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The story of Hanukkah was about bravery, determination, and finding light in the darkest of times.
These days, we certainly remember and celebrate the centuries-old victory of the Jewish Maccabees, but with a modern and material spin—plenty of gifts. And oh boy, do we Americans like gifts. After eight crazy nights of them, Hanukkah closely resembles Christmas.
But gifts can have a spiritual component as well. This year, consider bringing back the historic themes of the Festival of Lights through your purchases.
It IS the Festival of Lights, after all...
The nine branches of the menorah have signified the Jewish people's perseverance for more than 2000 years since the Maccabees’ Hanukkah triumph. Though the story stays the same, your menorah doesn’t have to. Bringing the holiday back to the future, the brushed metal menorah from Etsy.com offers a contemporary take on tradition. Fashion lovers may not get a new pair of shoes for every night, but they can sure pretend with this Menorah Blahnik reinterpretation on Moderntribe.com. Whether it is something themed or traditional, menorah.com, Squidoo.com and BargainJudaica.com all have wonderful options.
If a dog is a man’s best friend, why shouldn’t he or she get a gift as well? Los Angeles-based Lena Pavia creates Hanukkah hats to get your beloved pooch (or pussycat!) in the holiday spirit and sells them on Etsy.com. Pavia’s kippahs are handcrafted with a Star of David and peyos that are suited for any “teacup, small, and medium” sized pet. Make sure your pet doesn't look like the next goy while supporting an awesome independent artisan!
Kitsch for the kitchen
Are you jealous of Bubbe’s latkes, sufganiyot and kugel? Strive to make grandma proud with your own cooking this year, using the help of some of this year’s newest Hanukkah-themed cookbook. Many traditional foods are heavy-handed on the oil to assure that we don’t forget what this holiday is really about. For those looking for a fresh and healthy alternative, Barbara Lori offers the Healthy Hanukkah Cookbook: Savory Jewish Holiday Recipes, available on Kindle. Amateurs and kids alike are sure to find something that hits the sweet spot in Ronne Randall’s Hanukkah Sweets and Treats.
Even a seasoned pro in the kitchen can cook up some Hanukkah spirit with an “Oy to the World” apron intricate menorah from Cafepress.com, plates and serving platters from Williams-Sonoma.com, or a 7-piece cookie cutter set from Kitchenworksinc.com including shofar, dreidel, and kiddush cup shapes—for the kids.
Use old family recipes or new reinterpretations to treat the family every night. Rather than buy gifts, why not whip up a different dessert for every night and package it nicely with some blue and white ribbon? A lot of party stores also offer Star of David confetti and stickers to accent your DIY gift as well. Not only will it be delicious, but your own masterpiece is often more meaningful than anything you could buy.
Not just for goyim
Hanukkah isn’t traditionally a gift-giving holiday, but everyone wants an excuse to give (OK fine, receive) gifts when seeing their Christian counterparts drooling over this year’s new coolest thing during Christmas. We may envy their style, but Jews do a wonderful job recreating Christmas in their own way. Why buy candy canes when you can buy Hanukkah canes from Moderntribe.com to put out on the table? When you aren’t sucking down a Meshuggah mint check out Zazzle.com’s overwhelming amount of ornaments apt to make any Hanukkah bush a little more jovial. Spruce up that Hanukkah bush even more with some themed string lights found at your local Target or onlineon Judaism.com.
Keep your kinder looking cool at this year’s family dinner with an organic glow-in-the-dark onesie or fancy blue and white bib, both from Moderntribe.com. Is your tyke a toddler? Outfit him in some sweet t-shirts from RedBubble.com. Even local department stores are catching on; Macys, Target, and Walmart all have affordable themed options this holiday season.
Perhaps you’re feeling more like a philanthropist than Santa Claus this winter and want to give something more meaningful. There’s no better time than now to give your kid his or her own personalized tzedakah box. There are plenty of handcrafted options available on Etsy.com and your little car lover will both love and learn from their own train shaped box from Moderntribe.com.