Hanukkah Apps, Videos, and Favorite Tech Gifts

Hanukkah Apps

This post is part of an ongoing series of lifestyle tech as a participant in the Verizon Insider influencer group. I’m thrilled to be part of this group for the past several years and I hope you enjoy my unique perspective on tech for families and entrepreneurs. There are affiliate links in this post, which help me to run this site and buy cool tech I think you’d love to know about.

This year Hanukkah starts on December 24th. This is so exciting! No only do I have something fun to do on December 25th but I get to take advantage of all the sales. And though Hanukkah is a festival holiday and, traditionally, not a big gift-giving holiday, it’s become more and more a celebration that includes gifts. Gifts go well with latkes and pear sauce, right?

What I love about tech is that it allows everyone to get in on the games and fun smartphone apps. Even songs, lots of Hanukkah songs! So I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite Hanukkah tech, from apps to videos to small gifts to things that may qualify as ‘the big gift’ this year.

Fun Hanukkah Apps

Light My Fire (iOS, Andriod) – Created by The Jewish Museum in New York, this app allows you to select one of the many exquisite Hanukkiah from their collection. I love this, especially for college kids and young adults who may not be able to light actual candles where they live. It’s also great for little kids so they can participate in lighting candles. I think it would be a great option for seniors who may not feel comfortable with open flames in their homes or senior living apartments and for parents of kids with special needs that may not be able to light candles in a traditional way.

Menorah (iOS, Android) – This is a nice app, with music by Mo Kiss, that lets you light the candles and sing along. Again, great for those in need of a virtual menorah.

The Chanukkah App (iOS, Android) – With a virtual menorah, some history, and a virtual dreidel game it’s a mobile party! This app features the blessings in 7 languages as well as incorporates social sharing so you can celebrate with your friends all over the world.

‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah (iOS, Android) – An extension of the 2012 musical album of the same name, this app brings lots of fun holiday music to your smartphone with an epic musical battle between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. Something new and fun to give a tech/music spin to your celebration.

Match 8 Hanukkah Game (iOS, Android) – Tired of playing dreidel? Who isn’t! Here’s a fun little game to distract you from whatever it is you need distracting. This candle lighting game will test your skills at speed lighting. A great app for kids of all abilities to get involved in playing Hanukkah games.

Chai on Chanukkah (iOS) – A top app among Jewish families with special needs kids, everyone gets in on the festival fun!

Hanukkah Match Games (iOS, Android) – A Hanukkah twist on the traditional game of matching tiles. Fun for young kids and helps them make a Jewish connection.

Festive YouTube Videos

The Chanukah SongAdam Sandler Chanukah Song (3:55) – The original by Adam Sandler. In 1994, Adam Sandler wrote a Hanukkah song for SNL’s Weekend Update and it’s become a classic. Before this there really weren’t very many non-traditional Chanukah songs, so this is really the one by which all modern songs are measured. Most are parodies, but The Chanukah Song and it’s subsequent versions are all classics. Sandler’s Chanukah Song Part 4 was released in 2015, at a fundraiser with Judd Apatow. (Image Source: NBC)

Sesame Street: Hanukkah With Veronica Monica (2:43) – if your kids love Sesame Street, this is a fun little video of the Hanukkah story. If you like this one, check out Shalom Sesame.

The Maccabeats – Candlelight – Hanukkah (3:41) – Candlelight is a Jewish parody of Taio Cruz’s Dynamite. With over 11 million views, I find myself singing this all year ’round. Funny thing is that when this song came out BabyGirl had never heard Dynamite and months later when she did she thought it was a parody of Candlelight. True story!

The Maccabeat – All About That Nais (2:55) – Not as popular, but still fun, this parody of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass is a nice little story about latkes, dreidels, bubbies, and presents.

Six13 – Chanukah (Shake It Off) (4:34) – New to the Jewish a Capella scene a few years ago, Six13 puts together a Festival of Lights parody of TayTays Shake It Off. It’s a fun little ditty!

The Story of Hanukkah (2:15) – This is a storybook video of the story of Hanukkah geared to help young readers. Perfect for kids!

Favorite Hanukkah Tech

OK, so there isn’t really such a thing as Hanukkah tech (other than the cool electronic Hanukah menorahs) but when it comes to gift giving, Chanukkah can present more challenges than just how to spell Channukkah. Since Hanukah is a festival holiday, many of us grew up with little emphasis on the gift-giving  part of the celebration. Some small gifts for each night (candy, puzzles, games, etc.) or maybe one “big” gift (a bike, designer jeans), but gift giving has only recently become associated with Hanukkah so it can be difficult to figure out the ‘right’ gift. And that’s why I’m taking the stress out of your holiday and giving you some suggestions for gift options for your Hanukkah-celebrating friends and family. [Note: Chanukah begins on Dec. 24th this year, so waiting for those after-Christmas sales is highly encouraged!]

Bluetooth Trackers – These little devices that attach to your keys, slide into your wallet, fit nicely in your center console of the car, attach to a zipper in your luggage, or connect to your child’s backpack, are awesome gifts. I’ve used the Tile, Tile Slim, and Mynt trackers and all have saved me from what could have been stressful moments. When I switched planes (and airports) to allow for a family to stay together, my Mynt tracker gave me peace of mind when I saw that my luggage had arrived to my destination. The Tile tracker was with me on a three week trip to DC this summer and when I left my luggage with the concierge I could see it was safe. And when I can’t find my phone, these little devices let me get an audible tracker even when my phone is on silent. Retail: about $20 each

Portable Speaker – When we went to Israel, we took the UE Boom with us so we could easily listen to music. We take it with us when we travel because it’s so easy to use and doesn’t take up much space. CycleGuy loves it for taking business calls because it turns his smartphone into a real speakerphone. The UE Boom 2 is shockproof and waterproof, making it even more versatile. The UE Roll is small, lightweight, and so easy to use for those with active lifestyles. These range in price, but are well worth the money!

External Smartphone Battery – Let’s face it, we’re busy people and don’t have time to worry about our smartphone running low. Sure, we can get a car charger or connect at home. But, with music and games, social media, and all the photos, those long-life batteries don’t always sync with our busy lives. I have 7 or 8 different powerbanks, each for different purposes. I have the ultra-thin charger for those times I’m going out and have a small evening bag. My original Mophie is always in my purse and CycleGuy has one in his messenger bag. I have a few larger Limefuel chargers with multiple ports so BabyGirl can always plug in with friends.

Multi-Port USB Charger – Seriously, you need one! Instead of plugging in all over the house or fighting for outlets at a hotel, a multi-port USB charger is a dream. I have three of these and they are the best! We have 7 smartphones, a Nexus, two iPads, wireless headphones, CycleGuy’s bike light, and quite a few other things that need to be charged and we can do it with such ease and convenience. A few brands I like are Anker, this value-priced Sabrent 4-port hub, this Photive 6-port rapid charger, as well as the more permanent option of changing out your outlet to a Top Greener Dual USB wall outlet.

Of course, who wouldn’t love a new phone? Sometimes that’s a very personal decision, but if you’re looking for a smartphone that is unique and has really cool add-on options, check out my experience with the Motorola Moto Z Force Droid. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge either.

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Sara

Who Moved My Hanukkah?

 Hanukkah Disney

Since I was in elementary school, it seems I’ve had to explain Hanukkah to at least one person every year. It doesn’t bother me and I never mind giving the 3-minute version of why Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah. I don’t get in to any of the deep religious “compare and contrast” type explanational materials. A basic question just calls for a basic answer.

But when it comes to Hanukkah, there are so many ways to explain it. Some people want to know if it’s just Jewish Christmas or if Jewish people wanted something to celebrate because there was all this celebrating around Christmas. Seriously, I don’t make up the questions, I just answer them and file them away for future use (such as blog posts like this).

Recently, though, I’ve had a lot of questions about why Hanukkah keeps moving around. Last year it was mid-December. This year it’s earlier in the month. Next year it’s the end of November! Black Friday 2013 will be more like The Great Kvetch as Jews around the US lament that Hanukkah is too early.

For the record, Hanukkah is the same day every year. Has been since, well, even that’s a funny story. The first Hanukkah celebration wasn’t even really Hanukkah but was called Hanukkah. That was back in the second century BCE when particularities such as “What do we call this celebration” were overlooked. Nothing like adding to the confusion, right?

For us modern folks, Hanukkah is always the 25th of Kislev. The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle so the Jewish months are not exactly aligned with the more secular solar-based Gregorian calendar. It’s way more complicated than can be explained here in a few sentences. The Jewish leap years add a month (take that February 29th!), which happens 7 times in every 19-year cycle. And considering that in traditional Jewish history there is really no concept of what a “day” is the 24-hour time period just complicate things. If you’ve read even the first few chapters of the bible (or Torah for that matter), you’ll recall in Genesis that G-D created a day. That day, curiously enough, began at sundown and continued until the next sundown. So, for Jewish people around the globe, sundown is the key time marker for our calendar and all associated events. Are you even more confused?

Anyway, so, a day in Genesis-created-Jewish-world is pretty easy to grasp because we lived in the Mediterranean with lots of sunshine (an oppressive Pharoah, a fearless leader who somehow split the sea but got us lost for 40 years, and flat tasteless crackers that will one day give us the deliciousness known as Matzo Crack. Or so the story goes.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, Jews move around and end up all over the world. Long before Jonathan Larson wondered how we measure a year, Jews knew how to measure a year, and a day too. Except when they started moving to Upper FrozenLandia and there was no sun to go up or down. More confusion. And you wonder why Jews flock to Florida in the winter? It’s just part of our modern DNA!

Well, now we live in a nearly borderless world and there are Jews everywhere, even most recently on the International Space Station. And we’ve adjusted to this modern secular calendar and many of us have intermingled our Jewish lives into our secular lives. So every Jewish year has been overlayed onto the Gregorian calendar and like the magic of the 8-days the oil lasted Hanukkah is slapped onto a day, usually in December. Except when we’re not paying enough attention and it’ll pop up in November and laugh at us like a woman holding the last Tickle Me Elmo on Black Friday.

All the back story is enough to glaze over anyone’s eyes, so I don’t mind that people ask me why Hanukkah isn’t the same day every year. And for many Jewish people, it does seem to sneak up on us too. That’s why some smarty invented the smart phone and alert notifications! OK, that’s not the only reason, but I’m sure it was one of the top 5 or so.

Now that you know all there is to know about the ping-pong of Hanukkah on your (likely digital) calendar, I bid you crispy latkes and sweet sufganiyot – all calorie-free as all ritual-oriented food is (because I read that on the internt, so it’s true!).

Any other questions about Hanukkah? Ask away. I’m happy to explain them.

Sara

What is Hanukkah?

Hawkins Hanukkah Menorah

Hanukkah will fall about the same time as Christmas this year. According to the Jewish calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle, Hanukkah falls on the exact same date every year. But, the Gregorian calendar is a solar-based calendar which is why Hanukkah falls on different dates each year.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an 8-day celebration which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after its destruction in the Maccabean revolt in the 2nd century BCE. The story goes that upon rededication of the Temple the Macabees discovered there only to be enough oil to light the menorah for one day. It would take eight days to make new olive oil. But, wanting to do as the Torah (Five Books of Moses) said, they light the menorah and commenced to making more oil. Yet the next day the flame still illuminated the Temple. As it would for the next 7 days, allowing new oil to be made. It was this miracle that gives us the duration of Hanukkah.

There are several items that are significant to Hanukkah: Menorah (more specifically, Hanukkiah), food, dreidel, gelt (money, often chocolate now), prayers and songs. Each of these are significant and makes this festival celebration very unique among the Jewish people.

Menorah

A menorah (muh-no-ruh) is a candelabra. It often has 6 branches. For Hanukkah, we use an 8-branched menorah called a Hanukkiah (ha-noo-key-uh). It is specific to Hanukkah and in addition to the 8 branches, there is a nineth spot for the helper candle which lights the others. This helper candle is called the shamash (sha-mah-sh). Hanukkah candles are not lit with matches, they must be lit with another candle, thus the importance of the shamash.

A hanukkiah may be made of any material (glass, metal, ceramic, clay, or even muffin cups!).  Many families have one for each person in the family, as it is a mitzvah (meets-vah) to light the menorah at Hanukkah.

Muffin Cup Menorah
Muffin Cup Menorah BabyGirl Made in 2010
First night of Hanukkah

Food

It’s not a party without food! Most will have latkes (lot-kuhs or some say lot-keys) which are potato pancakes. I make them in the traditional way by shredding potatoes adding some chopped onion, salt, pepper, egg and a few tablespoons of flour and mixing them to make little patties. They’re kinda like hash browns if you’re needing a reference point. They’re fried in oil — oil being the key ingredient in Hanukkah! The most traditional toppings are applesauce or sour cream, and people will debate which is better. Me? I’m equal opportunity. BabyGirl? She doesn’t like applesauce so I actually have pear sauce.

Crispy Latkes

photo credit: surlygirl

There are also jelly donuts. Yes, that’s right, donuts. Popularized by Spanish and Middle Eastern Jews, Sufganiyot (soof-gahn-ee-yoat) are the main Hanukkah food you’ll find in Israel. But, they’re starting to catch on here in the US too. I didn’t grow up having these but I learned about them when I lived in Israel. Delish!

Dreidel and Gelt

A dreidel is a 4-sided top and was invented as a way to cover up studying Torah when it was forbidden. There is a letter on each side representing the phrase ‘A great miracle happened there‘. In Israel, there is one letter that is different because the Israel dreidels translate to ‘A great miracle happened HERE‘. It is a fun game and often is played with gelt (money). Usually the money is chocolate coins and kids young and old enjoy playing.

Dreidels =D
photo credit: juliejigsaw

Prayers and Songs

As with all Jewish holidays, Hanukkah has special prayers that are recited each night when the candles are lit. Jews are required to say the prayers for candle lighting. After candles are lit, many Jews sing traditional songs although there are modern songs that are becoming popular as well.

Gifts

Hanukkah, traditionally, is not a gift-giving holiday. When I grew up my family exchanged small token gifts, but nothing significant. For me, Hanukkah was never a Christmas alternative. It has, however, grown into a more secularized celebration with extravagant gifts and many people making Hanukkah into a Christmas-like celebration.

How Do You Spell It?

OK, now that you’ve read all the way through I know this is the one question you probably want to ask. Hanukkah does not have a standard transliteration. In Hebrew there are two ways to spell it and it’s a difference of vowel placement. But when it’s transliterated into English there are a number of ways depending on where you live and how you learned it growing up. Some spell it with the ‘Ch’, others with just the ‘H’. Then of course there is the question of how many h’s, k’s and n’s to add.

So, really, it doesn’t matter if you see Hanukkah or Chanukkah or Hannukah or Channukkah, it’s all the same. Just as long as there is a menorah, some latkes and maybe some jelly donuts it’s all good!

Music

Before I go, I’ll leave with with one of my current favorite popular songs. It’s is from a pop group called The LeeVees and it is called, fittingly, How Do You Spell ……

LeeVees – How Do You Spell Channukkahh? from The LeeVees on Vimeo.

Sara

5 Ways to be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

As you likely know, I suck at shopping for me. But when it comes to gift giving, I am in heaven. I love buying things for other people. I like asking questions to find out about things they like, don’t like, want to try, place to go and all that double-knot spy kind of stuff. I most enjoy seeing or hearing their reaction when they open their gift to find something that is really meaningful to them.

Let’s just all admit that we’ve received gifts that are meaningless to us but hold a great deal of meaning or importance to the giver. I’m not talking about the ugly necklace from your aunt that was your grandmothers that you really don’t want, will never wear, but has sentimental value. I’m also not including gifts from little kids that they made for us (but really, gold spray painted macaroni necklaces are always at the top of every mom’s list!). What I’m talking about are those gifts from our mothers-in-law that are her favorite stinky, smelly lotion and will end up in the donation bin faster than Ozzy Osbourne can say the F-word. I’m thinking of those gifts from friends or family that are either a regifted something or were bought because it was cheap, on-sale, near the cash register, or shoved in the back of the closet from 3 years ago.

Now, don’t’ get me wrong. I think re-gifting is OK under some circumstances. But that’s another blog post. Today it’s about being realistic about our holiday shopping. We can’t all rush to Neiman Marcus to pick up their newest $19,000 must-have gift. But what we can do is take some time now, before the rush and the crush, and be mindful about the gifts we’re going to give.

5 Ways To Be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

1. Decide who gets and who doesn’t – this could be budget based or logistical, but decide now who you’ll be shopping for. Write it down and really think who’s going to make the list. Make the list, check it twice. Heck, check it 200 times! But only put people on the list that you really want to buy for. Don’t buy for people because you think you have to or they buy for you or you don’t want to look cheap. You’ll look cheap and the gift will be horrible because you won’t put the time into it. This isn’t about being mean or dissing anyone. It’s about being real and having focus.

2. Set a Budget – Maybe you did this before you made your list of people. If you did, then now you get to divvy it up among all the people on your list. If you didn’t set a budget, now’s the time to do it. Whether it’s a per-person limit or an overall total, determine up front what you’re comfortable spending. Write it down, engrave it in stone, write it on your hand in sharpie, post sticky note in your house or your car or do whatever you need to remind you. If you have to take cash out of the bank, then so be it. Spend ONLY that cash. When it’s done, then so are you. And you’ll have to figure out something else. But don’t over-spend just because you’re stressed out and just pick up anything. It’s not easy to stick to a budget, but you’ll feel better if you do. Most importantly, make the budget realistic. If you don’t think spending $10 on Aunt Ella is realistic either spend more (only if you have it! Aunt Ella doesn’t want you to go into debt for her) or just give her a lovely card. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it. Work within your means and your budget! Stay tuned here for great holiday gifts that won’t break the bank!

3. Plan ahead – what do you want that person to get from you? Have they mentioned a book or restaurant they’re looking forward to? Do they have a hobby or a passion for something that you can support? Do they need a new scarf, sweater, mug, backpack, or set of knives? Have they dropped hints? Can you go in on a bigger gift with someone else? Think about their gift for more than 62 seconds while you’re speeding through Target at 9:46pm on Christmas Eve.

4. Get Them Something THEY Want – you may think that the Dice-o-matic is awesome, but not everyone will. So don’t get it for your nephew who just got his first apartment. He won’t care and you’ll become that aunt. You may love yoga but your BFF may not want the yoga mat DVD combo you think is so great – especially since she’s never once gone to ‘bring a friend night’ even though you’ve asked her every week for the past 2 years. You may hate that your brother in law spends 3 hours a night playing Farmville but giving him a $10 gift card to play his game might make him stop sending you requests to plant corn or support his pig farm. Think about this like a business – It’s not what YOU want, it’s what the CONSUMER wants!

5. Have Fun – holiday shopping can be a drag some times. But the whole point of giving gifts is to show your love, appreciation, kindness toward others. You want them to know you care. So have fun! Think outside the box, mix things us, step outside your comfort zone. Gift recipients aren’t stupid, they know when we just get any ol’ thing for them. We give gifts because we want to (or, that’s why we should), not because we are obligated. Have fun seeing their perspective, have fun wrapping it, have fun in giving it! Think about how much fun kids have buying gifts for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. They could buy grandpa a can of WD-40 because they know he is always fixing things, and the child is so filled with joy and excitement for this seemingly boring gift.

Whatever winter holiday you observe, regardless of whether it’s a major gift giving one or not, it’s on the calendar well in advance. There’s no ned to pretend it sneaks up on us. So let’s all get started so we can get finished and sit back and enjoy relaxing and enjoying all those other events that will take place.

I don’t profess that these 5 tips will save you time or money or sanity. But what I do believe is that being prepared goes a long way to allowing us to make better decisions. And better decision is how we save time, money and sanity!

If you have other tips, please share them! Can’t have too many tips to get us all through what is sure to be a busy time.

Sara

C/Han(n)uk(k)ah: Latkes, It’s What’s For Dinner

Latkes. Potato pancakes. The traditional food for most Jewish-Americans when it comes to C/Han(n)uk(k)ah. We eat them pretty much at this time of the year only. Not sure why. Well, other than the fact that they’re fried in oil, are time consuming to make when done ‘the long way’, and will be the main downfall of the Jewish people due to heart disease because these are just so delicious and you need to eat a bazillion of them.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You can make them low fat. Just use that cooking spray stuff. Nope. No can do. There was no cooking spray back in the day. The Jewish people were not uplifted by a 10-calorie spray version of GOD. Besides, cooking spray can’t make latkes crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked on the inside. And when you only eat something a few times a year it’s good to remain true to the tradition.

The recipe I use is the same one my mom used, my grandma still uses, that she got from her mother. Get the idea? It’s an old family recipe. And, like most other Jews, it’s likely identical to the first 631,821 potato latke recipes that show up on Google. Except some insist the potatoes must be hand grated whereas others believe GOD had someone invent the Cuisinart solely for this food.

I used to grate the potatoes by hand. My grandmother still does. I’m just so modern. You know, one of the hip, cool kids. Besides, I’ve been grating bushels of potatoes by hand since I was about 7 years old, I’ve paid my dues!

Potato Latkes

6 medium potatoes, shredded
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 eggs, lightly beaten
A few pinches of salt
2 Tbsp flour or flour substitute if you need Gluten-Free
Lots and lots of oil, vegetable or canola will do

Peel the potatoes, shred them using your preferred method. Combine eggs, salt, onion, and potatoes and combine thoroughly. Sprinkle flour/flour-sub on top of mixture and stir to combine. Now fry them up!

Heat the oil in the pan but don’t let it smoke. Drop dollops (whatever size you want, but 2 Tbsp aprox.) of the potato mixture in the hot oil and flatten out just a bit. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes, and then flip. Remove to paper towel lined cookie sheet and keep warm in 250 degree (F) oven.

It’s super easy. Only problem is that you’ll want a lot of these so you’ll be cooking for awhile. It’s so worth it though!

Now for the controversial part – Toppings: Applesauce or Sour Cream?

I’m an equal opportunity topping-er. I like both. I’m not into the controversy, really. People eat them the way they want. They’re so delicious I don’t have time to care what you put on yours because the more other people worry and speculate and discuss mean that I can eat more of these tasty golden latkes. Besides, I don’t use applesauce any way.

BabyGirl does not like apples very much but she loves pears. A few years ago Trader Joe’s carried Pear Sauce in large jars. We switched at that time. But then they discontinued the Pear Sauce and we mourned. And now, just two days ago I spotted Pear Sauce at Trader Joe’s. This time in the 4-pack lunch-cup size.  BabyGirl was so excited she just started filling our basket.

What’s up for the other crazy nights?

CycleGuy will be home so we’ll do the family dinner. I’m going to venture into making Sweet Potato Latkes and Apple Latkes. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

And while we’re on the subject of the Festival of Lights, leave me a comment and then head over to my friend Kim’s blog to enter her 8-days of Chanukah giveaways.

Also, check our my friend Laura’s post about Radio Free Hanukkah.

And, of course, you need perspective on what Hanukkah in the Deep South is like from the one and only Country Fried Mama.

Sara

The Hanukkah Grinch

photo credit: Chuck “Caveman” Coker

Hanukkah, or is that Hanukah or Chanukkah or Chanukah or Hannukkah or …. Whatever, I’ll write it C/hanu(k)kah and now everyone is happy, ok?  OK.  So now to the grinch.

In just about two weeks, C/hanu(k)kah will begin. The menorahs (or is that menorot? help a Jew out!) will be taken out and lined up. We have 3 hanukkiah that we use, although we have more. And we’ll put up a few decorations. I have some widow clings and a few banners and such. But I don’t go all out. You’re not going to see the Jewish version of the Osborne Lights around these parts any time soon.

For the past few years, BabyGirl has wanted to put up a giant blow up menorah or dreidel in our yard. A few neighbors put out decorations and lights as well as those blow up Christmas things you buy at Costco. Yes, “blow up Christmas things” is their technical name otherwise I wouldn’t be using it.

So we don’t do much decorating, much to the annoyance of BabyGirl. And I don’t go all out when it comes to gifts. On this, I claim Hanukkah purism. Hanukah is not a major Jewish holiday. It’s merely a festival that has morphed into a Jewish version of the secular gift-giving Christmas bonanza. Chanukkah celebrates the miracle of light that coincides with the rededication of the Second Temple.

Hanukkah is an important Jewish celebration. It never was and is not intended to be a gift giving holiday. Growing up, for my family, it was more a celebration of family and friends and the food. I would get small gifts, but nothing significant. Not like my friends who’d get the latest and greatest gadgets or clothing. My grandparents would usually get me one significant gift, usually a piece of jewelry that belonged to my my grandmother or one of my great-grandmothers. My mom usually got me clothes. Definitely something practical.

I never minded. And I never felt like I needed more. It was always so much fun just to make latkes and play dreidel and spend time being a family since my mom worked evenings for several years.

We’d always celebrate Hanukkah in our way. And then on Christmas we would go over to a family friend’s house and celebrate with them. That’s when I’d get gifts more like what my friends would get for Christmas.

Now I’m the mom. I’m the one who needs to share the Jewish tradition with BabyGirl and I’m totally torn between being a good Jew and being happy-fun mom. Somewhere in between is Jewish Grinch Mom and that’s where I feel I’m stuck. I’m the Hanukkah Grinch.

I’m totally into lighting the menorah and playing dreidel and singing the songs and eating the yummy latkes and jelly donuts. I love the ritual aspects of Hanukkah. I’m not so much into the crazy gift giving. And I’m really not buying into the idea of putting up an 8-ft blow up menorah in my front yard.

CycleGuy and I never went all out on the gift giving. And I never felt like I needed to. And up until about 2 years ago, BabyGirl just knew Chanukkah as we had celebrated. Then it all changed and BabyGirl started talking about wanting all kinds of decorations so that our house could be like those in our neighborhood. That’s when Jewish Grinch Mom comes out. I don’t want to put up lights and blow up things in the yard. I think it’s cool, sure. For someone else besides me.

Am I really a grinch? I love Hanukkah. I just don’t want it to become ‘Jewish Christmas’.

Sara