Chanukah and Gift Giving

For Jews around the world, Chanukah is marked by lighting candles on the menorah for eight nights, eating latkes and spinning the dreidel. But with the holiday’s start, many Jewish Americans are focused on another tradition: gift-giving.

Chanukah celebrates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem around 200 B.C., and how a small amount of oil miraculously lasted for eight nights.  As the story is described in the first and second Books of Maccabees rather than the Bible, Chanukah is deemed less important religiously than other holidays like Passover, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the holiday gained some traction in the U.S.

By the early 1900’s, American Jews had become accustomed to seeing Christmas gift giving flourish. Not wanting their children to feel left out as their peers received presents every December, Jewish parents adopted the gift giving custom, creating joy for their children on Chanukah.  Evidence of the shift can be seen in Yiddish-language U.S. newspapers from the 1920s, which would advertise the giving of gifts in honor of Chanukah.

With the tradition of gift giving at Chanukah ingrained in our Jewish culture, let me introduce you to the tradition of giving a Chanukah gift to Temple Beth El’s Chai Tribute Fund. Your gift can be given to honor, provide well wishes, or memorialize friends and loved ones.  And if you’re a Chai Club member, you’re eligible to provide recommendations to the Chai Club Board for expenditures on specific projects, equipment, or other needs that benefit TBE and the membership!  You can make a gift to TBE’s Chai Tribute Fund online at or contact Lisa Bennett in the temple office. On behalf of the Chai Club Board, I want to wish you a joyous Chanukah, and good health and happiness in the New Year!