Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m part of a circle of friends who’ve traded holiday gifts for decades.
Eventually we stopped giving them to all the children too, but it would
feel very strange, even socially uncomfortable, to skip Hanukah gifts
for the core friends. This summer I gently suggested donating our gift
money as tzedakah instead; I could see the “Grinch” tag aimed my
way. These are people who need not one thing. They’re all downsizing:
from purging their closets of work clothes after to retiring to moving
into a condo. Even at the risk of social stigma, I feel torn between
sending an email saying, In your honor I have made a Hanukah
donation to [our synagogue or some non-profit] and buying some silly
token gift to demonstrate that we should have outgrown this ritual.
You want a vote?
Not A Grinch
Dear Not A Grinch:
There are so many people who are in true need that spending any
money at all on useless consumerism feels more wasteful than silly. If
I ran your world, I’d stick with your tzedakah plan for half of your
budget and organize a group excursion (as in “the gift of a collective
experience”) with the other half.
Start with an email that says roughly, I know we’re all downsizing, so I
have decided not to gift “things” this Hanukah. But I love you all and
want to honor the depth and duration of our friendship. In our
collective names I have made a donation to [insert name of Jewish
organization that serves the needy, say Jewish Federation]. I’m also
proposing that we pool our resources and start a new annual holiday
tradition of an excursion to somewhere wonderful, for example,
theater tickets or a day trip to somewhere fun. Let’s find new ways to
make the world and our psyches better. There may be some grumbling
about Grinch-iness, but your true friends won’t tell you about it.