Gift Giving Tips for Interfaith Families

While December can be a really fun month for some families, it also presents a major challenge for families raising Jewish children. The December Dilemma, or the proximity of Christmas to Hanukkah, can provoke a whole suite of emotions for parents and kids: Do you have the “Santa talk” with your kids? Go over the top for Hanukkah to make it feel as big as Christmas or other December holidays? Combine celebrations?

Two children opening Hanukkah presents
When is too much, too much? What are good limits to set on gift giving and receiving?

Related: Hanukkah Books for Interfaith Families

For many interfaith families, there can be an extra layer of trickiness when holidays with gift-giving traditions overlap. Is it possible to celebrate and still maintain an attitude of gratitude? Or will materialism overshadow the Hanukkah story’s messages of bravery, hope, and finding light in the darkness? Here are some tips we collected from PJ Library families who celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas or another December holiday.


Giving to others is a very Jewish way to celebrate any holiday.

Hanukkah is a great time to focus on tzedakah with your family. You can start a new tzedakah practice, amp up your own weekly tradition, or brainstorm ways as a family to help serve others. To get started, here are three easy service projects you can do with your family in just an afternoon.


Baby sitting with a giant teddy bear
"To be honest Ima, I could do with a bigger bear."

When surveying interfaith families for this blog post, some PJ Library parents told us that they go all out for the holidays. “The rest of the year, we’re pretty frugal and don’t buy a lot of toys, so in December, we do something pretty special for both holidays and treat the family.” Other parents said that they use the December holidays as an opportunity to talk about how giving gifts makes the recipient feel and how special gift giving is.


Baby exploring at the aquarium

Rather than purchase a lot of little items or go overboard on toy buying, gift your family experiences. Take a trip to the zoo, visit a museum, volunteer for a day, take a road trip, walk around the neighborhood, hit up story time at the library, or take up a new hobby or learn a skill together as a family. 
While experiential gifts may be harder to do for 2020, consider buying gift cards to support small local businesses or nonprofit and conservation organizations.


Child's backpack full of school supplies
School supplies and back packs are a great example of gifts that are fun and useful.

If your family is celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, you can try the “rule of four” for holidays. Each family member receives something they want, something they wear, something they need, and something to read as a gift.

Related: 8 Gifts That Give


Mom and child cleaning out closet to donate clothes
Cleaning out the play room or closet can actually be fun too!

Take a lesson from a book like Just Enough and Not Too Much to pare down what you have at home. Do a playroom and closet clean-out to simplify your home and take stock of the items that feel really important to your kids.  You can also start a family practice of giving something away to a friend, loved one, or person in need, any time something new comes in to your home.


Hanukkah Tips for Interfaith Families via
Why My Children Won’t Be Getting Hanukkah Gifts This Year via Today

To help your loved ones and community enjoy Hanukkah with you, check out our 2020 Quick Guide to Celebrating Hanukkah With Kids.

If you find that you’re the “Hanukkah parent,” you can also use our Sharing Hanukkah at School guide.