About this time each year, the Chanukah panic sets in. My tummy starts twisting as I think about what needs buying, how many, who for, all the gift wrap and posting dates… As annual rituals go, this one is RUBBISH!
(Illustrative purposes only – not an actual photo of me)
As well as choosing gifts for everyone, my family is spread far and wide and some organisation is required to get the presents to everyone in time. Sometimes, some items don’t quite make it! Having eight nights of Chanukah does at least give a larger target to aim for.
Many years ago, I managed an unrepeatable feat – getting everyone’s presents organised, bought, wrapped, labelled and sent in under a day. Thankfully I’ve never had to do it again! But I did learn a few tips and tricks from the experience that now make gift giving less stressful.
Time spent in preparation is never wasted
This is one of DH’s favourite sayings, and at times like this, I think he has a point. Here are my five suggestions to prepare for the Chanukah gifting marathon with minimal stress.
- Make a list – I love lists! Write down everyone you need to buy a present for, and ideally add their age and interests as well. Those quick reminders will help you find a suitable gift more easily.
- If you’re sending items overseas, check delivery times and last postage dates here. Use this information to prioritise your list if you like. Forewarned is forearmed!
- Consider buying online and getting stuff delivered directly to the recipients. This is great if you need to send a whole bunch of stuff to a family with several kids. (Hello, Amazon!)
- Buy a couple of generic spare gifts ‘just in case’ – there’s bound to be someone you forgot, or a friend who drops round unexpectedly with a gift for you. (And if you don’t need them now, you’ll have a few last minute birthday gifts/teacher gifts/hostess gifts in store for the year ahead.)
- Don’t deliberate! As soon as you see something suitable for someone on your list, buy it and tick them off. Not every present has to be 100% the best most perfect gift ever, so save time and your sanity. Good enough is good enough, especially when they’ll be getting a dozen other gifts at the same time. And sometimes, the thing that was ‘just OK’ turns out to be the greatest gift they’ve ever received.
With that all said, here are some gift ideas that you might like to consider.
My daughter Kipper loves helping in the kitchen, and it’s a terrific opportunity to learn about food and healthy eating while having some good fun too! I was delighted to discover these special KinderKitchen knives for children, from Kuhn Rikon.
While I was initially skeptical about handing Kipper a knife, these have been carefully designed with children in mind and are suggested for ages 3 and up. The knives are scaled to fit a child’s hand, and are styled like little dogs, complete with ears that stand up and prevent the child’s hand from slipping onto the blade. The knives are not very sharp, but should still cut through most fruits, vegetables, cheese etc. Of course I still wouldn’t suggest you hand these over and let the kids get on with it, but it does expand the range of supervised kitchen jobs that they can take part in.
Kipper went totally wild over these – she adores them! – especially when we put them on our knife rack with the ‘grown up’ knives. A set of two knives, as shown, is RRP £16.95. They are also available in a set with a pair of kitchen snippers, in purple/pink/white or blue/green/white, RRP £21.95.
If you know a child who loves geeking out, then 100 Things To Know About Food is a perfect gift. Kipper absolutely loves this book and often tells us fun things that we didn’t know before – for instance that the flavour molecules for dill and spearmint are mirror images of one another, that a dislike of brussels sprouts could be genetic, and that ketchup is a non-Newtonian fluid. The book is full of infographic style illustrations, and also contains a helpful glossary and a healthy eating diagram. Brilliant!
(This book is part of a series, so your gift recipient might also enjoy 100 Things To Know About Space, 100 Things to Know About Science, and 100 Things to Know About The Human Body. Each book is RRP £9.99.)
Younger children often enjoy playing with pretend food, which is good for fine motor development as well as imaginative play. These gorgeous wooden play sets from Hape are among the nicest I’ve seen, being solidly constructed, chunky and durable, and FUN!
Kipper loved the Dessert Tower with wooden cake slices (RRP £24.99). “They all look like they’d be delicious Mummy!” She was also keen on the Chef’s Choice slicing vegetable set (RRP £21.49), and suggested that her little cousins would love these for Chanukah. I think she’s probably right!
And if your kids enjoy dressing up and role play, they’ll love this bright and colourful chef’s apron set (RRP £15.99), which also includes a chef’s hat and oven glove.
Chanukah themed gifts
There are some really beautiful Chanukiot available so there’s no excuse for using a cheap tin one that Chabad gave you 20 years ago! Treat yourself/your partner/your family to one of these gorgeous and colourful contemporary models from Judaica with Style, all of which pack away for easy storage or use when travelling.
Judaica with Style are offering readers of family friends food a special 10% discount off everything in their web store until the end of November. Simply use code FFF17 at the checkout or call Gillian on 07761231906. Chanukah sameach!
I love the idea of wearing Chanukah gelt as a necklace! Longer lasting than the chocolate kind, too… Get this stunning Gold Coin Necklace (£45) from Anna Lou of London for someone special this Chanukah.
DH and I were married on Chanukah, and we have a beautiful Chanukiah that was made with the shattered glass from our chuppah. I always splash out on fancy Chanukah candles to go in it, and there are some really gorgeous choices available, like these beautiful rainbow ones from Ner Mitzvah.
I had a lot of fun designing my own gifts over at bagsoflove.co.uk. You can add photos, designs and text to a huge array of items, including kitchenware like chopping boards, tea towels and storage tins, homewares like cushions, wall art and table linens, and all manner of other great photo gifts such as mugs, plates, bags, scarves, socks, jewellery… there really is something for everyone!
I made a family friends food tea towel and mug as a little gift to myself and I love how they came out. The print quality on both is brilliant, the towel is soft and absorbent and the rick-rack edging makes it extra special. In fact, it’s so nice that Kipper asked if it was a challah cover!
I also thought it would be cute and funny to have a challah board with a photo of a challah on it – what do you think? The board totally exceeded my expectations, being heavy and solid, with beautifully finished rounded edges and super-sharp photo printing. It’s almost a shame to cut on it.
Mugs start at £10, chopping boards at £20, and tea towels at £14, although if you really want to splash out there are plenty of more extravagant choices too! See the full range at bagsoflove.co.uk.
Kitchen & Homewares
How gorgeous are these Scandi-inspired felt coasters from Geometrico?!
Mad of 100% wool felt, the coasters are thick and soft, perfect for protecting your surfaces from heat and spills. The shapes are funky and modern – much more stylish than boring old squares. I especially like that you can arrange a few together to make a bigger mat for a teapot or a hot dish – like this lovely monochrome Magen David ✡.
Versatile, attractive and practical – what more could you ask? There are different shapes available, and prices start at £9.50 for a small set.
I think they’d look great underneath any of these gorgeous mugs, cups or glasses from Anthropologie.
Or these striking black or gold Geo Glasses from Root7 (RRP from £24), which are an incredibly stylish way to serve everything from cocktails to juice. L’Chaim!
I always think candles and their accessories are an appropriate present at Chanukah. These Handcrafted Tri-angular Loop tea light holders from Black + Blum are lovely, and come in chrome, gold, or copper finishes (or a selection). £30 for a set of three.
As someone who loves both gin and tea, I totally fell for this fabulous and funky G & Tea gift set from Root7, available at John Lewis (RRP £30). The gorgeously shimmery rainbow tinted tea pot and matching cups is a decadent way to serve cocktails or just a lovely cuppa.
Food and drink
I always love gifts where I get to taste something new, so these cute sets (£10) from Nutural World are right up my street! Each one contains 4 mini pots of nut butter or natural spreads, and you can choose exactly which flavours are included.
The nut butters are free from artificial additives or oils, and the spreads are made with the same attention to using 100% natural fruits, nuts and flavourings. The flavour of the ingredients really shines through, giving an intense nutty taste. I loved the pecan butter but thought the pecan and fig spread was even better! Pistachio butter was my second favourite, delicious on toast with a tiny sprinkle of salt. The hazelnut and carob spread is like a very virtuous Nutella – dark, rich and delicious. All the products are kosher KLBD, and they have won a raft of Great Taste and Free From Food Awards.
While the teeny jars are cute, if you know your gift recipient is a sucker for halva spread or really loves pine nut butter, you could choose to give 2 full size jars in special gift packaging instead. Big jars vary in price depending on the contents, from £3.20 – £9.40, and the gift packaging is a little extra. Browse the full range at Nutural World.
Olive oil seems to be a great foodie choice for Chanukah, even if it’s for eating and not burning! Award winning Israeli extra virgin olive oil is available from Amazon and makes a lovely gift for a keen cook.
While there are many liqueurs and spirits that aren’t quite kosher, I’ll always be grateful that gin is OK! Give a different gin for each night of Chanukah, with the Great British Gin Tasting Set (£44.95) containing 8 small batch gins from around the UK. If your giftee is more of a DIY type, the Make Your Own Gin Kit (£28) contains all the botanicals and equipment needed to turn a boring bottle of vodka into a personal mother’s ruin.
Prefer whisky? Perhaps a Regions of Scotland Whisky Tasting Kit (£39.95), containing 5 hand-chosen single malts, will hit the spot?
It wouldn’t be a celebration without chocolate, and this gorgeous ballotin of Leonidas handmade Belgian chocs contains dark, milk and white varieties, and is kosher certified by CRC (£18.99). Alternatively, a bag of Divine Fairtrade milk chocolate coins is an ethical Chanukah treat, kosher KLBD.
I’ve reviewed a number of new recipe books over the past year, and they would make gorgeous presents for foodie friends and family. Here’s a quick recap:
Modern Jewish Baker by Shannon Sarna is a beautifully illustrated guide to making fun and interesting Jewish breads, cakes and cookies at home – a terrific gift for any Jewish baker. Chapters cover challah, babka, bagels, rugelach, hamentaschen, pita, and matza, and as well as dozens of variations on each of these, it contains great tips on handling the dough, filling, shaping, and generally getting it right. You can see the luscious cinnamon babka I made from the book, and read a full review here.
Fress by Emma Spitzer is a lovely Jew-ish book, which covers everything from ashkenazi classics like egg and onion and latkes, to modern vegetarian dishes such as pan-fried cauliflower with caramelized red onions, toasted Israeli couscous and almonds. Everything seems designed for sharing and the lovely photographs encourage you to dig in! This would be great for cooks who enjoyed the Ottolenghi cookbooks, but also enjoy making simpler dishes for the whole family. My full review of Emma’s book is here.
Ren Behan’s Wild Honey & Rye is a beautiful collection of modern Polish recipes that will remind you that our Ashkenazi food heritage is shared with plenty of non-Jewish Europeans too. Classics like pierogies and pickles share the pages with modern takes on soups, hearty main dishes, salads and desserts. You can see the delicious apple pancakes I tried, and read my full review of Ren’s book here.
Quirky and creative cooks will love Veggie Desserts + Cakes by Kate Hackworthy – there’s no other book quite like it! 60 amazing recipes for cakes, bakes and desserts, all containing vegetables. Everything from carrots and parsnips to butternut squash, beetroot, peas, spinach and more is included in these delicious sounding, beautifully illustrated recipes, which cover large cakes, cookies, bars and tray bakes, tarts, frozen desserts and all manner of other sweet treats and confections. I made the courgette and poppyseed loaf which was fabulous, and you can take a look at it and read a full book review here.
Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cookery by Paola Gavin, is a truly beautiful book, full of mouthwatering recipes gathered from Jewish communities around the world. From familiar favourites to more exotic dishes, there are loads of gorgeous recipes that look both delicious and simple to prepare. The book only went on sale on 3 November, so it’s hot off the presses! Read my full review of the book and see the recipe for kasha with mushrooms here.
Other great recipe books that should be well received, especially by vegetarians, include:
The Vilna Vegetarian by Fania Lewando – a modern translation of a Yiddish recipe book from 1938, and utterly fascinating. Olive Trees and Honey by Gil Marks, which is a mouthwatering treasury of Jewish vegetarian recipes from around the world. And just in case anyone still doesn’t have a copy, check out Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Plenty More for a dazzling array of innovative Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired vegetable and plant based recipes.
One final book that would make a great gift for the right person is What’s your excuse for not being more productive, by Juliet Landau-Pope. If you know someone who needs a little help motivating themselves to get a project off the ground, get their time organised, or generally get themselves together, this book is a useful and timely gift, full of practical tips and solutions. I hope to put its advice into practise, so expect great things from family friends food in the upcoming months…
I like to have a few of these in stock ‘just in case’ – you never know when you might need a gift in a hurry! They’re also great for teacher gifts or people you don’t know well but need to give a little something to.
- Insulated travel cups – everyone loves these! If you’re feeling extravagant, pair with some fancy tea bags or coffee beans.
- Decorated chopsticks – if your friends love Asian food this a lovely gift. Decorative, different, and small and easily wrapped!
- Salt and pepper sets – everyone uses salt and pepper and stylish sets don’t need to be expensive. Plus, it’s an edible foodie gift with a long shelf life.
- Multitool hair-clip – Holds hair/yamulke in place and also acts as a spanner, screw driver, trolley coin, cutting edge and ruler! A cool, practical gift that I often include with Bar/Bat Mitzvah presents.
- Dead Sea bath salts – a nice change from soapy gift sets, and as a bonus, most of these come from Israel.
I hope you’ve found my tips and suggestions helpful. If you have any great advice or gift ideas to share, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks, and Happy Chanukah!
I was provided with sample products to review for this guide. I was not expected to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links – if you click on them and make a purchase, I earn a small commission, although the price you pay remains the same. These sales help me to keep family friends food going – thank you for your continued support.