’Cause we are living in a material world
and I am a material girl. — Peter Brown + Robert Rans (writers), performed by Madonna
Madonna’s song Material Girl was one of the defining anthems of my youth, and a song that still seems to fit our culture. The song came to mind as I thought about the tradition of giving gifts on Chanukah and Christmas.
The Traditional Chanukah Gifts
The tradition of gift-giving on Chanukah is relatively new. The original tradition was to give children Chanukah gelt, or money.
This was not about letting children pick out their own gifts. The purpose of giving Chanukah gelt was to give children the opportunity to give money to charity.
Values in Action
The gift of money was a vehicle for teaching children values. In this case, specifically, the value of giving to others. It directly relates to the story of Chanukah, which celebrates a victory of the spiritual over the physical. Unlike many of the enemies the Jews faced in ancient (and modern) times, the ancient Greeks did not seek to kill the Jews. They sought to destroy Jewish values and ideals.
As part of the celebration of the victory, we reinforce these values.
I love this concept so much I am rating it 5-hearts. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
It creates a positive-reinforcing cycle that counters the negative cycle of materialism and greed.
It’s one thing to tell your children about the importance of giving to others. Or to remind them to appreciate their abundance and be grateful for what they have. If giving and gratitude are truly values you want to cultivate, you must put them into action.
For a child of sufficient age, it opens a portal to a conversation about what suffering they see in the world around them. Who do they see that they can help?
Giving Beyond Money
Of course, giving is not restricted to money. Here are three more gifts that serve as vehicles for teaching values, and fit within the theme of illuminating the world.
(1) Your Presence
The greatest gift we can give others is the gift of our presence. To hold space for them, to listen with out judgment, to allow them to share their feelings. One of our core human needs is the need to feel seen, heard, and fully-expressed. This gift never goes out of style.
(2) Service to Others
Beyond teaching kids how to give charity, we can give children the gift of being in service more generally by creating experiences for them to serve others. Even small children can learn the value of offering a smile to a stranger. We can help them experience the good feelings that come from being in service.
(3) Illuminating Worthiness
I have long held a belief that one of the greatest gifts we can give to others is to show them the truth of who they are, and to help them step into their greatness. I know many adults (myself included) who wish they had received this gift as a child.
When we teach children how to give their inner gifts to others, we reinforce for them that they have an inner light and inner gifts worth giving, which elevates their sense of self-worth.
There is nothing more fitting on the festival of lights than to show children their inner light and teach them how to share their light with the world.
These are gifts that give back and give forward.
As a bonus, these gifts are always in stock, can fit in your travel bag, and don’t require you to wait on line anywhere.