How to Buy Hanukkah Gifts

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Tell a non-Jewish kid about Hanukkah, and watch his eyes light up: "You get presents for eight days in a row? What an awesome deal!" However, there are very few Jewish households where kids receive eight Christmas-sized presents for eight days running. Usually, the gift-giving protocol skews one of two ways: a big (Christmas-grade) gift at the start of the holiday, or eight smaller gifts throughout its course. Confused yet? Here's a quick guide.

  • Stick to a budget. If you have three kids (or five nephews, or seven cousins), eight gifts per child can quickly put a dent in your credit card. Resolve to spend no more than $5 (or $2, or $10) per gift, and stick to your guns. Nothing will stir sibling rivalry more than one Hanukkah gift that's a little nicer and more expensive than another-even if you compensate by spending less on that child's other gifts.

  • Get your shopping done all at once. The last thing you want is to recreate the last-minute Christmas shopping rush every night for more than a week. If you have the time, try buying online and having a big box of gifts delivered to your home, where you can sort them out at your leisure. If you can't spare the shipping time, spend a couple of hours at a reputable chain store and fill up your shopping cart. It'll be exhausting, but worthwhile in the long run.

  • Mix things up a bit. It's not necessary for kids to receive a real, functional, TV-advertised toy for every day of Hanukkah. Many parents give their kids bags of gelt (foil-wrapped chocolate coins) one or two times, and assorted Hanukkah notions (like dreidels or dreidel-shaped candies) one or two others, or even the occasional one-dollar (or five-dollar) bill. This way, you can afford to splurge more on those days when you do give a toy.

  • If you'd like to follow the Christmas model, it's perfectly acceptable to give your kids a big toy at the start of the holiday (or, if you want them to behave and observe Hanukkah respectfully, the end). In some Jewish households, celebrating Hanukkah this way makes up for the lack of Christmas gifts, which many Jewish kids feel acutely at this time of the year.

  • Don't accept any whining. Just the same as with Christmas, receiving a Hanukkah gift is a privilege, and not a right. If your kids (or your sister's kids) complain about the presents they've received, remind them that many kids around the world, of many different religions, don't receive any presents at all. Ever.

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