Thanksgiving + Chanukah + Rituals = Try something new this year

The upcoming Thanksgiving/Chanukah holidays offer families a unique opportunity to be together and share special moments with extended family and friends. Sometimes being together and sharing a meal and candle blessings is enough, but if you are looking for additional ways to be more connected and add meaning to the holiday, try the table conversation starters, the storytelling gift, or the Night of Giving ritual suggested below. Thanksgivukkah is an opportunistic moment to try something new.

Start a table conversation

Some suggested questions include:

  • Why did our family come here?
  • How did we achieve the things for which we are grateful?
  • Where do we (individuals, community, and country) go from here?

Read more and get ideas for additional questions from Rabbi Mishael Zion’s Thanksgivukkah Manifesto.

A Creative Gift Idea – Record Your Story Through Audio and Pictures

Encourage your kids (of any age) to select a story recording method that works for them. It can be an iPhone, a video camera, a computer microphone, etc. Have them record an interview with another family member using the questions below:

  • What life experiences — historical or familial — most formed who you are?
  • What are the values that motivate you to be charitable?
  • What are you passionate about?

To make it a wonderful gift, take the recorded stories and pair them with old photos and music from the story’s era and create a movie or slideshow using iMovie or some other software. Some kids may want to illustrate the story by hand or use a graphics program. Let them do what they need to make it theirs.

These story starters are from The Grandparent Legacy. This book and DVD itself makes a beautiful gift.

A Night of Giving – A Family Activity

The activity below was shared by one of our Jewish Teen Foundations families. The family started this ritual years ago, and now the college-age siblings can’t wait to come home to this wonderful tradition.

How it works: Each child is given an envelope with five $20.00 bills. On the table are about 5-10 mail solicitations that were collected in the past few months. These can be pamphlets, follow up emails from donations they gave or an email request for funds. The parents carefully select organizations they care about both locally, in Israel and abroad. The kids can place their money next to the organizations they want to support. After lively discussion and much moving around of bills, the kids are then encouraged to go to their rooms and get their personal funds that they wish to add to the giving table. For all personal funds added to the table, the parents match it 10:1. This incentivizes personal giving. This Night of Giving is a clever way to get families talking and sharing about which causes are most important to them. Once the tradition is established, you can encourage kids to select organizations to bring to the table. You can also “tech” up the night by having photos, webpages, or stories from agencies on different tablets on the table, instead of the solicitation letters.

Happy Chanukah!

I hope one of these ideas resonates with you. Please let me know if you try any of them and, as always, please share additional ideas by writing to and I will share them throughout the year. May this holiday season be one where you bring the light of new rituals and deep conversations into the Festival of Lights Chag Sameach.



November 26, 2013