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Home and Family
Creativity Corner:
A Specially Wrapped Gift

by Devora Piha

[If, for your own reasons, you prefer not to give gifts on Chanuka, use these ideas for birthdays.]

Like sweets and money, receiving gifts brings happiness to children. The anticipation of guessing what is inside and opening the wrapping is a moment of pleasure to children. Their self esteem soars and the whole world stands, holding its breath, just for them. Giving Chanuka gelt or gifts are a way of saying to children, "Relax this evening. Feel special. Play dreidel and play with the games or other gifts you received after we light the Chanuka candles. This happiness will encourage you to accept the yoke of Torah." In some communities, in past times, during Chanuka, people used to give money to the poor, especially to poor Torah scholars or cheder melamdim - to commemorate the miracle which was a victory of the spirit - to gladden them. The happiness raised the educational and community standards. There is no real tradition for giving gifts other than the connection between money and gifts. Gelt has been translated in our times as store-bought gifts.

Children have the right idea when wrapping a gift to make it the center of curiosity and play. Passing the Package is a birthday party game that girls play which involves all of the friends present. A box (shoebox, usually) is covered with several layers of wrapping paper, gift wrap, newsprint, tissue paper, aluminum foil etc. Between each layer small prizes or notes are hidden. The box is passed around to each girl who unwraps one layer and collects her find. The girl who unwraps the last layer receives the main prize. An adaptation of this game is to wrap a Chanuka gift in a box which contains several smaller boxes covered with various types of wrapping papers. As the child unwraps the multitude of coverings, he or she discovers small notes and good wishes inside. The notes can contain Chanuka riddles or questions. The receiving of a modest gift is turned into an event.

Other gift wrapping suited for Chanuka or adapted to any occasion can be made in the following ways:

* Decorate the tops of gift boxes with artificial flowers (complete with stems) to be placed later in a vase.

* Use a few layers of colored clear cellophane (leftover from Purim mishloach monos). Gather and secure at top with ribbon or yarn.

* Use shelf paper or book wrapping paper left over from Pesach or the first week of school.

* Stamp prints on plain white paper in a Chanuka motif: a dreidel or Chanukia carved out from an old potato using a dull knife. Dip stamp in goache or tempera paint or use a stamp pad (not expensive to buy and good for rainy day activities; comes in black, blue and red).

* Decorate plain paper with glitter (glitter stick) or glue on pieces of confetti.

* Do a hand painted picture of a Chanuka motif, scene or posuk.

* Use spare pieces of fabric to cover the gift. Tie on a bow of yarn or raffia.

* Sew a pouch from a piece of material. Fold material in half. Sew up seams on three sides. Fold top down to accommodate a cord. Stitch. Insert cord. Pull ends and tie.

* Make origami paper constructions, balls, boxes or cases for small gifts such as jewelry.

* Wrap in kitchen aluminum foil. Drip several colors of Chanuka candle wax over foil. Adult supervision is required!

* For a very large gift such as a tricycle, wrap up a photo, a poem, note or drawing of the gift. Give this and then bring out the present - unwrapped.

* Attach three to five small cards to the ribbon on the box top with different messages and wishes expecially meaningful to the recipient of the gift.

Chanuka somayach.

* This idea can be nicely adapted to an extended family celebration by grandparents. Each layer can include a `parve', inexpensive gift (crayons, pen, writing pad, stationary, ball, keychain etc.) suitable for a boy or girl (or you can have separate circles), including a coin for the Chanuka gelt. An enterprising cousin or aunt can do the shopping and packing. Or if the grandparent wishes a particular child to receive a gift, she can write a riddle note indicating the recipient. The next layer will include a different riddle-note with a different gift, predesigned for the next child she has in mind, passed on in turn.


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