Living the Theme: Hanukkah
Keep Hanukkah meaningful and fun by planning different activities for each night.
Ask Jewish kids what their favorite holiday is, and with a fair amount of confidence, I’m going to bet the majority of them will say Hanukkah. What’s not to like? The latkes, the gelt, the glowing candles, the music, the story of a miracle. But let’s be real; the kids want the gifts! I don’t blame them, but I also don’t want my kids to only think about this part of the holiday. I want them to create beautiful memories while learning Jewish values for years to come.
If you’ve been following the Tribe Vibe this year, you know I enjoy a chance to be creative. As a parent to three young boys, I also greatly appreciate an opportunity to instill values in my kids. Hanukkah can be a beautiful time to pair creativity with
teaching. I also really like ideas that are easy to plan and easy to implement. Many years ago, I created a structure for our Hanukkah celebration that we’ve continued to follow as our kids have gotten older. Having a plan for each year helps me make the most of our holiday in ways that help make our kids more well-rounded. Here’s a breakdown, in no particular order, of how we organize our celebration:
Night 1: Gift of Giving
On this day/night, we share the gift of mitzvot. Whether it’s asking which charity our children want us to donate to in their name or taking them to the grocery store to buy items for various food pantries, this night is about the good feelings that come with giving to others.
Night 2: I’ve Always Wanted That!
This night is a highlight because our boys are surprised with a gift they’ve been wanting for a while. Throughout the year, when they inevitably have items they wish they could have right then and there, we ask them to put it on their Hanukkah list. Delayed gratification can be difficult, but they learn it’s worth the wait.
Night 3: Brother Exchange
Leading up to this night, each brother gets an opportunity to shop with Mom or Dad to buy a gift his brother would want. This is especially difficult for young children who see a gift that they want to buy for themselves. Trying to shift the focus to thinking of others is tough, but once they get the hang of it, it’s so rewarding to watch that brother open a thoughtful gift.
Night 4: Experience
This day/night is all about doing something together as a family. Throughout the years, we’ve enjoyed Medieval Times, took advantage of photo ops at the Museum of Illusions, did a family splatter paint project at Pipe & Palette, and rented out a movie theater (during the pandemic) with a few close friends.
Night 5: Family Gift
Our family gift is something (big or small) from which we can all benefit. Some examples are: a remote control finder, a telescope, a Roomba, a new dishwasher, or a 6-piece set of walkie-talkies.
Night 6: Coupon Books (aka: “Couponakkah!”)
Another highlight the boys look forward to is getting a book of coupons to cash in throughout the year. The privileges range from getting to stay up late to one “Mental Health Day” off from school. Best of all, these don’t cost a thing! (Want the whole list? Please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Night 7: Family Party
On our annual family party night, our kids get to play dreidel, enjoy latkes, exchange gifts, and be silly with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The quality time they get with extended family warms everyone’s heart.
Night 8: Choose Your Own Gift
On this very exciting night, Sam and I give the boys cash and take them to a specific store where they are allowed to spend up to the amount given (or choose to keep it for another time). It’s a challenge for the boys to make decisions about what they really want. They could get one item that uses up all of their allotment, or they could choose many items of lesser value each. It’s a really fun thing for us to be able to watch as they have gotten older and learned how to spend more wisely.
Tribe Vibe by Amber Pierce | From the November/December 2022 Window