We have a tradition of giving gifts each night, even though they are small gifts sometimes. However, a few years ago we started a tradition of giving up gifts on one night. In exchange, the boys and I have typically gone to the mall, picked out a "Giving Tree" name or similar thing, and the boys are expected to help me pick out a gift for another little boy their age who does not have the same kind of holiday we have. This year, with all the snow and the travel and the upsets, we did not get to the mall in time. So instead, we're going to donate in the kids names to the Boys and Girls Club to buy a membership for some deserving child. The best part is the kids really understand how lucky they are and why its important to give up material things for that one night. It feels good when your kids learn and share your values.
A couple years ago, when I was explaining the concept to Son #1, his eyes lit up and he said, excitedly, "ooh, ooh, I know Mom! I know someone who is poor that we could give presents to." "Really?" I asked. "Yeah - Roberto! Roberto's family is poor. Let's give presents to him." Roberto is his best friend. Roberto's family is not poverty level, though they do struggle to make ends meet. However, I reminded him that we'd probably get a gift for Roberto anyway, as they were friends, and that it was probably more important to give to someone else who was more in need. But at least he was thinking.
We also have a tradition of having "clues" for one or more of the nights. Its a tradition we borrowed from DrChako's dad (may he rest in peace). The kids don't just get their presents; the have to solve riddles and puzzles and search for more clues and puzzles around the house. Its so popular that my littlest guy wanted to do it every night. And only for him. He was excited to help make a clue for Daddy, as the clues are typically a poem that rhymes, and right now in kindergarten, they are learning rhyming. The kids had a ball with their clues, even helping our au pair with her clues when she didn't understand English slang.
One of son #2's clues was hidden on the bottle of chocolate syrup in the refrigerator. The instructions said ". . . this clue can be found, on something that makes your milk turn brown." He came down into the kitchen, and went straight to the pantry. I was puzzled and I heard him say "hmmm . . . no clue". I asked him where he was looking and he brought out the box of Cocoa Puffs. "These turn my milk brown, Mom." Point taken.
The last night of Hanukkah is usually the night of big gifts. Little guy got a Spiderman digital camera (he's actually pretty good at taking pictures). Au pair got a gift certificate to help her decorate her new home (she gets married in 5 months). DrChako got a day of racing school with a Lotus Elise (you'll have to ask him what he thinks of it). And Son#1 got a cell phone.
I've never seen a kid so happy. He texts all the time. I found him watching TV this morning in just his boxers and the lanyard with the phone around his neck. Boxer and a phone - all you need to feel fully dressed, apparently. When he went down to breakfast this morning, he called me upstairs. Just to say he missed me. Because calls to the family are free. Last night, we went to our favorite Japanese steak house for Teppanyaki. I get a text in the middle of dinner. "Dad thinks our chef is a Ninja." I'm alternately amused and rolling my eyes, if this is just a preview of what is to come.
Best part is that after we light the candles and say the prayers (which Son #2 has finally memorized), its hugs and kisses for all. This year, unlike last year, we got to do it all together as a family, and for that, I am grateful.
Now excuse me, I need to finish a few things up before I can go to DSW and spend my new gift certificate on SHOES!!!!!