Wow, can you believe we’re already halfway through Chanukah?
The kids spent two days before Chanukah decorating the house with Chanukah themed shapes. We have dreidels hanging from our dining room chandelier, a large menorah and dreidels adorning the front door, and snowflakes in the window. A day ahead we took out the menorahs and moved around some living room furniture – almost all of the kids light their own menorah, so we need a six foot table in front of the window to accomodate everyone (and that’s atill pretty squishy!).
My mother spent Shabbos with us, then my in-laws joined us for Saturday night and then again on Sunday night (when we had a surprise birthday dinner for dd15). We went to friends on Saturday night after our parents left, and tonight we enjoyed a quiet family evening – we’ll be having friends over for dinner tomorrow night and then spending the next night with other friends.
My kids have been busy buying/making things for each other and for friends and relatives – I took them to a floral design workshoplast week where five of them made lovely floral centerpieces. They’re small, with a floating tea light in a glass cup in the center. I hinted to them that dh and I would appreciate having one to put in our bathroom.
We’re again using the fabric gift bags that I made last year of green taffeta and black velvet. They worked out so well last year- they looked festive and elegant, and there was no messy cleanup after each present was opened. Last year when I gave my mother my gift, I had to disappoint her and tell her she couldn’t keep the bag! Dh’s father had a similar reaction this year.
I don’t make myself crazy looking for presents. I keep an eye out for things that gifts that would be appropriate, then put them to the side. In addition to that, if there’s something a child needs and I buy it around this time of year, I’ll put it to the side and also give it for Chanukah. This can be something small or big, but they all enjoy getting it as a ‘gift’. And I don’t feel that they have to be bought brand new, at retail prices, either! What’s more important to me is that it’s something the child will appreciate and use.
An example is the Shabbos yarmulkes I bought for a couple of the younger boys, which they were given before Shabbos candle lighting on Friday. New Shabbos shoes for ds16 were also given then so he could wear them to shul. I know it sounds boring but our children are all appreciative for what they receive; my ds3 spontaneously thanked me several time for his new yarmulke, and tonight was so happy about new tzitzis! I’ll even give socks or underwear one night if I happen to have them!
This year I took dd13 and dd15 each shopping to choose what they wanted, since I didn’t want to guess about their tastes. My kids enjoy thrift store shopping as much as me, and that’s where we headed first. Dd15 found great quality boots that she liked (like new, selling for $70 retail but we paid 3.50 ), ds13 wanted a poncho (not for rain, the fashionable ones you wear on Shabbos) and found something she really liked for $8. I got brand new boots for dd9 – she has two pair of boots, but neither are waterproof – so I got her good snow boots with the tag still on them (yes, from the thrift store).
Also from the thrift store I bought a couple of shrink wrapped science kits (can’t remember the company this minute, but they’re good ones), a set of toy construction tools for ds3 in the original packing, a gorgeous solid wood toy train for ds2 (it has five parts, and were giving him one car each night), and an origami kit for ds7. At the annual library book sale I got books for ds10 and dd9 from their favorite series -sometimes people donate books to the library to sell, so you can get books that have no signs of wear and no library stickers. These books were brand new books in a series they love – .50 each; we gave it to them tonight and ds10 kept asking me how much I paid, since they’re expensive hardback versions and he knows I wouldn’t pay $25 for a book – I didn’t tell him, of course ). I got a couple of stationary sets for the older girls. I estimate for everything (including the boots and shoes) that I paid less than $40, which is pretty good when you consider that almost everything I bought was new in the wrapping or like new. I spent more than that on new socks and yarmulkes for them!
Anything we give them is supplemented by gifts from grandparents and siblings. Again, everything is kept simple, which allows us to focus more on our family traditions as well as what holiday is actually about!