Preparing for Hanukkah

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Hanukkah (however you would like to spell it) is early this year and the Black Friday deals began early as well. The challenge as always is how NOT to make Hanukkah about the gifts and the pressure is on. This does take planning and you can do it alone or with family and/or friends.

Here is the process:

  1. Take a piece of paper or do it on your computer.
  2. Make four columns:
    • Night of Hanukkah with the day/date
    • Plans for the night, for example: coming to the J for the lighting, going to a family gathering, soccer game (so the night is shorter to celebrate), etc.
    • Type of gift — some like to designate a book night, a clothing night or a game night, etc.
    • MOST IMPORTANT COLUMN: Tzedakah plan!
      • Collect gently used clothing, toys or books and put in a collection box.
      • Take food to the JFS Food Bank.
      • Create tzedakah boxes (as many as you would like), decide on who will get the money and start adding money.
      • Make cookies and bring them to the police or fire station.
      • More and more ideas — need eight nights of giving!
  3. Now here is the last step after Hanukkah — evaluate, add changes or ideas, MAKE IT A TRADITION!

Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t give or receive gifts — we all like gifts! However, giving is even more satisfying!

One more thing as your prepare for Hanukkah — do some learning! What are some things you don’t know about the holidays, what are some new recipes you can try, can you find traditions from other countries or times in the past? Often we think of a tradition as something that has been going on for a long time. As a longtime camp director, I know we have done something once, then suddenly everyone believes this is the way it has always been done and we must continue (I have also tried many things that just didn’t catch on and it is easy to drop since it is not a tradition). So here is the next part of the getting-ready-for-Hanukkah challenge: Plan for the first annual (fill in the blank). If it works, great; if not, there is always next year! And one more thing, share your ideas!

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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