8 Alternative Gift Ideas for Chanukah

Photo: Carbon NYC

With Chanukah less than a week away, most parents are probably scrambling to find gifts for each of the eight nights of the holiday. While gifts are not traditionally part of Chanukah festivities in the Jewish faith, giving gifts each night of the celebration has become part of the festivities. It's hard to deny the influence of giving gifts on Christmas, especially if you have small children.

Whether you are a parent who tries to minimize the adopted "tradition" of gift-giving during Chanukah or you are seeking some last-minute ideas, here are eight alternative gift ideas for each night of the holiday. These last-minute ideas can help reduce the stress of any gift-giving holiday, no matter what you claim as your faith. (See also: 25 Gifts You Can Make Today)

1. Family Craft Night

Instead of giving gifts one night, make it a family craft night in which you make gifts for each other. There are plenty of crafts out there to suit children of all ages. Make a menorah or Chanukah decorations out of found objects, clay, or other materials around the house. You can always turn it into a family cooking night. Even the big kids enjoy cookies, and it gives you and your children an opportunity to spend time together.

2. Donate to a Charity

Not only is donating money one of the many mitzvahs in the Jewish faith, but it is also a great way to turn one of the gift-giving nights toward someone in need. There are many Jewish foundations, such as Heifer at Hanukkah, that focus on giving meaningful gifts to others on Chanukah. Organizing a toy exchange with a local charity or finding other local charity events to participate in is another way to donate your time and spend a night with your children.

3. Host a Potluck

Invite friends and family to your home on one of the nights for a potluck. This is a great way to enjoy time with loved ones and avoid a night of opening gifts.

4. Storytelling Night

Storytelling is a huge part of the Jewish tradition, and there are plenty of stories you can tell or let your children tell. This is a perfect opportunity to tell Chanukah story. Having your children participate is key for this one.

5. Game Night

Like the family craft night, a game night is very popular during Chanukah, given all the games already built into this holiday. You can offer small prizes, such as chocolates and other treats, for the games. And of course, there's always spinning the dreidel.

6. Live Music Night

Whether you have musicians in the family or not, singing together or listening to live music is a great way to spend an evening together. If you have friends who play musical instruments, invite them over and turn it into a musical potluck night.

7. Kids Choice Night

You can always leave one night open to let your kids choose an activity that they enjoy. There are also plenty of Jewish organizations that offer alternative game ideas for kids of all ages.

8. Other Meaningful Gifts

While you may try to avoid gift-giving all together on Chanukah, there may be one night when you want to give a large gift, or a few smaller gifts throughout the week. You can always find something meaningful, such as books, handmade gifts, or toys made by charitable organizations.

The trick to avoiding the materialism and stress that tends to go along with holiday gift-giving is to get your children involved. If you are buying a gift for a friend's child and aren't sure what to give, ask the parents first. Many Jewish families differ on ideas about involving gift-giving as part of the Chanukah celebration, but it's safe to get a small or modest gift.

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Guest's picture

Thank you for this post! I was raised in a culturally but not religiously Jewish family and we celebrated Christmas when I was a kid more than Hannukah. And I don't celebrate either now. BUT - It is really great to see holiday posts this time of year that are not only aimed at Christmas/ Christians! Of course, all of these activities can be adaptable for anyone of any faith or lack thereof, but its wonderful to see Hannukah being considered here, even if its a minor Jewish holiday to begin with.

Guest's picture

Great article! Some of my Jewish friends also volunteer on Christmas day to give their Christian friends time off to be with their families. We have a baking night where dozens of cookies are baked then given out to our elderly neighbors. My favorite is a "story telling night of history"