Most Jews know that giving presents at Hanukkah time has more to do with its proximity to Christmas than anything else. Nevertheless, a few presents make this particular holiday extra special. I mean, how many nights in a row can you retell the story of Hanukkah and marvel at the candlelight? I say two tops. I’m all about borrowing a little “holiday spirit” from Christmas.

Still, all the gifts get to me. But not for the altruistic and do-gooding reasons that they should. What bothers me is what EIGHT nights of gifts + four kids means for the influx of chazerai in my house.

What’s a no-nonsense, anti-clutter mom like me supposed to do with a holiday like this? Of course, I have the answer down to a science. Stick with me. I won’t steer you wrong.


1st Night: Family party! Last night the six of us went to Bubbe and Zaide’s where the kids got all kinds of fantastic toys and what-not from their grandparents and cousins. The kids loved every minute. HOWEVER, it’s beginning to look a little too much  like Christmas. (Not that I have a hate on Christmas, as you’ll note in last year’s highly controversial post.)

2nd Night: Tonight we’ll return to the at-home routine where I always start small. If you go in guns blazing, you’re setting the bar too high. I often get each child a new spinning toothbrush on one of the early nights. That’s right, kids. I said heck-NO to that overpriced licensed Hello Kitty toothbrush at Target last month, but now it’s yours. In our house we’re not above promoting clean teeth in celebration of the miracle of a small band of Jewish soldiers’ unlikely defeat of the Greeks.

3rd Night: New cozy pajamas for everyone. Easy, practical. Done. If you’re feeling zany and generous, you could throw in some slippers.

4th Night: Think of something you would have purchased for the house eventually—holiday or not. This year it’s art supply night! I’m replacing the dried-out, cap-less markers and the used-up coloring books. I’ll also replenish the stickers and other art supplies that are getting low.

5th Night: I thought about other items I want the kids to have for various reasons. I’ll give you an example. My five-year-old daughter, Rebecca, loves to color in her room. Unfortunately, her masterpieces end up in piles around the floor and it drives me bananas. On night #5, Rebecca is getting the “art box” to the right. Adorable, but practical. I’m a sneaky genius.

6th Night: Books—a great choice for any night of Hanukkah.

7th Night: The night of giving back. My husband and I will have a discussion with the kids about where we want to donate money as a family this year. I’m sure 6-week-old Nate will share some great ideas.

8th Night: Out-of-town family night! This is the night we hand over those mysterious packages from aunts, uncles, and out-of-town grandparents. Truthfully, we could spread out those gifts over several different nights, but I like to end with a bang.

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and Great New Books. Her essays have been published regularly at Brain Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, Kveller, The Jewish Daily Forward, and have appeared at On Being, Motherwell, Modern Loss, Today Show Parenting, Scary Mommy, and elsewhere. She's a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio, and she lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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