Jewish Journal

Our Chanukah gift guide for the <strike>weird</strike> <strike>odd</strike>

November 22, 2007 | 7:00 pm

Chanukah is less than two weeks away and Black Friday, the shopping day after Thanksgiving, is upon us. If you've been racking your brain trying to come up with gift ideas or putting off writing up your gift list, consider some suggestions from our inaugural gift guide.
For the. . . .

. . . Saba and Savta Who Have Everything

Not another T-shirt from Acapulco, my closet is already overflowing, I beg my children and grandchildren. Not another book, I have a dozen stacked up that I haven't gotten around to reading.

So what can you give saba and savta, grandpa and grandma, who've been living in the same place for 35 years, have a house full of tchotchkes and every conceivable kitchen gadget?

I don't want the latest iPhone, videogame or computer attachment. It takes me forever to figure these things out, and I'd rather spend the time swimming.

My wife and I have been trying for years to convince our descendants that we'd love them just as much -- maybe even more -- if they didn't bring any gift for Chanukah or, for that matter, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day, Father's Day or Mexican Independence Day.

For a while, I got gift certificates for Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, until I dropped a hint that I enjoyed shopping almost as much as having a hip replacement.

And how much chocolate and marzipan can one man eat?

So if you absolutely must give us something, try a voucher for a nice neighborhood restaurant. We haven't given up eating and drinking.

Even better, pool all the kids' and grandkids' contributions and make a donation to a cause that means something to us. Try The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which aids gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, or the New Israel Fund, which supports progressive causes in Israel.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

--Tom Tugend

New Mother-in-Law

Buying a present for your new mother-in-law can be a daunting task. She gave you her child and, for some reason, reciprocating with a picture frame or coffee mug just doesn't seem right. There's also the message behind the gift. Too "homemade" and you might come across as cheap ("I macraméd this vest for you!"). You also don't want to make it seem that you gave little thought to selecting the gift. On the flip side, a gift that is too extravagant could look like you are sucking up -- or spending her child's hard-earned money.

The answer to the dilemma? Enter the day spa.

Manicures. Pedicures. Body wraps. Massages. A plethora of pampering is at your disposal, thanks to gift certificates from places like Burke-Williams ($75, 25 minutes of massage; $155, 80 minutes) and spafinder.com (whose $50-$1,000 gift certificates work at spas around the country). This way, even though she might not have had a say in who her child married, at least she gets to select her Chanukah present.

Ladies, if you want to make it a really enjoyable gift -- and do something nice for you, too -- book an appointment for yourself at the same time and make a bonding experience out of it.

Even if you aren't best buds with your new mom right now, don't worry. Getting a peppermint foot soak somehow manages to bring people closer together.

--Shoshana Lewin

Entitled Teens

What do you give an entitled teenager for Chanukah?

"Nothing," my own teen, Danny, 16, said. "What could you give someone who has everything?"

Not a cellphone, not a computer; not a DVD player, not a designer hoodie. They have it all. Besides, according to Chicago-based Teen Research Unlimited, what teenagers really want is money. And if that's not an option, gift cards. After all, how could we parents -- teens, roll your eyes here -- possibly know what's "sick" in the status-conscious world of teens?

So here's my list of ideal gifts for the overindulged adolescent:

A job. Yep, a job. And I'm not talking about one of those community service, resume-building boondoggles to Costa Rica. Nope, I'm talking about bussing dishes at Islands or scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. A job where the teen has to show up, suit up and shut up for an assigned shift -- with a smile.

Some practical life lessons. Help your teen learn how to iron, stack the dishwasher and make a matzah ball. This Chanukah, register him at www.eHow.com and be sure to bookmark "How to Clean Out From Under Your Bed" and "How to Get White Socks Clean."

Improved parenting. No, I don't mean buying a DriveCam or a CarChipE/X to video record your teen speeding down the freeway while chatting on a handheld. Or investing in surveillance software, such as WebWatcher, to make sure he's not IMing predators or placing offshore bets. No, I'm suggesting you give your adored adolescent more love and guidance -- the real stuff, in real time -- that leads to self-mastery and independence, that provides the proverbial roots and wings.

But here's the catch. How do we guarantee that our teen has the opportunity to take advantage of these gifts? That he doesn't sleep away all his discretionary time?
Easy. Give your teen the most important gift of all: the Flying Alarm Clock ($24.99). It not only wakes him up with a loud, annoying shriek, but it also sends the propeller top flying across the room. And the alarm doesn't stop screaming until your teen retrieves the top and replaces it. By then, he is wide awake (though not necessarily cheerful), as this informative video demonstrates.

And if those ideas won't kindle your entitled teenager's Chanukah candelabrum, there are always the gifts that were good enough for us -- pajamas, socks and furry slippers.

--Jane Ulman

Very Religious Relative lamp menorah
They eschew materialism, they shun commercialism, they have no clue about pop culture and they'd like to be spending most of their time learning Torah. Yes, it's the very religious relative (you know who I'm talking about). Great peeps, good values -- hard to buy gifts for.

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