When the folks at Savings.com first suggested that I write a Chanukah gift guide, I'll admit: I was a bit stumped.
My wish list is quite predictable. For example, I'm always happy to receive a gift card to a store I wouldn't normally splurge at. A little self-indulgence sounds pretty good at Chanukah – or anytime.
But then it occurred to me: Maybe a Chanukah Gift Guide should be focused on gifts that are, well, a bit more "Jewish".
If you are looking for a thoughtful gift for a friend, colleague or neighbor who celebrates Chanukah, here are eight suggestions.
(Eight, by the way, is the number of nights of Chanukah, which starts in 2012 at sundown on Saturday, December 8th.)
#1. Chanukah Menorah
The most obvious Chanukah symbol is the menorah – a candelabra with nine branches, one for each night of Chanukah, plus a branch for a "helper candle" that lights the other candles.
Jewish tradition dictates that every member of a family – from preschoolers to grandparents – light their own menorah, so a family can (almost) never have enough.
You don't have to go traditional, either. A young sports fan might appreciate this Baseball Player Menorah by Reuven Masel
($99), while a dog-lover would probably enjoy this "Dalmatian" menorah
($49.95) – both from Menorah.com.
You can even find menorahs at mainstream retailers – for example, this traditional pewter menorah from Target is only $14 on clearance ($20 retail)
Another traditional gift at Chanukah is the dreidle – a spinning top that just may date back to the times of Alexander the Great.
, for example, carries everything from ornate metal to simple wooden dreidles. While far from traditional, this Polished Turquoise Ultramodern Dreidel
($52.95) is stunning.
If you like to give housewares as gifts, these blue felt dreidle placemats
($1.99 each) from Bed, Bath & Beyond might fit the bill.
#3. Deep Fryer
I know this must sound like a crazy idea, but bear with me.
It's traditional on Chanukah to eat "oil-fried" foods – reminiscent of the oil candelabra in the ancient Temple, which should have only stayed illuminated for one night, but kept burning for eight nights.
But hey – any excuse to eat a friend potato pancake (latke) or a jelly donut (sufganiya) sounds good to me.
If you're worried that your friend might think you're trying to sabotage her weight loss efforts, you could always get a donut maker.
Baked, not fried – that might save a few (hundred) calories. Macy's has the Bella Donut Maker
on sale until 12/22 for $19.99.
#4. Sufganiyot (AKA Jelly Donuts)
Speaking of jelly donuts, you could always order a dozen from a kosher grocer like AviGlatt.com.
One dozen sufganiyot cost $16.99
and shipping is free on orders over $100. Nothing says Happy Chanukah like one million powder sugar-dusted calories.
#5. Kosher Cookbooks
A foodie friend might prefer to make her own Chanukah treats – in which case, a kosher cookbook would be the perfect gift.
One of my favorites is Kosher by Design by Susie Fishbein
, which includes a number of Chanukah recipes. It sells for $23.09 on Amazon.
It's always safe to come bearing chocolate. At least at my house. And on Chanukah, children – and adults alike – enjoy munching on coin-shaped chocolate candies called gelt.
The Queens, New York, kosher chocolatier Oh Nuts has a number of chocolate gelt options, including several nut-free varieties
#7. Charitable Contribution
The word Chanukah means "dedication", so what better way gift for your friend than a donation dedicated in her honor?
Your local Jewish Federation
might be a good choice, but ultimately, matching your gift to your friends' interests and passions is the best way to go.
#8. Gift Cards
After weaving my way through "Jewish" gifts, I'm back to gift cards.
What can I say? Most friends of mine would appreciation a little splurge, too.
In Judaism, it's traditional to give monetary gifts in multiples of $18, which is a numeric representation for the Hebrew word for "life". I.e. a gift card to Barnes & Noble will mean even more if it's valued at $36.
Mara Strom blogs about saving money and finding great deals – for Chanukah and beyond – at her blog, Kosher on a Budget. Mara lives in Kansas City with her husband and three children. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.