The God Squad: Spiritually acceptable holiday gifts

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Hanukkah this year begins at sundown on Thursday, Dec. 10. I freely admit that I am not a big fan of Hanukkah because the Maccabees it celebrates in their revolt against the Syrian Greeks began the Hasmonean dynasty that was thoroughly corrupt and led to the weakening of the Jewish community and its fatal vulnerability to the Roman conquest of Judea in the year 70. However, I, like all Jewish kids, was deeply grateful for a Jewish gift-giving holiday that counterbalanced the Christmas onslaught. Plus, I love potato pancakes.

So let me return, for both my Jewish and Christian readers, to an ongoing interest of mine -- the search for spiritually acceptable holiday gifts. Please write in and share with me your ways to give gifts that leave the heart and enter the heart.

-- Give gifts you make. Even if the scarf you knitted for your giftee turned out a little long, it is still the work of your hands and your heart and not just the work of your credit card.

-- Give memberships to museums and zoos. These places have no visitors now and need your support. By giving a membership, you lower the barrier for your giftee to visit and support worthy and needful organizations.

-- Give games that require family participation. Family games break down the isolation that is wounding us all.

-- Give video games that require solving a mystery rather than video games that require zapping alien monsters. Give chess sets.


-- Give lessons. Give your giftees lessons in the sport or activity they love (unless it is skydiving).

-- Give a day of your life. This was Father Tom Hartman's favorite gift and he included it every year when we wrote this holiday column together. Before every Christmas, Tommy would call up his nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters and tell them that he would come to them and spend a whole day just with them doing whatever they wanted to do (unless it was skydiving). I would give up every present I have ever received to have a day with Tommy now.

-- Make sure you include a card with your gift that includes a long letter and not just a simple holiday card. In the letter, tell the people you love just why you love them and why having their lives woven into your life has given you a sustaining joy that has changed your life for the better.

Now you finish the list for me…


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