The Eight Themes of Chanukah


    The best part of having Chanukah in November this year: I have yet to hear a syllable of Christmas jealousy from my kids and I've already planned out themes for all eight nights.

    So this is how we do Chanukah in House Raphael:

    First, I hear 230 complaints about why we can't celebrate Christmas. However, with Chanukah in November this year, I haven't heard a syllable about it yet.


    Right now, my two boys are very excited that Present Season is starting so early. Ezra spent an amount of time I am embarrased to document flipping through the Target catalog, circling, well, everything, and writing his name next to it. Maxon has yet to give up his aggressive grassroots guerilla marketing campaign for an iPhone.

    I do try to temper the massive "I Want" machine activated by this time of year, but my kids have grandparents. Three sets. That's three nights slotted for grandparent presents (and presents from their cousins, aunts and uncles). On those nights, they don't receive presents from my husband and I. The remaining five nights that we light candles in our home have themes.

    I've been doing themes for the last several years. My girlfriend does it this way also, and I've occasionally borrowed some of her themes. I've found that it helps me stay organized and reined in.

    The themes have changed as the years have passed to keep up with the things the kids enjoy. The first night, they each get a present that I would consider more substantial than the others. We call that "Big Present" night. This year, I also have Lego night, family game night, book night and tzedakah night.  

    Lego night and book night are self-explanatory. Game night could entail giving board game gifts, playing a game we already own, or going out to a fun activity together as a family. 

    The charity for tzedakah night changes every year, but the theme remains the same. Instead of giving gifts, we talk about a cause we're supporting, read about it and dig into the allowances to give. We also always do a closet and toy cleanout. 

    This fall, my husband and I asked the kids what they would like to support.  When I first asked Maxon, I think he misunderstood me.

    "Um, some sort of website? Or video game?"

    Websites with autoimmune diseases? Starving video games in Africa?

    I explained further what I meant. And he didn't hesitate. Which made me want to kvell to someone.

    "Kids with mean parents," he said.

    Ezra resisted the idea of giving to charity with a little more oomph. But after talking about a few ideas, he chose abused animals. Maxon liked that idea also. We sealed tzedakah night. And last week, I locked in the presents and hid them in a place I won't name.

    So now, before December even starts, before Thanksgiving, even, whatever chazzerai that this season brings is over for me. And it feels pretty good. Though I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they start asking about Christmas.