As Chanukah time comes around again, I would like to comment on something that has been bothering me for a long time.
I was always disturbed that frum Yidden were so into shopping for Chanukah gifts.
Also upsetting was the heavy advertisement that stores were doing about the importance of buying Chanukah gifts.
Where did this idea come from? In my home there was no such concept, but we did get Chanukah gelt.
I always felt that Chanukah gift-giving was an attempt to imitate gentile customs.
In a doctor’s office, I picked up a Reader’s Digest magazine and got my answer.
The following is an excerpt from the article that I read.
“Jews have been celebrating Hanukkah with menorahs and fried food for the past 19 centuries or so. It was only in the late 1880s that eight nights of presents became part of the ritual.
“That’s when two Reform [clergymen] in Cincinnati intentionally brought a Xmasy feel to the festivities, hoping to make Jewish children more connected with their synagogues by turning Hanukkah into a gift-giving holiday. It took off.”