When I was a child, I remember saying to my mother, “You are so lucky! You got to celebrate eight days with gifts.”
She laughed in reply. Then she said, “You imagine eight days like Christmas, but all the Hanukkah gifts we received combined were not even like one day of American Christmas. We got socks one day, an orange the next, and so on… a small, simple gift.”
The custom of gift giving as a part of Christmas in North America also started out as an offering of simple homemade gifts. It wasn’t about being the highest bidder for the most popular machine-made toy running out at the store or about having lots of presents under the tree. Parents would place a homemade toy for each child under the tree. The hope was that a day of celebration and making their children feel special would awaken a generous impulse in the hearts of their children who would go and do likewise with their family members, with neighbors, and with strangers. It was about cultivating generosity and gratitude in others by modeling it in your own life.
Throughout this month, I invite you to give and receive simple gifts and pleasures to your friends, family and strangers. Truly, it is the thought that counts. Here are 12 ideas to put you in the holiday spirit:
- Invite someone over for hot chocolate with candy canes by a fire
- Give a gift that supports a cause from our Alternative Gift Fair (Dec. 1st – 3rd)
- Make time for family – maybe a Game Night with dreidel, charades and Catan
- Write an ode to someone who inspires you
- Give a homemade gift (maybe something you make at our Holiday Party (Dec. 17th)
- Sing carols with your fellow congregants and your neighbors
- Give an experience
- Go ice skating
- Have a snowball fight
- Drive around admiring holiday lights
- Make a gingerbread house and eat it with a friend
- Read a holiday story with children
Remember, often the best gifts can’t even be unwrapped. Rather, they are about the quality of presence you offer the people you care about.
May you give your time and attention. May you give your creativity and your playfulness. May you give your wonder and awe. And, may you receive these rich gifts back in return.