Yom Tov – Hanukkah

Question:  How do different Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah throughout the world?

Answer: Hanukkah is basically celebrated the same all around the world.  We say the blessings and light the Hanukkiah, and eat foods that have been cooked with oil, such as Latkes and Sufganiot (jelly donuts) to remember the miracle.  I think the dreidel game is universally played, as well.  As far as I know, however, the United States is the only place where children routinely get presents on Hanukkah!

Question:  My brother is totally opposed to the custom of giving gifts to adults for Hanukkah. He believes there is no religious significance to doing it and if done at all is only for kids.What is the religious viewpoint on this and is Hanukah gift giving only for kids in your opinion? Thank you and have a nice holiday.

Answer: There is a Jewish custom of giving “Hanukkah gelt,” small gifts of money.  Originally, this might have been only for children, but there is no specific religious prohibition of giving gifts to adults, as well.

The fact is, in the early history of Christmas, gift giving (if there was any) was probably also restricted to children, and may have been linked to the gifts given to baby Jesus.  We live in a commercial world, and that has affected the Christian celebration of Christmas.  It has also affected our celebration of Hanukkah.  This is neither good nor bad — there is nothing inherently wrong with giving gifts, to either children or adults, unless the gift giving obscures the real mitzvah behind the celebration.

This is my opinion — as I said, there is no specific religious teaching of which I am aware prohibiting gift giving.