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Making Hanukkah with Children Meaningful 

At Hanukkah time, it can be hard to handle consumerism and children’s desire for “stuff” when that’s not what you want the holiday to be about. Here are a few ideas we’ve gleaned from families.

 

Make the holiday about doing things rather than having things.

Are there activities you and your children have been wanting to do together? Maybe Hanukkah is the time.

Kids Staring at Candles Glow

Use the prompts below to come up with ideas for experiential Hanukkah gifts.

 

Think about and write down the values you want your family to experience during the holiday. 

  • General holiday values might include:

    • Enjoying time family and friends

    • Connecting with family members and friends who live far away

    • Sharing family stories

    • Passing down traditions

    • Having fun together doing Jewish things

    • Giving to others as a part of Jewish tradition

    • Creating new traditions
       

  • Hanukkah values might include:

    • Standing up for your beliefs

    • How to feel good about being different or a member of a minority

    • Each of us has a special “light,” meaning unique gifts and qualities, that we can share with the world (based on mystical teachings about the symbolism of the Hanukkah lights)

    • The importance of religious freedom

    • Being proud about being Jewish (given that we live in a mostly Christian society)

    • It’s important to try even if we don’t know we’ll succeed (the Jews lit the menorah even though they didn’t have much oil)

 

Then, think about and write down what might help you experience these values and what might get in the way. Try to plan activities that would help and cut down on those that would get in the way.

Hanukkah That's Less About Gifts


You might want to make a plan about gifts that is based on your family's values, involving your children if they are old enough. Either way, accept that your children might not love it, and that’s OK. It’s your job to take care of them, share your values, and do your best to help them understand those values, not to do what they want, though we know it is easier said than done.

You might simplify gift giving by having a book night and other nights when gifts will be things you want your children to have anyway. Some families have evenings when they give children their pick of a movie or a special food.

You might also want to arrange to spend some Hanukkah time with families who have values similar to yours, which can make it easier.


You don’t have to do it perfectly. Your love and care matters more than anything else. See if you can both plan and find, at moments, ways to take care of yourself during this season. It will be good for you and for your children to honor your needs as an individual and a parent. 

Remember, celebrating holidays with children in our consumption-oriented culture can be stressful! It's not "just" you.

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