Yahoo! And that was interesting too.

At December 22, 2006 at 11:10:00 AM EST, Blogger Akiva said...

As C.E. said, we also exclusively give chanukah gelt. And, not at the lighting but after the 30 minutes of the mitzva have passed. (My little girl creeps over to me quietly each night a while after the lighting and ask, "gelt now?")

We've educated parents and friends that gelt is the thing to do.

We give a little each night (which is not so little with our teenagers, as the numbers have crept up), on the 5th night double.

It comes with an obligation to tzedakah, and I've been pleased to hear my teens arguing over the most needy or best tzedakah to give to, given local needs or world Jewish events (such as helping the refugee's from Gush Katif).

This year my teens surprised me very much by pooling some gelt and coming to give my wife and I (separately) some chanukah gelt from them!

At December 22, 2006 at 11:14:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...



At December 22, 2006 at 11:15:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


We have always given money: first night they get their age (12 yr. old gets $12.00, 8 yr. old $8.00),then each night after they get half their age in money/gelt. There is absolutely NO focus on gifts. They spend a great deal of time contemplating what they would like to get and it is long after Chanukah that they go to the store to make their puchase. They also give maaser from this money.

At December 22, 2006 at 5:03:00 PM EST, Blogger der ewige Jude said...

We have also been wrestling with this issue. I have tried to stress that it is about the light, not the presents, especially after last year when the relatives-in-laws bombarded us with packages and the Little Rebbetzin had a tantrum about not having enough gifts on one of the nights. So this year she was allowed one small gift each night, that she had picked out in advance (see todays post) and the boxes from the relatives-in-laws went to the garage where, as far as I am concerned, they can stay until the mice eat them. Happy Chanukah and Gut Shabbos.

At December 22, 2006 at 11:56:00 PM EST, Blogger ... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

Truthfully, my children would be satisfied with just getting gelt every night - chocolate gelt that is. In fact, up until this year, we only gave them gifts that others gave them, and on the other nights, chocolate gelt. This might change as they get older, but I am really beginning disliking the whole idea of gift giving to family members. We give gifts unconditionally all year long and I hate the fact that I have to feel obligated to give because someone else got me something. I think it's great to be able to show one's appreciation to those we don't normally do so throughout the year, like the teachers, mailperson, housekeeper, etc. To me, that's what special about giving gifts at this time of year.

At December 23, 2006 at 12:03:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...

My wife gets a gift on Chanuka, since the 3rd day is her birthday. Don't remember getting gifts for the kids [they're now older], but certainly not every night!
This year, the Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita gave out Chanuka gelt at the candle-lighting [4th night] to all the kids there, and to the adults too! 1/2 a shekel [approx. 12 cents]!

At December 23, 2006 at 12:27:00 PM EST, Blogger Daniel said...

Shalom javer.

I am the publisher of Herut, blog in spanish. I invite you to visit Herut and to leaving your commentaries. Excuse me, but my English is very bad. The direction is:

At December 23, 2006 at 2:43:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I don't do presents for Chanukah either. I've talked to others at our synagogue about this and most of them give presents because they don't want their children to be envious of their Christian friends and want them to "fit in", which to us seems to defeat the purpose of the holiday. I think the beauty of the lights is enough for us.

At December 24, 2006 at 10:23:00 AM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Great post. My wife and I do the same. Rarely do we wrap anything and actually ask the grandparents not to wrap, as well.
First night we the kids don't usually get anything, but we hold on to the gifs and give things to the kids throughout the year for doing well in school, making right choices, and, of course, displaying good midos and good manner.

At December 24, 2006 at 1:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To CE and ASJ

How do you think Yidden celebrated our Holy-days, say, 1500 years ago, or 2000 years ago? I stare out my window at the frenetic pace of Jewish life these days, and wonder - What did our Holy-days look like back then?

I am not so enamored by how they look today. As one of your contributors said, "Too much outer form and not enough inner light!"

This is what i stress in order to sway my husband to move to Eretz HaKodesh with me, but he is from the "wait here for Moshiach to take us" club. I don't think I can just wait.

At December 25, 2006 at 4:55:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Neshama, The Halacha [and humble me] is/are with you!!! Aliya now! This is where it's happening - why get a back seat when you can still get close to the front?

At December 25, 2006 at 11:55:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


To my great surprise, I found out that there is a sefer quoted by the Magen Avrohom called Chanukas HaTorah, where he states the minhag to "liten matanos (give gifts)" on Channuka.
I am quite surprised by this, and I don't know what to make of it.

At December 25, 2006 at 1:58:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Wow! How did you come about that?

At December 25, 2006 at 3:04:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was speaking to a Litvishe Rabbi that is a neighbor of mine this past Shabbos, and he told me about it.

At December 15, 2007 at 3:51:00 PM EST, Blogger amyrpk said...

We only give gifts on the last night ... Zos Khanuka. It keeps the focus of the holiday on the light, you know? And as the Talmud says about the last night, "Zos KHanuka" ... this is Khanuka ... and the light is just overwhelming that night, right? So one gift'le per child (unwrapped natch ... why waste the paper) on Zos Khanuka brings extra light to their faces, too.

Works for us.

BTW, agreeing with Yitz ... it was another reason why we're glad we made aliya. When we did this in NY, from Day1 of the khag the kids were dealing with their friends' regaling 'em with gift details and that made it hard for them. Here, it's not an issue. b'H.


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