What’s your Hanukkah like? Is it an all-out celebration for eight nights? Low-key? Charity-driven? I still remember my dad getting out his childhood menorah, coated in candle wax dating from the 1950s, and helping him light the candles. Striking a match and using one candle to light all the others felt very sophisticated and exciting…but not as exciting as receiving a Mick Jagger poster, which I hung on my door through high school. (Yes, my musical tastes hover somewhere around 1971. What can I say?)

I grew up celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, and my kids do the same. They typically get one Hanukkah gift. I asked other families  how they break down the nights, and I got some pretty creative answers (some that I’ll shamelessly steal).

“My husband grew up with gifts every night. I did not, and after 10 years of this, I’m trying to cut back on the ‘stuff,’ so one night will be a Boston Pops Orchestra performance!”

“The last night, the kids get their big gift, which is usually a toy and a bunch of coins to put in their piggy banks. The coins are in remembrance of my grandfather, who always saved his coins. My cousins and I would all sort them evenly, and he would let us take them home for our banks.”

“We don’t have set theme nights, but one night is always dedicated to the gifts our kids, ages 8 and 5, pick out for each other and for my husband and myself. It’s the one night they don’t get a gift from us or any other adult; it’s them doing the gifting, be it something they make or otherwise.”

“Each night is dedicated to a relative. So, one night from grandparents, one night from an uncle. Some nights they just get a piece of gelt from Mom and Dad.”

“We do one night when, instead of getting gifts, we choose charities to give to. Last year, my son picked the bat conservancy and an organization that helps kids get surgeries they need but can’t afford, and we followed the causes throughout the year.”

“One night, they have to sort through their toys and donate the ones they don’t want anymore.”

“When I was a kid, we always had book night, stickers—what I think of as the standard gifts. We also had what I called, ‘Sorry, kids, we’re not turning up the heat this year!’ night. Each year was something different: wool socks, down blanket, slippers, fleece robe, et cetera.”

“The first night is always family pajamas and something for the family to share, usually a game to play together. The other nights, we just do in random order. Four of our nights are: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. Two nights are for gifts from each set of grandparents. The remaining night is for tzedakah. The kids each decide where they want to donate the contents of their tzedakah boxes, and we match their donations.”

“We do four nights of giving and four nights of getting, in no particular order, because it depends on plans with family and friends. On the ‘getting’ nights, they can pick a gift or two they want to open. They each have a small pile, which includes three gifts from us, something to read, wear and do, a gift from their siblings and whatever gifts other people have sent for them. On each of the four giving nights, we make a donation to a different organization. My three kids each choose for one of those nights, or I help them find an organization that does work with something they care about. We have found dance organizations and animal protection organizations, et cetera. The fourth giving night, my husband and I pick the organization.”

“For Shabbat, our kids don’t get a gift. Instead, they each pick a charity of their choice, and we donate $18 to those charities, which is a lucky number representing life in Jewish tradition. We also usually have one night when the kids receive books. Other traditions include inviting non-Jewish friends to celebrate with us and eating lots of fried foods!”

“When our kids were younger, one night may have been family board game night. One night was always book night. At least one night was a party. One night was always charity night; we would have them buy a new toy and then donate it instead of keeping it for themselves. We found that by assigning each night a theme, which we put on the calendar ahead of time so they knew what to expect, we all enjoyed the holiday more.”

“When I was growing up, my parents made my brother and I research a charity, and on the eighth night we had to make a ‘pitch’ to them about the charity and why it was worthy of a donation. They then made the donation in our name as our present. I think it was a wonderful tradition, and I plan to do this with my kids once they’re old enough!”

“We have themes every night of Hanukkah, including book night, cozy night with PJs, socks, et cetera, out-to-dinner night, tzedekah night with a service project or gathering donations at home in a fun way, and toy night. It keeps things interesting for the whole eight nights and allows for more relaxed activities on school nights.”

“We always had one night that I named ‘compliment night.’ Each family member had to take time and write down kind things about one another. On compliment night, we sat around and read them to each other. It was always my favorite night of Hanukkah, and I saved a bunch of the sheets my kids wrote on. My kids are big now, but maybe I should bring it back this year!”

How does your family handle Hanukkah gifts? Let us know in the comments!