Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thinking About Hanukkah

I was reading Abby's post about Xmas and started to post a long comment.  Then I realized the best way to do justice to it would be as a post of my own.

So, what's the deal with Hanukkah?  It isn't really a major holiday in the religious sense, although it seems to be becoming bigger all the time as a lot of Jewish parents try to counter the influence of Xmas, which always falls out within 2 or 3 weeks of Hanukkah.  Religiously, it doesn't rank up there with holidays like Passover or Sukkot.  They're all 8 days long but none of the days of Hanukkah is a Yom Tov (a holiday with restrictions similar to Shabbos).  Of course, there's always a Shabbos during Hanukkah (duh, considering that it's 8 days long) but Pesach and Sukkot have a Shabbos too, in addition to 2 Yom Tov days at the beginning and the end.  Those holidays are also freakishly expensive, just for food.

Hanukkah, on the other hand, is pretty easy foodwise.  I buy 10 lbs of potatoes, some applesauce, some sour cream and a couple of dozen sufganiyot [jelly donuts] and I'm good to go.  Everybody comes over for latkes and sufganiyot one night, we have dreidels [4 sided tops, used in a game] and chocolate gelt [coins].  We all light Hanukkah candles, sing a couple of songs and open a few presents.

Ah, presents.  So, how is Hanukkah different from Xmas then?  First of all, people generally only give to their kids, not to all their friends, relatives, service people, etc.  Second, a lot of folks don't give gifts.  They give gelt, the metal kind as opposed to the chocolate.  Some give a dollar a night, others $1 on the first night, $2 on the second and so on.  Sound expensive?  Doing it the second way adds up to $36 per child and multiples of 18 are all significant because 18 is the numerical equivalent of chai [life].

When my big kids were little I used to give actual gifts, but I usually held it to under $5 for all but the first and last nights.  I'd give about a $10 gift the first night and finish up with one around $20.  Even that is a maximum of $60 per child.  How many people spend that little for Xmas?  I see folks lining up with Playstations and skateboards and CDs and giant Lego sets and Barbie Dream Houses, ad infinitum.  And the kids don't get one big gift, they get a bunch of fairly big ones.  My nightly gifts were more like cool stocking stuffers.  I think it's more fun to get it spread out over 8 nights though, than to get them all at once.

What do we do now, when there are 3 adult kids, 2 partners, a roomie, 1 little kid and 3 grandkids?  Well, we don't really give to the grown ones.  We do a modified gift giving where every adult (including me and Hubby) picks a name and gets that person something because the kids like to do that.  The adult kids each give a gift to their little sister and we started off giving her and the grandkids a gift per night, but it's getting difficult.  First of all, the number of grandchildren (Thank G-d) keeps increasing.  We're up to 3, with a 4th expected early next year.  Second, they all have a ridiculous amount of stuff already.  Third, prices keep going up.  You just can't get the same kind of things for $5 now that you could 20 years ago.  And I'm not crazy about going to the dollar store to buy a bunch of cheap junk just so they each get something every night.  I don't want to give them a piece of plastic that will break tomorrow or just be clutter in a bin somewhere.  I like giving them things I know they'll like and actually use or play with.

A year or two ago we started giving the grandkids less, maybe 3 or 4 or 5 gifts.  Combined with what their folks were giving them, they still had at least one gift to open per night.  Dear Child has continued to get nightly ones from us.

What's going to happen this year?  I don't really know yet, but I think it's time to sit down and figure it out.  I'm probably looking at somewhere between $200 and $300 all told if we do things as usual, and then Dear Child's birthday rolls around at the beginning of January.  And that will be another $200 or so, including the party.  Let's see.  I don't really have an extra $500, so it could be interesting.  There's just over 5 weeks until Hanukkah and I get paid 3 times before then.  I don't think I'll have an extra $100 to put away off each cheque, given that I'm already putting away $106 from each one to pay Home Depot at the end of December.  I'll have to do what I can and see where that leaves me.  I have a $5 certificate from Best Buy and I should check my Ipsos account to see if I have enough points for a reward card from somewhere useful.  I'll plan to write a followup post when I get things figured out a little more.

1 comment:

Abigail said...

Hey Shevy,

I grew up in a fairly agnostic household. Mom grew up Methodist, Dad grew up Jewish. But we never went to temple/church, so mainly holidays were just about giving/receiving gifts. Which probably sounds horribly materialistic, but I'm not talking about rampant consumerism. Just there was no religious background to either holiday, as far as celebrations were concerned.

I wish we would all calm down a little about the holidays. It's ludicrous how much most people spend on the holiday. Frankly, I'm a little sheepish and we are only spending about $175. Of course, that's mainly thanks to the rewards points, which let me get a $200 PSP bundle for free.

For the most part, I grew up that you get one big present for Christmas and the rest are little things. It still adds up, I think. But I also grew up thinking that a $50 present was the "big" present.

As you said, it gets harder and harder to get affordable gifts, as the market floods with expensive gadgets that advertisers convince kids they have to have.

I think maybe Christmas-celebrators should do the whole 12 days of Christmas. Without the weird presents named in the song. If each present has to correspond to a particular day, we'd be more aware of how much we had already bought, which might lower spending.

It drives me crazy because you know this year they'll once again predict that Christmas shopping will be terrible and low, and most people will still go out and overspend anyway. They did it last year, they'll do it again.

Now I'm just grumpy and it's not even anywhere near the Christmas season! I guess it's a good thing that I'm very nearly all bought up and won't have to face too many crowds.