Out Of The Mailbag – To YW Editor (Chanukah Presents)

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yw logo just ywn.jpgDear Editor,

I will keep this letter real short, to the point, and if you decide to post it – will allow my fellow “Chavrusas” in Yeshivaworld to discuss it!

I happen to notice that the poll on Yeshivaworld asked “Do you think that giving presents on Chanukah is “out of control”?

I could not help but notice, that when I wrote this letter (a few moments ago), 820 people voted, with 520 people voting yes, and 300 voted no.

When did Chanukah become the Yom Tov of gifts?

OK. You want to give your kids something? Fine. Give them one thing….two things. But this daily giving nonsense is out of control.

I thought “uvichukoseyhem lo seyleychu”, we should not go in their ways. I have nothing against Goyim here, but why must we copy them?

If anyone disagrees with this, let me just finish by saying that I was at a Chanukah party on Motzei Shabbos; when a woman (relative) came out of a room dressed as Santa to give out presents.

I’m done.

Thanks for the website, and may it continue to grow .


50 COMMENTS

  1. It aint that bad; giving your kids A present every so often can hurt. What better time to give it on a holiday!!
    Regarding “THEIR” holiday, for alot of them it’s a one time thing throught the whole year they get presents.
    P.S. To the writer, you should be writting about how weird YOUR RELATIVE is dressing up like SANTA
    that’s the sadest thing I’ve heard in a long time!!

  2. Shkoyach!

    Not much more to say!! I agree with you. I feel like Chanuka has turned into SANTAkah…
    There is an inyan to give gelt…. why not revert to the old minhag to do this.

    I visited a relative and they also gave presents every single night. i turned to them and asked them where the tree was!

  3. Great point. This is how we spoil our children and set a standard for them which many wont be able to achieve. It is interesting to note that our generation is the first generation according to documented studies that “Mostly Likely” will not surpass their parents in income/wealth. Th ereason being we were spoiled grwoing up; expected everything to come easy, and never worked hard enough. The parents are just as much at fault in this matter. You can drive the streets of brooklyn and see a 16 year old kid riding in a range rover and you know that here is a real issue.

    Can we please stop this crazy cycle???

  4. I would ask the more learned among the readership to provide a source for the giving of gifts on Chanukah. So far as I have been able to discern in my research, it was a custom that originated on American shores; the most I have heard as practiced in Europe was gelt, often dispensed as part of playing dreidel.

    Perhaps a proper approach would be to give a gift on Chanukah. And on Sukkos, and Pesach, and Shavuos, and other yomim tovim, to imbue children with a sense of excitement and anticipation. And to also fill the day(s) with equal measure of yiddeshe simcha, so children will have numerous reasons to anticipate upcoming yomim tovim.

  5. gelt was given to young children, so that they would attempt to determine its value by examining it by the Chanukah licht. this would give the parents an opportunity to teach the children that you cannot have hanah from the light.

    the concept of giving gifts on Chanukah and decorating the house is nothing more than a (usually) unconscious imitation of c***mas.
    Chanukah the holy day of our freedom from the ways of the nations. the Yetzer HaRah displaying again his immense abilities to cloud the Emes

  6. I don’t think the giving every night should be the issue, I think the giving of any gift on chanuka is something we’ve adopted from the culture around us.

    Giving a gift to children for all the yomim tovim is valuable, too.

  7. i grew up in europe and only got a small amount of gelt on chanukah but i know of some friends of mine who got presents… but nothing major!
    the whole inyan of presents on chanuka in america is blown up out of proportions: you have to give to all your relatives, and your neighbors and all your children’s teachers….
    i have just one question, WHY?

  8. Seems to me that the gift giving “minhag” is driven by economics, not religion. Businesses have made the economic connection of the temporal coincidence of Chanukah and Yom Eidom, and have capitalized on it with all the hype and advertising. And the mostly non-frum bought into it originally, and took on the minhag. Unfortunately, many of the frum are following the crowd, and thereby diluting the meaning of the Yom Tov.

    BTW, a man is mechuyav to give his wife (I think also children, but I could be wrong) gifts on the Shalosh Regalim, as part of vesamachta bechagecha.

  9. Chanukah was the time of ‘dimai chanukah’ or better known as chanukah gelt. Giving children money when they do not have the ability to shop on their own, walk to the stores etc. is an easier option. Many things have changed since matan torah and since Europe, including our homes, cars, technology, footware, entertainment, etc. Gifts are spoken about quite frequently in the gemorah, to add simchah to a chag.

  10. The Mekor for giving Chanukah Gelt is that since after the yevanim were gone they were not so used to learning b`tmidus the parents had to bribe them in the begining to continue learning. so decide for yourself if it is out of hand……….

  11. I think getting chanukah gelt/presents is okay just don’t take it too far!!! i’m still in school and when i asked one of my friends if she got chanukah presents she said that of course they got presents (for example: her little brother in grade 2 got a gameboy and a a new play station… hes only in grade 2!) as well they get a certain amount of money every night of chanukah ( i think $10) and by the end of chanukah they could do whatever they want with it!! As for getting rebbeim or teachers gifts, i think its a nice thought!! i’m sure the rebbeim and teachers appreciate it!!

  12. A young child should receive a little something on any Yom Tov. It’s part of how a child learns to rejoice.

    But making Chanukah a gift-giving holiday? This is despicable. To remake one of our holidays in the shape of one of theirs is bad enough, but Chanukah is about not giving in to the dominant culture!

    Let this practice of eight nights of presents cease. Let the children have one little thing because it’s a holiday. If one must spoil one’s children with extravagant gifts, do it on Purim. That’s our gift giving holiday.

  13. I happened to Yarshen from my Father Z”l a set of Rabbi Yitzchak Lesser’s Drashos. On November 27th, 1841 He gave a drasha in Philadelphia. He Condemned those who gave presents on gentile festivals, they should be reserved for Purim he stated. That was 167 years ago, nothing has changed.

  14. its a minhag hakadmonim to give chanuka gelt on chanukah, especially to children. i know we live in a goyasha society and we tend to equate our feelings and actions to that of our goyasha neighbors.we shouldn’t as our minhagim preceded theirs,lehavdel,and giving gifts to our loved ones makes their simchas yom tov greater. so give and be given.

  15. AMM,
    I’d love to see some of his drashos, where can I reach you to see if I can get a copy of some of his drashos?

    Our family used to do this as well and we put a stop to it as it was getting out of hand. The focus has to be on the meaning and mitzvahs associated w/ Chanuka.Once the presents take away from that ikkur, then they have no longer have a place as part of that yontiff.

  16. Giving gifts on Chanukah is derived from “their” holiday. I will take it a notch further. Why does everyone say ” a freiliche chanukah”? Shulchan Aruch does not mention that chanukah is a time to be merry and jolly. Chanukah is a time of thanks and praise to hashem. Yes we can be happy but the term a “freiliche” is derived from “we wish you a merry….”. I have asked many poskim and they all agree that there is no inyan of simcha on chanukah.The Rambam is the only posek that mentions simcha and we do not pasken like him
    On Yom Tove when there is an inyan of simcha one very seldom hear people say a freiliche yom tov. But Chanukah that falls out the same time of the year as Xmas everyone is giving presents and wishing each other a freiliche chanukah.

  17. Please allow me –> RE: Gifts for teachers/rebbeim on chanukah. The unfair practice of educators “grading” students in expectation of a “chanukah” gift is beyond despicable.
    We have raised 5 children and have seen the same pattern year after year for the past 25 years by EVERY TEACHER AND REBBI. So: when an educator teaches that gifts are “required” from the parents in exchange for good grades, what is the lesson for the kids? Does anyone honestly believe that kids dont know/understand that the “envelope” or “box” they are bringing to school contains a gift (monetary or other) for the educator? Kids are not stupid today, nor were they (we) yesterday.
    Next and related topic… kids who deserve better grades and dont get them to “punish” the parents for not giving enough or at all… dont hide this topic in the closet, it’s got everything to do with the original topic of this thread… $$$$ on Purim and chanukah. teachers should ONLY get gifts at the end of the year based on a fair grading system, not vice-versa.

  18. Jews have always been very good at retail and marketing. They did such a good job that goyim spend their last dollars on gifts for friends and famil during this time of the year.
    Unfortunately this talent has carried over to the frum community where retailers has made gift giving and chanukah parties more important then the candle lighting.
    My coworker went out and bought his son a $600 WII( an electronic game) because he had already everything else. Pretty sick.

  19. To #21, I saw this year in the sefer “Aleinu Lishbeiach” from Rav Yitzchok Zilbershtein, that the Steipler zt”l ( and perhaps Rav Elyashiv ybl”ch as well) would wish people Chag Sameach on Chanukah.
    Ayin Shom!

  20. As far as saying a freilechen chanukah, many people have the custom to wish a Lichtege chanukah instead.
    Teachers should most definitely be given something to show the parent’s hakaras hatov. And, I have never seen a teacher who changed or had a grade influenced because of a gift. (unless subconsiously, b/c bribery is a true thing that influences…)
    I have also been very bothered by the numerous ads from the most religious store-owners telling all “think chanukah…shop early…gift giving made easy…”
    In my home we give our children gelt (A Jewish custom) which they then use to purchase a toy. For the very young children, they can purchase the toy from us, right then!

  21. 22, this is the saddest thing I ever heard. I’m FFB, but pretty Americanized and we had quite a few children in school before we heard of the traditional Chanuka and Purim check. All the teachers got from us was a group gift, shalach manos, and our heartfelt thanks. We NEVER felt our children were shortchanged. Something doesn’t seem right, and I hope you find yourself in a situation where you truly feel in partnership with your kids’ mechanchim, mechanchos, and hanhalos.

  22. Presents on Chanuka is an imitation of the gentile holiday of Xmas with its gift giving.

    The Jewish tradition is to give “Chanukah Gelt.” (i.e. monetary)

  23. regarding chanuka gelt to techers, rabbeim and morohs most times it is considered tzdaka. and the mishna berura brings down that it is a minhag to give tzedaka on chanuka. I even saw in a teshuva in Mekadesh yisroel on chanuka that even if you are not sure if a rebbe has 200 zuz (aprox.$20.000)you can still give with maaser money

  24. Re #22,
    I have not posted on this site for a long time now, because it makes me fell like I am putting myself in the company of slightly deranged people. Post #22 confirms that feeling once again.

  25. re #22.

    As a mechanech, the concept of grading a child based on the parents chanukkah or purim “gift” is reprehensible. It is so absurd that I don’t actually believe that it is a common practice. You may find the odd exception.

    Rebbeim speak in the staff/coffee room. I have never heard any rebbe even mentioning such a grading system.

    So when you claim >>>, I am inclined to think that maybe it is more perception than reality.

    Rebbeim teach out of dedication and mesiras nefesh. It certainly is not for the low pay which we receive (usually late). No Rebbe I know (I know an awful lot of them) tells his talmidim that they have to bring him Channukah Gelt.

    Rather, the customary expressions of gratitude are appreciated and then we continue as before making no difference between those parents who give and those who don’t. The students who deserve good grades get them and the students who deserve not such good grades get them also.

    It has happened many times that I have received a thoughtful note and a small gift. In fact in many ways it is more valuable than a larger gift stuffed in an envelope.

    Basically what you are saying is that we should give a gift to the Rebbe at the end of the year if we like the report card our children bring home.

    Wishing you much nachas from all of your children!

  26. #22
    The unfair practice of educators “grading” students in expectation of a “chanukah” gift ….year after year for the past 25 years by EVERY TEACHER AND REBBI…

    …teachers should ONLY get gifts at the end of the year based on a fair grading system.

    HHHHMMMM, Sounds like someone has had a bad experience or two. Sounds like someone is angry… Come my friend, lets go into a padded room and talk thi out sensibly.
    If you were going to give a gift to the sixth grade teacher of say…chidl #3 that you had in school, what would the teacher get, based on your chid’s grades? I would venture to guess something close to zero. No? I would think that your child was not a top student. I would think your child’s teacher tried very hard to prepare a lesson to teach your child, and it did not work. Maybe that teacher went home at night and tried to prepare a lesson a little bi different so that your child will get it. Perhaps by this time your child heard you grumbling about that lousy teacher, and brought that attitude back to class. Perhaps that dear child of yours acted out in class and disturbed others and the teacher. Perhaps the teacher had loads of patience, and tried many different methouds to engage your chid in the learning possotively, but was not able to. Perhaps the teacher took time to try to figure out what would work, spoke to former teachers, to the principle, to the parents, to your chid, and still could not quite make it work. Perhaps your child did finally make some progress, through the many hours of work put in to your child. Perhaps the teacher gave a mark on your child’s report card based on his average marks for the year, and that was not so good, so he wrote a comment in the “comments” section, thoughtfully praising your child’s efforts, and improvement…
    Perhaps this same teacher has 27 other students besides your precious child, not all of whom are “just perfect”, maybe those same hours spent working to help you and your child understand their strengths and weaknesses, to prepare them for future tests, to encourage your child to try to be positive even though it is hard, perhaps the teacher also did that with some other children.
    Perhaps the teacher also prepared lessons, incentives, trips, siyumim, parties, extra credit projects for gifted students, marked tests and quizes, filled in rating sheets, filled in report card (try filling in 30 of those on a deadloine) came to PTA (try spending 3/4 hours back to back with parents, some not so happy, and keep smiling)
    I’m sure that you must have had some of the most rotten, obnoxious, mean, lousy teachers for your children over the years, (maybe not…) but to speak loike this about “EVERY TEACHER AND REBBI” is, perhaps, a bit extreme? Don’t you think ?
    I hope you are feeling abit better now, come I’ll take off your straight jacket…

  27. This is #10, forgot to reread my comment.
    If you give young children money, it does not serve much purpose to them SINCE they can not buy the present that they want by themselves, there is no way to get to the store to purchase the gift. (IOW the gift is like giving ‘gelt’).

  28. The discussion on whether parents giving gifts for Chanukah, presumably in lieu of gelt is an interesting one. But, the idea that the gift giving is out of control has little to do IMO with the holiday and everything to do with the material life some people are living.

    Those who are indulging their children in the material are most likely doing so all year. Those, like my parents, who did not indulge their children [but gave gifts nevertheless] give small items like socks, underwear, school supplies, and some candies.

  29. re giving chanuka gelt to rebbeim/morahs: unfortunately, due to the financial situation of many yeshivos, often the expected chanuka gifts are factored into the teachers’ salaries. it’s not so much that grades are dependent on the gifts, but the teachers are.

  30. daboss???? what are you talking about?? we give our children’s rebbeim gifts on chanuka & purim as HAKORAS HATOV!! – even if we didnt particularly “like” him/her!! – what a lesson for the children!!!(actually when our children were young we gave EVERY yomtov a small gift to the rebbeim!)expalining why we are doing it – they teach you torah & we are very thankful!

    the inyan of giving gifts to rebbeim specifically on chanuka comes from the fact that they risked their lives & encouraged the children to learn while playing dreidl!! once again – HAKORAS HATOV!!

    as far as giving gifts to the children-it enhances the joy or feeling of y’t – the actual halachos & seder hayom of each y’t is what brings the true joy -gifts & decorating just ‘adds’ to it – we do it every y’t as well

    OUT OF CONTROL??? that is each parents decision! what you can afford & what you believe – if you feel pressure from your children “but everyone else does…” then the problem is the chinuch in your home! YOU ARE THE PARENT – YOU SET THE STANDARDS IN YOUR HOME!!!

    in our home we dont live up to anyone & b’h our children have no expectations & appreciate every little they get from us!

  31. We want our chidren to look forward to Jewish Holidays.Don’t we!!This makes it exciting. The presents dont have to be expensive. It is also not the only way to do it. We dance with the children also. On Shabbas it is a Mitzva to eat meat, because it takes good. We are sopposed to physically enjoy Shabbos. This is their meat. We want to make Yiddishkeit exciting.

  32. my parents used to always say before they gave chanukah gifts: “Were giving you these presents, to show our nachas and appreciation for your torah learning, and we want you to always continue…
    It always gave us a warm boost. This was the only time in the year we got presents. It was a display of my parents appreciation to us, for being such good kinder. I dont think anything is wrong with that. You just have to try to uplift your present-giving into something more meaningful.

  33. I think this gift giving thing is chukas hagoyim. My wife had gifts for my older son one for every night and I told her that we shouldnt give him something every night bc then he will think that is what is expected. When I was a child I got one simple gift. Kids these days are very spoiled and have too much junk sitting around that they never use. I agree that we should go back to just gelt which is the original minhag

  34. I always give Chanukah gelt to our children’s mechanchim, as did my parents to my mechanchim.

    Chanukah is the Tom Tov to be mispallel for banim mehuganim, so it makes sense to show appreciation at that time to those who are moser nefesh to help us in this holy mission.

    There is a famous story about the Sanzer Rov on Chanukah, and his berachah to his little granddaughter, who became the mother of the 5 Twersky brothers.

  35. to all my fellow posters: let me clarify.
    Firstly, I respectfully take mussar from some of your responses.
    for those who called me nuts, crazy, straightjacket, padded room, i forgive you, your comment are beyond your control, you wont be punished for them. it’s sad to see how many brainwashed people there are out there.
    just one question if i may: why are the educators so underpaid when the schools are so overpaid? $8000.00 a year for tuition x 25 (average) kids in a class (granted, some will get breaks). departmental (10 teachers/rebbis per grade) multiplied by and average of $50 per (VERY few send $10.00 with a note explaining that they cant afford more)
    you say that the system does not grade according to the “tips”? do a little more ersearch, you’ll see i’m NOT nuts. or, just go on living in your little “horse-with-blinders” world, it might just dawn on you one day that the crazy guy was onto something.

    Just want to end off by saying that my post was NOT intended to offend any person or group of people. while we must all have respect for one another, we must also live in a realistic world. we are our own worst enemies. we spoiled the educators and we are now payin the price. in the “alte heim”, a rebbe really made peanuts, and it was customary to “support him”. accordingly, certain periods during the year were selected (chanukah, purim, pesach, summer, etc) when rebbes neded more for their families.

    todays rebbe/teacher should not have to work for “free” and if he/she does, the system is very broken.

  36. I think the heimishe papers and advertising booklets should take a stand on this and not allow certain ads. e.g. a few years ago there was an ad saying that the gimel on the dreidel stood for GYM!!! (a perfect example of the yevani mindset – although gyms today may be for health, they are not a jewish value in and of themselves). Or an ad this year saying ‘second chanuka miracle 30% off our low prices!!’. and of couse all the ads requiring gifts for your babysitter, sheitel macher, etc. This is causing the pressure to give gifts. While I fargin all the retailers a decent paransssa, the haskafas in these ads leave much to be desired!! they are not CUTE they are KROOM!!

  37. daboss-
    In many schools, the PTA or classmothers collect the same amount of money from each child and present it to the teacher with a nice card. The amounts they collect may vary, but I have yet to hear of a school that requests anywhere near $50 per child.

  38. The minhag was always to give a little modest gift to the children and friends to show appreciation and love.On Purim,this is a mitzvo,with Mishloach Monos and Matonos lo’evyonim.So,years later,when Chanukko was established,similar minhogim developed.The goyim made their ‘holiday a few hundred years later.They imitated our putting lights in the windows and doorways.They took the evergreen trees which the pagans worshipped in the winter because they saw that when all the trees lost their leaves and Nature seemed to have died;these survived. The 25th of this solar month was copied from US,since our holiday comes out on the 25 th of our Kislev and the pagans noticed that there was a minute more of daylight on the 25 th;meanining that nature was not dying. So they copied from us.
    In the USA, our assimilated brothers,didn’t want to be different from the goyim and those that still tried to keep their kids loyal to them,bribed their kids with gifts so that the kids would not feel ‘short-changed’by their (our) religion. There is a lot of imitation going on both ways. In USA,the public doesn’t care about the religious aspect;it is all for money. Giving gifts to the teachers is nice if the class gives collectively only,without the teacher or rebbe knowing how much each family contributed.

  39. BTW ‘Santa’ is short for “St. Nicholas”,who (in their fairy tales) religion was the protector (or something like that) of poor children.In medieval times,many children suffered from poverty,abuse and illness.THE BIG “TO-DO” WITH PARTIES,EXPENSIVE MATERIAL GIFTS;IS NOT TORAH-dig.

  40. Here in Yerushalayim B”H,”their holiday” is an absolute non-issue! Giving Chanuka gelt to children is a commonly practiced minhag here. Some parents may buy their children one gift for Chanuka-a gift each day is unheard of!!!
    There is a strong minhag here to give mishloach monos\cash to teachers for Purim. Chanuka giving is not typical.
    In Israel people say either Chanuka Sameach or Chag Urim Samaech.

  41. I never received “Chanuka appreciation gifts” from my ‘frum’ employer in the 30 years I worked (very hard) for them. Neither did the other frum workers. The goyishe workers all got gifts for their ‘holiday’. Purim is the day for us to give to ours.In fact,hardly ANY appreciation was EVER shown at any time to the frum workers.

  42. BTW ” FREILICHEN” means Frolicking = good,wild time,in English. It is WAY INAPROPRIATE to use that expression with kedushoh. It is borrowed from the goyish holiday of December,MERRY!. WE DO NOT MAKE MERRY! WE REJOICE! One is material and base,the other is spiritual and lofty. Chanuko represents the exact opposite of Dec. 25