Chanukah: 8 Days of Joyous Gift Giving


Chanukah is one of my most favorite holidays of the year.  Why?  It is a happy ending story of heroism and cooperation.   Also (and I swear this is secondary) it lasts for over a week and includes the traditional 8 days of gift giving.  As I am a lover of gifts and surprises, the fun of Chanukah suits me well.   For others who didn’t grow up celebrating the holiday, there can be a quandary for them on what is an appropriate gift to give for Chanukah.   Every year, I get asked in person or by email what someone should get for their Jewish friend or their friend’s kids – or both!  Here are some suggestions, based on my childhood traditions and what I appreciate as a Jewish adult. 

Books:  Seems that for about every occasion of Jewish gift giving, books come in as the number one choice. For children, there are a number of Chanukah books that can be selected by age appropriateness or family situation.   Some books that I have given my grandkids are: 

Last year for Chanukah (and Christmas), I gave friends and family a Chanukah popup book,  Chanukah Lights.  It is a spectacular book and a work of art, as many popup books can be.  The beauty of this book is that it is appropriate for adults and kids alike.  Children are fascinated by each scene, which appears magically as the pages are turned and adults appreciate the artistic renderings and paper engineering.   I suggest that adults read it to young children to reduce the urge that they have to disassemble it page by page – I say from experience! If you are not certain what books the person has read or not, or their specific taste in books, give an Amazon, Kindle or Nook gift card. 

Family Food Gifts:   Every holiday has special foods that are traditional.  For Chanukah, latkes (potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream) are a must.    Also, rugelach and strudel are Chanukah favorites.  In fact, I make my own strudel every year and give it as gifts to lucky neighbors, family and friends.  Placing the pastry on decorative glass plates makes a lovely and very delicious present.  At the bottom of this post is the recipe I use.  Also consider giving fresh fruit baskets, fancy mixed nuts, dried fruits or sweets.  Love a cookie gift myself. Cheryl's Cookies has mouth watering buttery Chanukah cookies you can buy packaged in a lovely blue and white holiday tin.  A word of caution: Before giving cookies, or any food gift, make sure that the recipient doesn’t keep Kosher or have other dietary restrictions.  If keeping Kosher is the challenge, Harry and David has some Kosher gift baskets that anyone, of the tribe or not, would enjoy.  Also, both Harry and David and Cheryl’s have sugar free treats available. 

Charitable Donations.  “Deeds of giving are the very foundations of the world.”  Jewish saying derived from the Mishna, Pirkei Avot 1:2.  I think giving the gift of a donation can be a very moving Chanukah experience.  In the Jewish religion, as I learned it, philanthropy is an obligation.  One should never turn away from someone in need.  So, giving a donation on someone’s behalf is considered a “Mitzvah” or good deed.  Personally, I don’t think it matters if the charity is specific for Jewish people, such as the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women (JFEW), or one that helps feed people such as a local food kitchen.  Of course, there are health related charities, like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that could use your help.  Every year, on my behalf, my husband makes a donation to the Cincinnati Women Helping Women organization, which provides services to support women who have been raped or abused.  My daughter and her family make a donation to a secret Santa stocking in my name.  Then, I am given a gift card with the item donated and the age and gender of the person receiving it.  Gets me every time and makes me so very mushky!!  LOVE IT!! For my husband’s Chanukah gift, I make a donation to either Homes for our Troops or Wounded Warrior Project. Both are organizations he supports. 


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