Monday, December 5, 2011

Games, Gifts, and Gelt for the 8 nights of Chanukah

Games, Gifts, and Gelt for the 8 nights of Chanukah by Rivka Slatkin of

Being Jewish and having never celebrated Xmas before, as a kid I always truly thought there were really 12 days of Xmas like 8 days of Chanukah. Well, I found out that there really aren’t 12 days of Christmas and it’s just a song, but there ARE 8 days of Chanukah, as Adam Sandler likes to remind us.

Because Chanukah is a week and change long, it’s so nice when a family can create different traditions year to year beginning when the kids are small, preferably. If you’re all grown up and got your own kids and don’t have any traditions from your own childhood, no worries! To create your own traditions and customs, first go and look up the spiritual meaning of the Chanukah holiday at beginner Jewish learning sites (like Next, have some fun with gift giving and upwrapping, games and gelt! In other words, have fun with the more materialistic stuff

I remember as a kid, my mother would buy us each 8 gifts and we’d get one each night. She’d ask us to hide under the dining room table when she’d bring out the gifts for all three of us and it just always felt so good to have another surprise each night. I do that now with my own 3 kids and they love it. The gifts don’t have to be expensive each night, I like to vary it up with a more pricey one followed by something simple like a pretty pencil box with a bunch of erasers.

I know of another large family with older children that would go to the mall one or two nights during Chanukah and have Chanukah “buddies”. Earlier at home before they left for the mall, the 8 siblings would draw someone’s name out of a hat and they’d all go and purchase a gift for their respective “buddy”. I guess with 8 older kids it’s possible to do that with one of the kids as a driver and them being allowed to walk the malls on their own. You could do something like that even if it’s just you and a significant other, with or without kids. Go to the mall with your spouse and then separate, meeting back in an hour or so and go home and unwrap your gifts!

Another “tradition” you can create is to decorate your house on the insides and outside. On the outside, you can use the same Xmas lights that are readily available but you can choose ones in a more “hanukkah-esqe” style like blue, white, and gold lights (rather than the christmasy red and green tones). We love to decorate our home with hanging stars, streamers, gold tinsel, vases filled with Chanukah gelt, different color dreidels, and tablecloths with silver and gold glitter.

All of the Hannukah traditions, games, gift, and gelt are a lot of fun. Do know that although they may seem like just party fun, each of them holds a deeper meaning. We give gelt (money) to children to teach them about charity and increasing their good deeds. We play dreidel and games because that is how the Jews survived when the Greeks came to check on them to make sure they weren‘t openly practicing Judaism. So put some effort into making the games, gifts, and gelt splashy, if you celebrate Chanukah, in honor of the freedom that the Jewish people have today.

Rivka Slatkin is a stay at home mother of 3. She enjoys writing for her blog during her baby’s naptime all while listening out for him on her favorite baby monitor!

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