By Harriet P. Gross
Chanukah presents are more an American custom than a religious one; it’s hard not to get caught up in the seasonal frenzy when our majority-culture friends, neighbors and co-workers are full of the annual spirit of giving.
So, give we do, too. But we needn’t overdo. Here are some budget-friendly suggestions — nothing more than $25 at the top end of your list.
This is a good time to take a look at the Dallas Jewish Community Center’s newly redone gift shop, The Source. It’s certainly just that for a selection of reasonably-priced items, starting with a boxed set of small glass dreidels, each little a bit different from its mates. At $7 for the quartet, these would make smart individual party favors, forever reminders of Chanukah 2009.
Of course, kids are the main focus of holiday presents. Gift a baby with a cuddly bear just about as big as s/he is, wearing a menorah-decorated sweater: $24.50. For older children, menorahs as well, but these are the real thing, with motifs to match their interests. Select sports for the boys — those with basketball or baseball candleholders are $18.95 and $25 respectively; the guy who hasn’t yet made up his mind rates one with every sport represented: $24.95. And for the budding ballerina: dance shoes do the light-lifting job, at $25.
But why should the little ones have all the fun? Mom, especially if she has some Russian heritage, will love brightly colored, matryoshka-style nesting dreidels: $20.99 for the whole stack. And Dad will loosen his own brightly-colored gift, a dreidel-printed tie ($25), as he sits down to a “serious” game of Texas Dreidel Poker ($21.95).
Ask Michelle Brown to show you more gift ideas when you visit The Source at the JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. Call 214-239-7121, take a peek at jccdallas.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A bit further north, Lone Star Judaica contributes to family and party fun with comic eyeglasses ($12.95) and a high plush hat ($24.95), both with menorah touches you have to see to believe! Then send a favorite mom into the kitchen in a Latke Lady apron ($21) to help the children with the contents of a Cookie Crafting Kit ($8.50) that includes everything except butter and an egg. Three different holiday cutters produce a dozen delicious treats to be decorated with frosting and colors (provided, of course) using brushes (also provided). The very youngest will be safely busy with their soft Chanukah Counting Book ($14.99) and Sesame Street Chanukah DVD ($21.99).
Finally, for the sake of nostalgia and real savings on gift costs, pick up a replica (or several) of those old brass-colored tin menorahs that everyone used in the days before Judaica became an art form: just $2.99. (Never mind that the originals once sold for a dime; that was in the real “olden days!”)
Harold Wolf will happily help with your shopping at 6911 Frankford (northeast corner of Hillcrest). Call 469-467-4759, visit lonestarjudaica.com or e-mail email@example.com.
For those less holiday-specific, more personal gifts, please the ladies with Hanky Panky panties ($18) at Merge on Royal Lane (214-987-1606, www.shopmerge.com), or owner Lisa Cobb’s signature lotions and creams ($20 to $25) from Luxury on Lovers (214-352-8800, www.luxuryonlovers.com). And for the men: Write Selection in Preston Royal Village (214-750-0531, www.writeselection.net) will provide you with Jack Daniels Whiskey Praline Pecans (just $12.50 — yum!).
Still, it’s Chanukah we’re concentrating on now. So if you’re lucky enough to be invited somewhere for potato pancakes, you might get there early with Lone Star Judaica’s “latke shapers” to make the holiday’s signature dish into dreidels and menorahs. But at least come on time, and prepared with the proper gift for the host or hostess doing the frying: a stainless-steel spatula sporting these six cut-out letters: L-A-T-K-E-S (just $5.99 at both Lone Star and The Source). (And if it’s a latke party, how about a handful of kippot from ZaraMart to please all the environmentally concerned among us? They look like suede, but are actually made of recycled cardboard, come in a variety of colors and sell for only $2.50 each. Go to www.a-zara.com for full information.)
Or you might consider this, or something similarly edible, suggested by one local Chanukah giver: “I know someone who would just love a $25 gift certificate for whitefish salad!” Visit any local deli for that!
By Harriet P. Gross