When you imagine exciting Hanukkah gifts for eight-year-old boys, do clear lucite bookends come to mind? No? Ok. What if I told you those bookends could also be personalized with a child's name written on them in bubble paint?
That's what my brother and I got one year and I think we handled it pretty well. Which is to say we stormed the kitchen and demanded Mom produce something better from the bag of “real” gifts she surely had stashed away somewhere in the house. We were like the Maccabees rising up against the Greeks — which is apparently the true story of Hanukkah. If we’d known our history, maybe we would have deserved a “real” gift. But we were just spoiled brats. Eventually Mom was too exhausted to fight anymore, and she told us where she’d hidden the rest of the presents. Then she suggested we take the remaining Hanukkah candles and shove them up our bookends.
I’d like to say I displayed some restraint that night. That, like the oil in that ancient Menorah, my Hanukkah gifts miraculously lasted for eight crazy nights. But really I opened everything in a cool two minutes during a frantic search for a yellow toy car that transformed into a robot. And like anyone who’s ever binged, I felt sick after.
In my defense, I was just a kid who wanted what everyone else was getting that time of year. I didn’t know -- or care -- that gifts weren’t part of the original Hanukkah package. You know what was? Giving gelt, Hanukkah money. And since I’m still feeling a little guilty (gelt-y?) about my childish indiscretions, gelt is what I’m giving to mark the Festival of Lights this year, which starts at sundown Saturday, December 24 and ends the evening of Sunday, January 1.
Need help planning your own new traditions? Or shopping for last-minute (non-lucite) presents? Reboot’s Re/New Your Hanukkah page has more than eight ideas for things you can watch, read, listen, nosh, play and give to others to this season, plus IRL experiences happening in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Chicago.
Mickey Rapkin is a journalist and author whose books include Pitch Perfect and Theatre Geek. He is a member of the Reboot Network.