This is a guest post from Eric Cohen. Eric is the Co-Founder of Macaroni Kid. He lives in Southampton, New York with his wife and two kids. Follow the Chief Dad at Macaroni Kid on Twitter @MacaroniDad. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.
As a kid, Hanukkah was my favorite holiday. Of course the presents played a big part of it, but what made it really special to me was how for eight nights in a row, my dad was home to share dinner and the festivities. Most of us who are now fathers grew up in a time when dad was the breadwinner and worked long hours, and mom was home with the kids. Family dinners were reserved for Sunday nights.
But Hanukkah was a special time. Work for my dad eased off and he made it a priority to spend time with us. Sometimes we’d take a family vacation. I celebrated Hanukkah under palm trees in the tropics and at a ski lodge in Vermont. My parents would pack the presents, menorah and candles and we’d have Hanukkah “to go”.
With my own kids, I want to ensure that what they remember most is the time we spend together around the holiday, not the new iPod, Barbie or video game. So we have a few traditions of our own that put the emphasis on family.
We do this by “theming” several of the nights of Hanukkah. One night is always “book night” where we exchange books as gifts. Each child gets a book or two, and my wife and I exchange books as presents. This is a nice way to share the gift of reading and remind our kids how important reading is.
Another night of Hanukkah we declare as “sock night” where everyone in the family gets socks. Gym socks, dress socks, ski socks and more have made appearances on sock night. As much as this is something we need, it reminds our kids that not every present has to be about fun and games, and the important thing is being together. We probably laugh more on sock night than any other night.
The next themed night we have is “trip night.” Prior to Hanukkah, my wife and I plan a family trip sometime in the new year, and on trip night we share where we are going with the kids. It’s a way of extending Hanukkah and promising more family memories.
The last themed night and maybe the most important one is “charity night”. On charity night we give the children each a budget and package of information about non-profits that we feel will interest them. Then they pick which one they’d like to donate to. One year, they gave a goat and two chickens to a family in Africa. Last year my son selected Doctors without Borders and my daughter the World Wildlife Fund.
The other four nights are devoted to typical presents and Hanukkah fun. But we have seen that the true joy of Hanukkah is spending time together and celebrating our family.
Question: What's the one thing that makes the holiday season special for you?