Since its inception, the Jewish religion has always held a strong emphasis on three key things: community, family and celebration.
In a way, this is most clearly exemplified by the amount of holidays that are celebrated in a year. There’s Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Purim, and that’s just a handful. The list goes on and on.
These are the times of the year, however, where those key attributes move to the forefront and are justly commemorated. Each holiday has its own story and purpose, whilst also inviting family and community to get together to honour their ancestors. There is also food. A lot of food.
Seriously, there’s an awful lot of food to eat when it comes to Jewish holidays. Meals like matzo soup, challah, brisket and honey apples are commonplace around a Jewish dinner table, making it hard not to get excited everytime a new holiday comes along.
The other thing to get excited about, of course, is the time that you have to spend with your family. With work and daily routines getting in the way of family reunions, the holidays are a perfect way to come together, exchange gifts and enjoy each other’s company before things go back to normal.
Wait, What?! We Have To Exchange Gifts For Every Holiday?
It looks like someone hasn’t really been going the extra mile for the last few years. Don’t panic – no, you don’t have to transfer gifts. As mentioned previously, the Jewish holidays are more about commemoration, food and community, but it’s always nice (especially if you’re celebrating with a family you haven’t seen in a while) to show them how much you mean to them by buying them something special.
You don’t have to go crazy, or anything. Don’t go out and buy your mother a new car. But there’s nothing stopping you going above and beyond and purchasing a holiday gift to celebrate the occasion and show your appreciation.
With Rosh Hashanah just a month away, it’s probably a good time to get yourself organised and start looking. There are plenty of places both on the highstreet and online where you can find meaningful gifts which are specific to each holiday. To give you a little help, here is a list of the seven biggest Jewish holidays and the gifts which work best with them:
With one of the most popular dishes on Rosh Hashanah being honey and apple cake, there isn’t a more appropriate gift than a beautifully crafted honey dish for the family dining table. On israelicenterofjudaica.com website there are a variety of gorgeous, sterling silver honey dishes which are both intricately crafted and practical for your delicious Rosh Hashanah desserts.
Yom Kippur is one of the holiest days of the year, but unlike other Jewish holidays it is preceded by a large fasting period, where Jews ask for atonement from God and forgiveness for all of their sins. In this way, the holiday is far more introverted and solemn, as the Jewish people spend the time to look into their souls and understand their wrongdoings.
If you are invited for a meal to mark the end of Yom Kippur, however, then an understated gift is still a respectful idea to round off the holiday. For this occasion, a simple bouquet of flowers for the table is both sweet and appropriate.
An etrog is one of the oldest citrus species of fruit, used alongside the lulav as part of the Sukkot prayers and celebrations. In this way, an etrog box is a perfect gift for your family. There are so many to choose from, ranging from beautiful silver boxes to intricately crafted wooden ones. It’s a simple but very underrated gift, and it is bound to get a good reaction when you bring it along to your next Sukkot gathering.
It is far more typical to give out gifts on Hanukkah, so hopefully you haven’t needed this list to get your act in gear for this one! Much like the Christmas holiday, Hanukkah gifts can include almost anything you want.
If you want to go a bit different this Hanukkah, however, then perhaps think about going for the personal touch. Handwritten blessings that are designed to be read during the lighting of the menorah are perfect, meaningful and emotional gifts which show you have put a lot of effort in, rather than just buying the next best thing.
Purim is another Jewish holiday where it is traditional to bring along gifts for your hosts. Unlike Hanukkah, however, the act of giving gifts is called Mishloach Manot, which involves bringing a food and fruit basket on the day of Purim. This basket can include cookies, fruits, wine or even sweets, and it is traditionally given before the beginning of the feast.
A tree of life seder plate can often be found during the celebration of the passover. Symbolising the story of the passover itself, this plate is designed to hold six ritual items, and it can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although the most beautiful seder plates are a little on the expensive side, it can be a good idea to go the extra mile and go for something special every once in a while.
Shavuot celebrates the revelation of the Torah, and it is traditionally celebrated through the lighting of candles, feasts and a number of morning services.
It has become a custom of many Jewish families to honour the holiday by decorating their homes with flowers and plant life, making household plants and flowers the perfect gift if you are coming together to celebrate. Just a quick search online will let you see what flowers and plants are typically used, so make sure to do your research and get your family something that they will really appreciate.
Remember, The Best Gift Is You
Of course, there are far more gifts and ideas which you can play around with when it comes to the holidays. Don’t panic if you can’t make a decision, though. The most important thing is that you are there and celebrating the occasion together with your family. That, quite simply, is the best gift you can give them.