Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
It’s that time of year again. In the weeks before Hanukkah, my extra mental energy always goes to gifts.
I have a large recombined family, so even with my “family-only” policy of holiday gift giving, I have plenty to think about. Add that to the fact that over half of my closest friends and family were born between November and February, and this time of year is one that regularly tests my creativity – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ever since childhood, I’ve loved giving gifts. My family indulged me through years of bad clay models, pottery painting, and other Klutz® craft kits. Over the years, I like to think that I’ve honed the art of giving a thoughtful gift. I spend a lot of (okay, maybe too much) time scanning gift guides across the Internet. Every time I travel, I keep my eyes peeled for small stores that might sell a unique item for my family and friends. And while Hanukkah is definitely not about the gifts, I find very few things as satisfying as watching someone I love open the perfect gift. Knowing I can make them feel happy, loved, and seen for who they are – to me, that’s part of what makes this time of year so special!
So without further ado, here are Rachel’s Tried and True Gift-Giving Strategies.
Books, Carefully Curated. Every year, at least half of the people in my life get books related to their interests. Some of the best ones I’ve read recently include:
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (for the person who needs to be up on the best new fiction – I couldn’t put this down)
- I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This by Nadja Spiegelman (a heartbreakingly beautiful account of mother-daughter relationships)
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (for the politically engaged friend – this very-true account made me cry on a plane)
- Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker (I’m giving the New York version of this book, and there’s also one for San Francisco)
Local Eats. I always love to give friends and family local delicacies. When I lived in North Carolina, I would send them local jams, nut butters, or barbecue sauces that they couldn’t get where they were. One year, I even flew a pie down to my mom on winter break! Wherever you live, it’s sure to have some great local food producers.
Choose Charity. Another foolproof idea is to donate to a charity in honor of someone you love. I especially like to buy annual memberships – it helps the organization run while providing your loved one with some benefits. Another great gift is a subscription to a magazine or news publication – it’s a gift that keeps giving all year long!
Handmade Happies. I’m an avid knitter, and while I can’t hand-make every gift, I always like to give a few hats and scarves. Whether you’re a painter, a chef, or anything else, don’t underestimate the benefit of the gift that comes straight from the heart. This goes for the “quality time” gifts as well; I’m living far from home these days, but the birthday hikes I used to go on with my dad are some of my most special memories.
At the end of the day, the best gifts to give and get are the ones built on shared experiences and interests. The most important thing is not the price or size of the gift, but the way it shows someone that you care about them. If you need more gift giving ideas, MyJewishLearning.com has plenty!
Good luck with your gift-giving, and Happy Hanukkah!