Another Hanukkah, another Gift-Fest?
Hanukkah 5763 (or 2012 according to the non-Jewish calendar) is rolling around and before long we will be racking our brains for appropriate holiday gifts. It has become customary to give gifts on the wintery festival of Hanukkah that celebrates the incredible victory of the band of Jewish guerilla fighters known as the Maccabees who fought against the mighty Greek army. On making their way in to their holy Temple that had been defiled by the Greeks, the Jewish people discovered only one little jar of oil that still had the all-important seal of High Priest intact which meant that it could be used in order to light the candelabrum in the Temple. That little jar of oil lasted an amazing eight days, keeping the wicks alight until a new batch of oil could be produced. From that year on Jewish people celebrate these open miracles by lighting their own candelabras in their homes for eight nights and partaking in a number of other customs related to the holiday.
Hanukkah Accessories as Gifts
The most obvious gifts on the festival of Hanukkah are first and foremost accessories that helps one celebrate the holiday as needed. Therefore, Menorahs (the candelabras lit on the holiday), Dreidels (the special spinning tops played with on the holiday), and decorative candles to use in the Menorahs are pretty obvious and, in all honesty, pretty unoriginal gifts. Additionally, one only need to light one Menorah so there is honestly no point in buying a Menorah for one who already has one.
Hanukkah Gifts as Consolation Prizes?
The issue of Hanukkah gifts needs to be addressed more deeply. Hanukkah gifts are not, as is often commonly thought outside of Israel, a consolation prize for the Jewish children who don’t get to partake in the Christian festival that takes place around the same time as Hanukkah. In fact, Maimonides explains that it is considered perfectly acceptable to provide incentives for a child in order to encourage him or her to learn Torah. This is where the idea of Hanukkah gifts for children came in to play. The money gifts given to children on Hanukkah in years gone by were intended to teach them about the importance of charity and of helping those who have left than us as well as being incentives for them.
This is understandable considering the main theme of education of the children that stands behind Hanukkah. The Greek influence at the time of the Hanukkah story was not a physical one but a spiritual one and the way we defeated them was not solely through physical means but through a spiritual battle as well. This spiritual battle starts with the educating of our children according to the Jewish way and not according to the ways of other nations.
Hanukkah Gifts about Hanukkah
Hanukkah gifts for the children are meant to act as incentives but are not meant to take a central role. They are meant to increase happiness and joy among the children and also have an educational aspect to them. Giving the children books, DVDs and gifts related to the holiday is perhaps the best way to give this all-important message over.
Spread the Light
For truly original Hanukkah gifts that will not be forgotten, think outside-of-the-box. Think of family activities that will create wonderful memories and bring happiness to others too. How about handing out edible Hanukkah treats in a local old-age home or inviting other Jewish people to celebrate the festival with you. Sit down with your children and brain-storm some ways that you can make this Hanukkah a real festival of lights by spreading the light among others.