Because 8 days of Hanukkah + 12 days of Christmas = $$$.
Sometimes I think my Jewish husband just married me to get Christmas. I mean, I know he likes me. But the fact that I come with a tree covered in lights and the Sia Christmas album was a deal-clincher, I'm pretty sure.
Now that we are a family, we're among the fortunate ones (dare I say chosen?) who get to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas every year. And, reader? We love it. If you are at all a holiday person (and I am), it's so ridiculously fun to do both. It's basically a celebration salad and I am here for it.
We love mowing down latkes while whipping up cookies. We love lighting the candles while opening a flap on the Advent calendar. We love putting up a big tree while singing "I'm spending Hanukkah...in Santa Monica...by the seeeeeeeeeea!" at the tops of our lungs. It's especially fun when the holidays overlap, but even when they don't, it just makes the month of December that much more festive and joyful.
But there's one thing about celebrating both holidays that requires some strategery, as the kids say. And that's the present buying, which can very quickly spiral out of control. Eight nights of Hanukkah presents followed by home Christmas, followed by family Christmas, interlaced with friend Christmas and topped with stocking stuffers...Let's just say we needed to have a serious talk about how this was going to work.
But we figured out how to keep gift-giving affordable when you celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, and it's surprisingly simple.
Making Hanukkah gifts meaningful
Not every family gives Hanukkah gifts—until it got mixed up with the whole Christmas mishegoss it was not traditionally a gift-giving holiday. But if your Jewish family gives gifts for Hanukkah (whether that's every night or just on night 1 or 8) you of course are far from alone.
My husband grew up celebrating Hanukkah in a pretty low-key way, but with our decision to raise our daughter in both faiths, we've gotten intentional about Hanukkah and the beauty of its meaning: It's on all of us to help create light in dark places, by doing good deeds and keeping hope burning strong.
We want to help Hanukkah feel as special as Christmas for our daughter, so here's how we do it: We have a small celebration as a family each night—with one special sweet, treat or something to eat that links back to the holiday. Adults get one Hanukkah gift on the first night of the holiday. The kid gets one gift each night.
And just to make sure it's not a free-for-all of gift certificates and plastic toys, we try to keep Hanukkah gifts within a menu of reasonable but thoughtful options:
- Night 1: A toy
- Night 2: A craft
- Night 3: A book
- Night 4: Clothing
- Night 5: Something for their bedroom
- Night 6: Something we can all do together, like a game, an experience or a membership to a place we all like to go, such as a museum or a zoo.
- Night 7: Something that they can build or make something with: Art supplies, building blocks, a coding kit.
- Night 8: Something they really want, usually another toy.
Keeping Christmas from crushing your budget (and your joy)
My family is spread across the country, and so Christmas tends to be spread across a few weekends. Plus, because of my family's background and traditions, we've always observed Christmas in two parts: Christmas Eve is for opening presents from the family, watching It's a Wonderful Life and getting drunk ready for Santa, while Christmas day is for stocking stuffers from Santa, eating a big brunch and heading out a movie.
The gradual-but-relentless pace of Christmas can get pretty overwhelming though, even for kids. One year when my daughter was a toddler she looked up from the giant pile of presents under my mother's tree and dazedly asked, "Can do less Christmas?"
Grandparents are gonna grandparent, and we've made our peace with that. Your mileage may vary of course, and asking for experiences instead of gifts is a perfectly legit way to manage the holiday onslaught of stuff. But because we're mindful that holiday gifts are coming in through all the walls and windows thanks to the spectacular generosity of our loved ones, we limit Christmas gifts for our immediate family to the basic 4 gift rule—but with a twist:
- Something you want.
- Something you need.
- Something to do.
- Something to read.
"Something to do" is a variation on "something to wear" (which is the more-familiar third part of the 4 gift rule), and it's typically an experience gift like a fun family outing. Making a gift out of something to do will also probably feel more important than ever in 2020, when we've been simultaneously more bored and more busy than we ever thought possible.
I personally feel like 8+4 presents is plenty for any child, even if they are mostly moderately sized and/or experience gifts, and I've never seen anyone in my family complain about not having enough under the tree, or next to the menorah.
I think our "celebrate both" traditions will serve us well in 2020, too, when so many families are reconsidering their holiday must-haves and must-do's, and asking questions about what's truly important.
Because the biggest gift of 2020 might just be this: We made it. We're still here. Everything else is tinsel and candle wax.
Perfect treasures for a perfect Christmas + Hanukkah
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