Chanuka Gifting

P1110022Philosophically, I am opposed to giving gifts on Chanuka.  I have no problem with Christmas for Christians, but I do get upset with Jews whose insecurities lead them to feel they need to compensate, by turning Chanuka into a mini-Christmas.  A child whose family celebrates Sukkos by building and decorating a sukka will not feel like he’s missing out by not having a Christmas tree (l’havdil); a child who makes and gives shalach manos and dresses in costume on Purim will not feel deprived on Halloween.   I’m no Grinch, and there is nothing wrong with a token, modest gift or gelt to help a young child associate a Jewish holiday with a sense of joy, but an over-the-top present for each night of Chanuka?  Ick.

Which is why it is weird that I went to such effort to give gifts to my grandchildren this year.

Yep, I was one of those nutcases who patronized Wal Mart on Black Friday.  The thing is, in rural New England it’s not the riotous free-for-all, sickening survival-of-the-fittest escapade that occurs in other cities, where people wait out in the cold for hours before the store opens and then attack one another in their quest for the limited supply of bargain-priced gifts.  There are no massive lines or outdoor queues.  It’s orderly, it’s polite, and it’s friendly. (“After you!”  “No, it’s okay, you were here first!”)  Bargain-wise, I  did well.  Really, really well!  It was fun.  And it was definitely worth it.

But why, only recently, have I felt this need for Chanuka gift-giving?  Blame it on the grandmas!

Both my mother and mother-in-law a”h were very into Chanuka gift extravaganzas.  In a Very. Big. Way.  Even though I was philosophically opposed to it, and it made me feel somewhat embarrassed and uncomfortable, I realized that it brought both our mothers and their grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) great joy as both givers and recipients.

And now our mothers are gone.

It sounds funny, but I gave my grandchildren gifts not so much for the kids’ sakes, but for our mothers, as their representatives and as a memorial to them. It’s also a bit of a guilt offering,  because I never really expressed appropriate gratitude to our mothers for their efforts in shopping, shlepping, gift wrapping, and ensuring that each child had just the right present; I was more concerned with religious dogma than expressions of love.

I did reap nachas at the grandkids’ happiness when they liked their Wal Mart Super Specials, but mostly I felt, in some strange way, that I was honoring my mother’s and mother-in-law’s wishes, and that they were smiling down on us from shamayim.

Happy Chanuka!  P1110070

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