On the Eighth day of Hanuka YouTube gave to me eight nights of presents
Eight Crazy Nights! What would a YouTube Hanuka be without Adam Sandler?
But did you know there was an Aussie Punk version?
And what would a discussion of ????? be without even a brief mention of the giving of presents?
As much as some do try to argue that there are traditional reasons why a family might exchange presents on the Jewish holiday – it is a festive occasion – the primary reason it is done is so the child doesn’t feel ‘left out’. One solution is to exchange presents on December 25th. That preserves the Jewish holiday to be celebrated with the appropriate traditions. Some consider this ‘giving in’ and since Hanukkah is about resisting forced assimilation, they do their best to resist. Are there any other choices?
This isn’t the best time to be providing options — everyone for this year has already made a decision — but there is always next year. Presents can be exchanged on any day of the year.
New Years used to be a traditional day for Christians to exchange presents. Most Jewish Americans celebrate New Years even though it’s the ‘Christian Calendar’, because it is also the secular calendar. If you asked me what day it is, I would tell you it is December 12th. I could tell you that with a second’s thought. I’d have to look up the day on the Hebrew calendar. (Thankfully, now my blog is a place to go for that.) I will be at a New Years Eve party getting sloshed this year, like most years. I don’t think this is unusual, but I have never lived in an Orthodox home, so I can’t say for sure.
In a novel I began writing several years ago I had a family come up with a somewhat more unusual solution. I’m not sure the novel will ever be finished, so I might as well release the idea here. It works best with a family of at least two children.
1) Presents can be given any day of the month of December.
2) The gift giving is anonymous. The person giving the gift doesn’t sign their name to it. Leaves it where the receiver will find it, and know it is for them. This can be accomplished with pre-generated name stickers (so handwriting isn’t detectable) – or just leaving it on the individual’s bed, assigned chair at the dining room table, etc.
The smaller the family the more likely it is the children will be able to figure out who gave what, but if multiple smaller gifts are exchanged, or if extended family like aunts, uncles, cousins are brought into it, it will become more difficult. However, the point is to teach them the pleasures of giving for the sake of giving, without expecting any thanks in return. The ‘third’ rung on Maimonides ladder. Giving gifts to friends and relatives isn’t the same thing as giving tzedakkah (charity), but there is enough of a parallel. And by making the giving into a game, the giving becomes just as fun for the child as the getting.
At least, that’s the idea. I don’t know if it’s a good one. It hasn’t been tried to my knowledge. You’re free to try it next year. If you do, let me know how it works out.