Warm nights by the fire. Holiday music playing on the stereo. Hot cocoa and Charlie Brown on TV.
It makes me think of simpler, more caring times when life didn’t feel quite as complicated and confusing.
So when my kids were born I wanted to make Chanukah a special time for them. I wanted it to be exciting and fun and something they would remember when later life felt more complicated and confusing.
The best way I could think of doing that was with presents. Lots of them.
Chanukah is eight nights long so for eight nights my husband and I gave our kids presents.
It started off innocently enough. That first year we gave my daughter toys she already owned. We just rewrapped them.
The following year took a little more effort yet was still fairly simple.
But by the time my kids were nine and seven Chanukah was becoming, quite simply, a pain in the rear.
My husband and I would spend weeks searching for presents. And the presents got more expensive and elaborate with each passing year.
On top of it all, it just didn’t feel right anymore.
My kids had enough.
They didn’t need another electronic gadget. They didn’t need another set of Legos. They didn’t need one more craft kit.
They had enough.
And how could I teach them to value the earth and it’s precious resources or to resist the “got to buy more” urge if I was the one putting all that stuff into their precious little hands.
So when this Chanukah rolled around I knew I had to do something different.
Something that would bring back that feeling of simplicity and joy and caring and love. Something that didn’t center around more and more stuff.
And that’s when I came up with “Theme Chanukah.”
Every night of Chanukah would be a different theme. One night would be movie night. One night could be games night and favorite foods night and charity night.
We could spend time together. Play and laugh and eat together. We could share together and together we could reclaim what had slowly been slipping away with each passing year.
The following morning, with crossed fingers and eager excitement in my voice, I shared my idea with my kids.
I explained about making popcorn and having picnics and watching movies and playing games and before I could get all eight nights out, they were sold.
“Yeah,” said my daughter, “and we could get a scrapbook and we could each have a page in the scrapbook and we could decorate the pages one night and then every time we did something together as a family we could decorate another page in the scrapbook”
My son asked, “And can we have an ice cream night and make ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and sprinkles?”
Because after everything, kids want connection and love and fun just as much as we do.
And sure, we’ll throw in a present or two. But it won’t be the focus and it won’t be the reason. It’ll be one more way we share our love and give each other joy.
Now for the first time in years I’m not doing any crazy holiday shopping. I’m not making mad dashes to the stores trying to find just one more thing. And I’m finally just relaxing into the pure joy of family, and love and the miracle of light.
Daphne can be found on her Site, Facebook and Twitter