Growing up as someone who did not celebrate Christmas, I was always jealous of the big-ticket gifts: Where was the bow-wrapped puppy under our tree? Wait, where was our tree?
But while Christmas may have the dramatic, one-night-only reveal that Hanukkah does not, the slow clap of gifts—one each night, night after night, a never-ending gift parade—makes the Festival of Lights excellent fodder for thematic gifts: smaller present "teams" that, when assembled, are more powerful than the sum of the parts (like the Maccabees, right?).
Give a loved one who has recently relocated a fork one night and, by night eight, when they've got a complete table setting or two, it'll all make sense. Or, for someone too frazzled to treat themselves, treat them to a candle that'll make their house smell like a classy hotel and, the next night, to a jar of homemade hand salve.
From our editorial team, we've got 10 sets of themed gifts in groups of 8, for the neat freak to the letter-writer to the expert baker:
Give the gift of all the things a loved one has been meaning to buy for a neater, easier life but has never gotten around to. (And buy some for yourself, too, while you're at it?)
- A step stool, to make the most of any space above the fridge or cabinets, or high shelves
- A basket for catching throws, towels, or kids toys that's nice to look at, too
- Risers for cabinets, to make the most of vertical space
- A place to store knives: in-drawer or on-wall
- Tupperware that does not suck—like IKEA's (and not just because a set of 17 is $4.99)
- Wall hooks, so coats don't end up on door knobs
- A concealed hanging bookshelf, for keeping must-reads close by (without cluttering the night-stand)
- Good clips in high volume, so they can throw away all their crappy plastic ones
Don't be shy about getting someone who loves to bake even more baking supplies—it's likely that they treat others to the gift of quality ingredients and speciality equipment but have been making do with the basics themselves.
- Bread lame
- Bread rising baskets
- Pie dough chain and dough whisk: Break this up into two gifts, but if you don't like that idea, there's an optional extra ninth gift below!
- Triple blend cocoa & black cocoa baking powders
- Tahini and halva pack
- Jacobsen Salt Co. gift set
- Food52's Baking book
- Optional extra: Silicone baking mats
It just so happens that all the essentials you need to serve a meal—and live as a person who eats at home—amount to 8 items (generally). So for the person who needs an upgrade, or who just moved, or who owns nothing of this sort, give them one item each night: The first night they might be confused, but soon they'll catch on—with joy!
Here is a selection from our Shop, but pick out the items that suit your recipient:
Pick a topic (The Civil War?), a time period (late 20th century?), a genre (thriller?), an author (Stephen King?), or a place (Mexico?), then stick with it.
Here, a thoughtful (if a tad esoteric) gift for a reader and history buff: Give 8 days of books by and about the French expats of the Lost Generation. They'll have their own mini library that transports them to the wine-soaked romance and torment of Paris in the 1920s, peaking with Ernest Hemingway's memoir A Moveable Feast.
- Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy: A Lost Generation Love Story
- The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Memoirs of Montparnasse
- Everybody Behave Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises
- Living Well is the Best Revenge
- The Paris Wife
- The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
- A Moveable Feast
Whether you’re buying for someone who’s never made a pot of pasta before or someone who can cook carbonara with their eyes closed, you won’t miss with these Italian pantry staples.
- Good olive oil for applying liberally, as Italians do
- Dried pasta: You can’t go wrong with dried spaghetti, but if you want something a bit different, however, might we suggest porcini trumpets or beet fusilli?
- Anchovy fillets, to add subtle (or not, depending on much you use!) funk to things like pizza, pasta, and bagna cauda
- The best canned whole tomatoes you can find, like San Marzano (and a recipe card for tomato sauce with onion and butter, which is quite possibly one of the best things you can do with them)
- A sizeable wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano: even a huuuuugggee hunk of the good stuff (pasta will do that!) will get used up fast
- A good basics cookbook, like The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, which has 466 recipes covering everything from risotto to pork braised in milk
- 5 or 6 heads of garlic (many, many Italian dishes start with some variation of garlic in olive oil)
- A loaf of bread, for a week's worth of meals—and next week's ribollita
These are the things, the frills—candles, bubbles, soft things—that tend to not survive budgetary cuts. For the person who works a little too hard in your life, get all of the above, and make them more thoughtful with an I.O.U. that goes the extra mile.
- A scented candle that'll make the house smell like a (tasteful and elegant) hotel lobby, like this one
- Slippers so soft, it's tempting to wear them to work
- A robe that feels like wearing the softest blanket
- Lavender sachets
- An I.O.U. for a 20-minute back massage
And make these:
For the person who can never put down the broom (and will never let you help wash dishes after a dinner party), why not stoke their tendencies with tools that'll make cleaning (even more) fun for them?
- A teeny tiny dustpan they can carry around at all times. (Or, for your fancy friends...)
- A starter-pack for making all-natural cleaning supplies: lemons, liquid soap or detergent, baking soda, vinegar, and Borax (or, better yet, make the cleaning supplies for them—and package them up in cute little jars!)
- A basket to tuck all of their supplies in, neatly
- Reusable sponges
- Unpaper towels
- Hand soap
- A glass brush to get all the unreachable edges
- Dryer balls, eco-friendly replacements for dryer sheets that double as cat toys
The tchotchkes and doo-dads that make a space feel complete but not cluttered can take years to collect. So give a loved one a head start with some treasures that might not win on the the function front but that will make your giftee happy all the same.
- Picture frames—even better (and more self-interested!) if you put a picture of the two of you in it
- Catch-all bowls (wrap them up with some of their favorite individually-packaged candies inside)
- Little vases that look good with any type of flower or green
- Wind chimes
- Pinch bowls
- Incense holders
- A friend for a shelf
Did you know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Cue eye roll. Cue contradictory evidence. Regardless of whether breakfast's gravity is phooey, no day starts off worse when you begin it with a little act of self-nourishment. Make that happen for a friend or loved one.
- A jar of just-add-liquid overnight oats (bonus if you make multiple jars in different flavor combinations)
- A mix of nuts and dried fruit (this Persian combination is called "Problem-Solving Nuts," so you know it's good)
- Pancake mix
- Granola bars
- And a jar of two of homemade yogurt to eat with it
- A batch of soy sauce eggs
- A thermos or some baggies, for warm and/or safe breakfast transportation
For the person in your life who'd rather read the newspaper in print than on their phone, or who knows the joy of receiving an actual letter in the mail, deck out their desk with a smartly-designed pencil case, a pen that makes the thoughts flow freely, and, of course, cat-themed sticky notes.
- Clipboard, tape dispenser, and stapler (nights 1 through 3)
- A few of their favorite pens (or a pen starter kit)
- A case to put them in
- Sticky notes and/or page markers (as silly or serious as makes sense for your recipient)
- A pack of Washi tape
- A set of stationery
What's your family's approach to the eight nights of Hanukkah? Do you have a big gift on night eight or smaller gifts along the way? Share your traditions in the comments below!
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