Blue, White and Green Hanukkah: Less Consumption, More Fun!

Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 21st this year. In contemporary United States, we celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the menorah, eating latkes and donuts, playing dreidel and exchanging gifts. For many of our children, Hanukkah is roughly translated as "getting presents." Every family has their own tradition; one big present the first night and smaller (less significant) presents- otherwise known as "chachkes"- the other nights. Some families have big presents for all eight nights, and, of course, there are variations on this theme. What would it look like if we took a different spin (no pun intended) on Hanukkah? This year, you can have fun and meaningful family experiences that will not break your wallet or contribute to global warming. Here are some suggestions:

1. Gift Night: Okay, we can't break all our traditions and habits at once. Choose a gift for your children that is produced under fair working conditions; select toys that are made of natural materials and are "child-powered" rather than battery powered. Consider gifts that are open-ended and will inspire imagination. And if you buy locally, all the better.

2. Hanukkah Memory Book Night: Begin a "scrapbook" to document your Hanukkah experiences. The first year, you can make the book and contribute a few photographs, stories or drawings that the children create. Every year, you can then revisit the past years and add to the book as your family grows and changes.

3. Tzedakah Night: Choose a project that your family cares about and take some action. Examples might be to bring warm coats to homeless people, donate toys and clothes to shelters, bring cans of food to the food bank. It is so easy to find a worthy cause!

4. Guest Night: Invite friends or acquaintances to your home to celebrate Hanukkah. How about having an "olive oil tasting" with your adult guests? The kids might like to play with a recycled refrigerator box!

5. Hide and Seek Night: Children love to find hidden treasures! Hide some dreidels, chocolate gelt, candles, and "chachkes" for children to discover. Let them keep their loot.

6. Planting Night: Make your kitchen a little greener by planting herbs and spices that you can then use in cooking preparation. This is a fun winter activity; there's nothing better than playing with soil!

7. A Walk in the Dark Night: Grab your coat, hats and mittens, and take a flashlight walk in the dark. Children seldom get to walk out in the dark. Make sure to take note of all the sights and sounds.

8. Game Night: This is a wonderful way for parents and children to spend time together. Let the children choose the games. Some will become your "traditional Hanukkah games" and others will be replaced with new ones as your children grow. Enjoy the beauty of the Hanukkah Candles! Eat lots of latkes with applesauce or sour cream! Spin the dreidel, and have a happy blue, white and green Hanukkah!

By Janet Harris, Director of the Early Childhood Education Initiative


December 09, 2008


The Federation