Niagara Gazette

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December 11, 2008

EXTRA: Hanukkah theme nights make small gifts special

By LISA A. FLAM

Associated Press Writer



Socks. Board games. Underwear. Movie tickets. Musical toothbrushes?

They're probably not the big presents most kids say they want for Hanukkah. But with eight nights to celebrate, parents, especially these days, often don't want to indulge their children with a standout gift each night. And they want the holiday to be about more than a pile of presents.

Try the Hanukkah theme night, an easy, enjoyable and often inexpensive way to give gifts, with each child (and lucky adult) getting the same kind of present like books, pajamas or video game. Themed gifts can tame sibling rivalry, and when they are enjoyed together on the evening they're given, the celebration becomes more meaningful, parents say.

"It helps because if it's movie night, we know we're watching movies. If it's book night, I know we're snuggling in bed that night reading the book," says Cindy Edelstein, 44, of Pelham, N.Y., whose daughter is 11. "It takes the present to a whole evening experience."

Traditionally, Hanukkah gift-giving did not approach the level of present exchanges associated with Christmas. Hanukkah, though widely observed by American Jews, is less significant under Jewish law than several other holidays. It commemorates the miracle of a one-day supply of oil burning for eight days at the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple around 164 B.C. Hanukkah arrives this year on the night of Dec. 21.

The custom of a Hanukkah gift began hundreds of years ago as gelt, or money. Children were given coins to play dreidel, buy candy and to give as tzedakah, a contribution to those less fortunate, said Rabbi Joel Meyers, a leader of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents rabbis in the Conservative Jewish movement.

It was in the last century, in this country, that gift giving evolved into what it is today, as Jews were confronted with the big celebrations for Christmas, he said. Some families these days give a gift only on the first night of Hanukkah, others on all eight.

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