Gelt and Dreidel

Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for dedication. If you’re dedicated to being green this holiday season, you’ll want to keep sustainability in mind for gift-giving. While it may take a bit more effort, buying sustainable, green gifts as well as local products, can be quite rewarding. And, if you know where to look, finding eco-friendly gifts for Hanukkah can be simple, too.

While not considered the most important Jewish holiday, Hanukkah has become more prominent to do its proximity to Christmas and the increase of gift-giving during the holiday season. In recent tradition, Hanukkah gifts are given for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Small gifts such as games and books are given, as well as gelt–symbolic coins to commemorate the newly-minted coins of the freed Maccabee state that Hanukkah celebrates.

The lighting of Hanukkah candles for eight nights commemorates the miracle of the purified oil burning for eight days–when it should have lasted just one night–at the re-dedication of the holy temple during the 2nd century BCE Maccabean revolt. Thus, gelt (whether actual coins or chocolate ones), dreidels and other games, menoras and oils are often Hanukkah gifts. During the festival, fried foods are also often eaten to highlight the importance of oil. While families get together in small groups during the festival, the Night of the Fifth Candle Dinner is often when extended families and friends gather to celebrate and share food. 

Try these eight sustainable gift ideas this Hanukkah season.

  1. Gelt: Fair trade kosher chocolate coins can be given to represent the traditional gift of gelt. Fair trade coins can be found at numerous online candy stores, including Fair Trade Judaica via Divine Chocolate.
  2. Menora: While most Jewish families already have at least one menora, some families collect them. You can buy menoras made from recycled materials or even make your own out of used glass candle jars. 
  3. Sustainable Candles: Beeswax, soy and palm oil candles are more natural than paraffin. Try Big Dipper Wax Works for your Hanukkah candles this year and give sustainable candles as gifts, too.
  4. Dreidel: Sustainable dreidels include clay, bamboo and even recyclable stainless steel dreidels. But, if you’re gifting for children, this make-your-own dreidel guide can be a gift and a fun activity. You can also buy fair trade wooden dreidels and use the guide to paint the wood.
  5. Wooden Hanukkah SetHanukkah sets for small children to help emulate the adults’ activities during Hanukkah can be fun and educational for kids.
  6. Recipe Collections and Organic Foods: The fifth night of Hanukkah is all about food and family. So, for adults, consider a homemade recipe collection book, perhaps focusing on traditional foods like latkes, and accompanying organic ingredients from your local farmers market. For kids, opt for a wooden kitchen set and kid-friendly snacks.
  7. Tzedakah: Tzedakah, Hebrew for charity, is a great gift to give during the holiday. Donate money in honor of your friends and family to their favorite charity. Or, give coins to your children to donate to a charity while you volunteer your time at the charity as well for a more hands-on family experience. You can also give your kids a two-sided piggy bank (one side for savings and the other for tzedakah) to remind them of the importance of charity.
  8. Wine: Kosher wine is a great gift, especially if you’re attending a Hanukkah party and want to treat the hostess with a gift. Check out The Jew and The Carrot for information on kosher organic wines.

When giving gifts, don’t forget to wrap them greenly. Try reusable bags in Hanukkah colors from Living Ethos. Whenever possible, buy your sustainable gifts locally to promote your local economy and save on transportation costs. If sustainable gifts aren’t available in your immediate area, check out these eco-friendly gift companies. For more information on making the rest of your Hanukkah celebration sustainable, see The Jew and the Carrot’s guide to sustainable Hanukkah.

Keep in touch with Kristi on Twitter @VeggieConverter and Pinterest.

Image: Striatic