Contrary to popular belief, there is no gift-giving element to Chanukkah. "What?" you say indignantly, about to tell me about your family tradition of giving eight gifts--one for each night. But really, when you look at the mitzvot (commandments) surrounding the holiday, there is only one thing Jews need to do: light the candles on the chanukkiah and place it in the window for others to see. Jews traditionally give gifts during the holiday of Purim in the spring.
Still, Jews living in America, love to join in the gift-giving inherent in the nearby holiday of Christmas. I tried to think of a way to give gifts (something I love to do) that also honours the actual holiday of Chanukkah and the way I've rationalized it is that Jews often give gelt (Yiddish for money) to children as part of the holiday and part of our religion is tikkun olam, healing the world. Therefore, I turned to the world of etsy so that (1) the money goes straight into the hands of the artist and (2) the homemade is celebrated.
I've prepared a small gift-giving guide to etsy, though I encourage you to use it to jump start your own search:
Feeling a bit squeamish about giving a gift when it's not traditionally part of the holiday? Go with a piece of Judaica. Get a new chanukkiah such as this beautiful glass one depicting the buildings of Jerusalem or a steel one with people dancing. Give a dreidel, either made out of wood or turned into jewelry.
Art You Can Wear
I've long been coveting KinorDavid's pomegranate jewelry or go with something sterling silver. Give someone a new dress or suit with a fun twist. Peruse the numerous t-shirts covering everything from Twilight to images of old bicycles.
For the Kids
Consider what the person loves to do and show them that you've noticed. Buy a cook a cooking-themed necklace or new apron. Buy a photographer a camera t-shirt or photo album. Buy a music-lover a tiny harmonica or a personalized guitar pick.
If Etsy isn't your thing, consider setting up a gift-giving guide that celebrates something important to your family rather than just buying random items the person may or may not need (or even want!). Declare books the gift theme of the holiday and send the whole family to the bookstore together to pick out a new read for each other. The same idea can be done with music or, though more expensive, buying tickets to an art exhibit, theater performance, or movie. Consider giving a gift that your children can use to pay it forward, keeping with the idea of tikkun olam, such as making an art project that is then given to an area shelter's gift program.
The blogosphere abounds with gift giving ideas. GNMParents has a post about buying early so that you can relax during the actual season and while they are speaking about Christmas, the same rings true for those buying gifts at Chanukkah. Cool Mom Picks has gorgeous Judaica. Life with Terri has make-your-own Chanukkah gifts.
What are you giving this year?
Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of over 2000 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is currently on bookshelves (May, 2009). She compiles the yearly Creme de la Creme as well as the Golden Haiku, a blogosphere-wide project.
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