Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

Add to My MSN

Rewriting Holiday Traditions

11/26/2013 11:10:00 AM

Tags: holiday gifts, House in the Woods Farm, Maryland, Ilene White Freedman

For the past couple generations, exchanging gifts has been a featured Chanukah activity, just as it is for Christmas. There are other things to do—playing the dreidle game, making potato latkes, lighting the menorah, but let’s not fool anyone—the spotlight shines on receiving gifts each night of Chanukah.

When I was a kid, we lit our Menorah every evening of Chanukah and we each opened a present.

Chanukah Menorah

There are eight nights of Chanukah, so one night the gift might be a pair of socks. But still, a gift each night. When my kids were young, I carefully wrapped small gifts for each night of Chanukah, passing on my family’s tradition. Just like in my childhood, we lit the Menorah and sang Chanukah songs and the kids opened a little gift each night.

Gifts can be nice, but we all know how materialism can take center stage for the holidays. I was surprised to get crankiness from my child on night three. And he didn’t even receive socks. I realized that the gift did not satisfy. It needed to be a better gift, something as much fun as the first gift, to offer a more entertaining evening.

That’s a lot of pressure for a little gift. Eight nights in a row.

The materialism of the activity needed to shine brighter in order to entertain. Often, acquiring stuff is just not as fun as we want it to be. And I want my holiday traditions to be about gathering together, not gathering stuff. So, a Jewish girl in a Grinch’s overcoat, I stole the spotlight from the gift and shined it on the family activity.

Here’s what I did to Chanukah.

We decided the next year would be different. It would be about entertainment and enjoying company, not about gifts. So we set up a calendar of activities, one for each night of Chanukah. We would light the Menorah and have a fun activity to enjoy together each evening. We had Box Night: we collected big boxes and made a cardboard city. Paper Airplane Night: we made dozens, all sizes. Latke frying Night. Cookie baking Night. Card-making Night with family friends: I pulled out all the inkpads and stamps. And one evening was “Present Night”, with one special gift exchange. We’re not eliminating gifts altogether in our celebration; just taking them off center stage.

Our week was a hit, the kids basked in the attention. They didn’t miss all the gifts. After all, isn’t attention and entertainment together mostly what they are after? The next year, when someone asked my son what he was looking forward to for Chanukah, I listened carefully. My son’s eyes brightened and he said, “Box Night is my favorite, I can’t wait for that night.” Not “this is what I want for Chanukah” but “this is what I want to do on Chanukah”. Success.

Maccabee Night

My sons are 9 and 11 now, going on our fifth year of our alternative Chanukah tradition. The kids look forward to planning Chanukah each year, a chart of eight evening themes. Box Night has given way to Nerf Weapon Night (think Maccabees), Games Night,  Chanukah candle-dipping night, and another favorite—Rube Goldberg Night.  On Rube Goldberg Night, we set up an elaborate trigger series marble ramp.

One year it included a pulley system through the living room that hit a hammer to trigger the marble down the ramp. Wait ‘til you see what we have planned for this year’s contraption.

Mark joining us for Rube Goldberg Night

 

Our good friend Mark stopped by on Rube Goldberg Night one year, and had so much fun he asked “Will Rube Goldberg Night always be the third night of Chanukah?” No, but we always try to work Rube Goldberg Night around Mark’s schedule.

 

There’s a non-profit in Maryland called The Center for the New American Dream. Their mission is to counter commercialization and support community engagement. They tackle such issues as voluntary simplicity, reducing materialism, and creating more meaningful holidays. Check out their SoKind registry project, where you can create a gift registry that focuses on less stuff and more family fun. This site is full of ideas on how to refocus your holiday celebrations.

Have a Happy Chanukah and a Merry Thanksgiving this month!

Dipping Candles

 

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News and blog.houseinthewoods.com, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to www.houseinthewoods.com.



Related Content

Make Your Own Potpourri for Luscious Homemade Christmas Gifts

Unique homemade Christmas presents are easy, sensual and fun when you make your own potpourri. Using...

Some Assembly Required

Holiday gifts frequently come with "some assembly required" and can cause frustration for late-night...

Gifts for a Beekeeper

If you are looking for gifts for beekeepers this blog post could be perfect encompasing books, cloth...

Key Lime Pie Body Cream: Mother’s Day Presents

I made body cream for Mother’s Day presents for my family.

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 










Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.