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Chanukah and its Wrappings

When I was a kid, my parents gave me Chanukah presents each night. I know that many people don't do it that way. They consider it the height of consumerism to give out eight gifts, one every night. But it's how I grew up and it's precious to me.

I'm an only child, and the nights of Chanukah were a special and intimate time with both of my parents. My father would like the Chanukah candles, proud to say the blessing. We would often play dreydl and eat potato latkes. And of course, the presents.

It wasn't so much about what was in the wrapping. Some of the Chanukah presents would be small, inexpensive things like a cute pair of socks or a few dollars. There were a few big presents. They gave me my choice and I'd survey the wrapped packages before choosing my gift for the night.

The presents were wrapped in newspaper. It wasn't so much that my parents were environmentalists. I think that they just felt it was ridiculous to spend money on paper that was just to be ripped into pieces and thrown into the trash. I very much agreed with them, always hating to throw away the beautiful ribbons from other relatives.

So my presents were wrapped in newspaper: the news of the day, and often the Sunday comics. It just seemed this was the obvious way it should be done.

Not so my husband. In his family, you buy wrapping paper from Costco. The idea of wrapping in newspaper is something between silly and profane.

This weekend, we had the conversation. A long-used stash of wrapping paper has run out. We need to wrap presents not just for my son but for our nieces and nephew. He suggested a trip to Costco.

I said, "Why don't we just wrap in newspaper?"

His expression said it all. The slightly wrinkled nose. The surprised eyes. The bemused smile.

Still, it meant one less trip to the store, one less thing to buy. He shrugged.

Things are a little more complicated in my house because unlike when I was growing up, we do not receive a regular daily paper. We get the Washington Jewish Week. It's not shaped like a big tabloid. The pages need to be taped together to be effectively used for presents. And there are no comics.

However, I did it. I wrapped the Chanukah presents in newspaper.

Once the presents were wrapped, I sat and imagined my nieces and nephew confronting these packages. Would they understand that very cool presents hide inside the texty pages of the Washington Jewish Week? Or would they raise their eyebrows like my husband did?

It's too late now. The presents are wrapped. And when we all gather to celebrate Thanksgiving and Chanukah on one special day together, I just hope that they'll remember not to judge a gift by its wrapping.

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3 Comments
3 Replies
  • Sarah Rivka Schechter
    December 5, 2013 (11:48 am)

    Good for you! You can always decorate the paper to make it look nicer. Actually I like giving people things in grocery bags that I’m reusing, especially the ones that say thank you, have a nice day, etc. Another idea is to unwrap gifts you receive carefully and save and reuse that wrapping paper, and save gift bags as well. A good rule of thumb is to save any sorts of materials you get even if you can’t think of an immediate use for them. When I was a kid I used to have a giant box full of scraps of material and I called it my “materials box.” I never had to spend a penny on school projects, and they were more eco-friendly too. I didn’t know the term at the time, but the things I made were “upcycled crafts.” These things make great gifts, too! Another idea is to write a story for someone and email it to them as a gift, so you don’t even have to worry about spending a penny on shipping! Or record a song. Gifts are great but you don’t have to spend money and use up lots of resources to give gifts.

  • Evonne Marzouk
    December 6, 2013 (10:15 am)

    Good points, Sarah – thanks!

  • Sarah Rivka Schechter
    January 29, 2014 (4:55 pm)

    You’re welcome! 🙂 Oops, I need to check this site more often….


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