Should We Distance Chanukah From Xmas?

Many families celebrate Chanukah with gift giving. Some people are concerned that this makes Chanukah look a lot like Xmas.

Should we refrain from giving gifts to distance Chanukah from Xmas?

Should we ask our relatives to eliminate or tone down the gift giving?

Should we consider our children’s disappointment in a reduced gift-giving scenario?

Are BTs more sensitive about this issue?

What major messages of Chanukah do you try to impart?

8 comments on “Should We Distance Chanukah From Xmas?

  1. This year we have a couch in the room where we light the menora. We sit there at least 40 minutes until the candle menora goes out (the oil menoras go for over 2 hours). It’s a special, very sweet time. Something about the flames makes us feel connected and peaceful. Better than lighting and running out to all of the other Chanuka attractions.

  2. I have found that the more we fully celebrate all of the holidays the less I feel the need to worry about Hannukah and giving presents. For our family it is about having Hannukah parties with friends and family, eating yummy food and presents.

    I have found that we do not have any conversation about lights anymore as we put them up in our Sukkah. The Sukkah replaces any need for Xmas trees or lights.

    Purim is the best for making as much noise as wanted and partying with the community.

    Anyway, picking your holiday and celebrating it to the fullest helps instill the love of all the holidays.

  3. Nathan, # 5, said: Maybe the answer to this question depends on where you live.

    If one is in Brooklyn, and gives gifts, one is not acting like non-Jewish neighbors, because one hardly has any. On the other hand, if one is one of the few Jewish residents in a small midwestern town, one will be very much like one’s non-Jewish neighbors, because one has very many.

    On the other hand, Menachem, #4, said: These parties were fun,special and very Jewish. Whether or not the gift giving was “inspired” by Christmas was totally irrelevant.

    I like both answers, and I live in Brooklyn.

  4. Maybe the answer to this question depends on where you live. The answer for a Jewish family in Brooklyn areas like Boro Park, Flatbush, or Williamsburg would be different than the answer for a Jewish family in Colorado or Missouri.

  5. For years while my kids were growing up we had big Chanunka parties on two nights of Chanukah for both sides of the family. There were piles of gifts, latkes, donuts, divrei Torah, and of course menorah lighting.

    These parties were fun,special and very Jewish. Whether or not the gift giving was “inspired” by Christmas was totally irrelevant.

    My wife and I are both very into the gift thing as that’s how we both grew up. The only modification we made is to have no gifts on the first night of Chanukah so as to focus purely on the holiday and it’s meaning.

    In general I think BT’s can be too uptight about these issues. If this is what your extended family does, just sit back and enjoy it. Chanuka is not a Yom Tov with restrictions of driving and it’s not Pesach with its restrictions on eating. This is one of the only Jewish holidays where potential sources of tension with extended families should be at a minimum. Don’t blow it!

  6. Children will notice the lack of Chanukah presents less if they are getting chol hamoed toys or pre-Pesach toys to distract them while you clean.

    My family gives the kids presents, but very low-key inexepensive ones and only on one or two nights. In lieu of lots of expensive fancy presents here are some things we do that you might want to consider:

    In addition to chocolate gelt, we give the kids real gelt to both put in a pushka, and to go to the store and pick out candy.

    In general, during Chanukah we are more lenient than we would be on a regular weekday about candy and other junk. We usually try to reserve it for Shabbos, but on Chanuka we let the kids live it up a litte within reason. Some days we let then have sugary “Shabbos cereal” for breakfast and on Rosh Chodesh or Sunday or both, we often have a fancier than usual breakfast like pancakes or something similar. We try to go out to eat at least once during Chanukah. We try to make our Shabbos meals a little more fancy than a usual Shabbos meal; more like a yontif. We are extra strict about melavah malkah motzai Shabbos Chanukah.

    As far as non-frum relatives giving gifts, I wouldn’t tell them not to, as they might create the impression of Judaism being stern and “no fun” but I would ask them to tone them down. I especially ask for no “muktzeh” presents that can’t be used on Shabbos. Also, in years like this, when the first night falls on Shabbos, remind them that we don’t give gifts on Shabbos. It seems for some people, the first night is the biggest gift night, even if it is Friday night.

  7. Small presents at Chanukah – bigger presents for Pesach! I will say if I had the disposable income, I would probably load up the front lawn with Chanukah inflatables. (as a side note I would also load up the front lawn with Purim, Pesach, Sukkos and Shavous inflatables if they made them, complete with animatronic displays.) But given the state of our bank account, the neighborhood is safe for now….

  8. “What major messages of Chanukah do you try to impart?”

    1. There are times to stand up forcefully when Judaism is threatened.

    2. Our ability to do so comes from HaShem; the weapons., etc., are incidental.

    3. HaShem demonstrated His love for us by the miracle of the oil.

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