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Party Poopers Submit Their Questions 

It’s funny how the holiday of vanquishing materialism brought us here to… lavish parties and piles of gifts

Illustrations by Esti Friedman Saposh

Chanukah, O’ Chanukah. It’s funny how the holiday of vanquishing materialism brought us here to… lavish parties and piles of gifts. Plus (unrelated to the mesorah of Chanukah but very much related to our general mesorah), all the worry, guilt, and kvetches we like to busy ourselves with for no real reason. (Party poopers submit their questions.)

My mother has been leaving the full-price tags on the gifts she gives us since the beginning of time (I specify full price because that’s absolutely not what she pays), and honestly, we find it to be an adorable quirk. My new sister-in-law, however, could not mask her horror when she opened the generic shiny silver gift bag (no tissue paper or anything) that contained a Shmurrberry plaid wool scarf, but no gift receipt. How can we explain to her that the joy of Mommy Finding Metziahs is worth more than the metziah itself?

Let her learn the hard way that if she shares her opinion (with her husband, of course — real men don’t let their wives complain to their mothers-in-law) about gifts on sale, gifts you can’t return, or gifts in any capacity, she will lose any and all future gift-receiving opportunities. Now it comes down to whether or not she’s deliberately trying to lose that privilege, in which case, well played.

We’re old-fashioned stock, and that means we spend the last day of Chanukah vacation with a nice pen and a stack of classy personalized thank-you cards, forcing — I mean encouraging — our kids to write thank-you notes in cursive to anyone they’ve received gifts from. If Great-Aunt Bella took the time to send you a dollar bill tucked into the embroidered menorah sweater of a teddy bear, you take the time to send her a note back! We’re right, right?

You’re… definitely something. We have nothing bad to say about people who impart values of gratitude and thoughtfulness to their children. And the best way to impart those values, truly, is by bribing them. Add a few more dollars to that teddy’s sweater and watch them do exactly as you please.

My husband got me a really… creative gift this year: a selection of cookbooks and a bundle of 20 cooking lessons (the “Back to Basics” package). He also got a six-month subscription of homemade challah that he bought from my next-door neighbor, who doesn’t even have a challah-selling business. Is he trying to tell me something?

Nope! His love language is obviously acts of service. Lucky you!

Okay. Okay. I got my father-in-law for our secret Chanukah gift exchange, but like, they fully support us. What am I supposed to do?? Use his money to buy him a gift? So awkward. When he was in my house last Shabbos and he saw some precut butternut squash in a container in the fridge, he gave me a look. How can I get out of this with my support check intact??

Easy. Now that you know what he considers a luxury, splurge and get him his own container of precut butternut squash!

We’re doing a Neshei Chanukah mesibah, a fun, potluck-style event where everyone comes as they are and has a good time. Last year, when the Neshei heads told everyone to just bring their favorite thing, we had 35 women who brought paper goods, and another 34 who brought franks in blanks (the rebbetzin brought brownies). How do we finally figure this out?

Set the theme of this year’s potluck to be Foods You’re Sure Other People Will Not Make, which will either get you an eclectic and varied menu with fun and surprising options, or 35 platters of parsnip latkes. The fun is in not knowing!

Whenever I try to arrange our family Chanukah party, my mechutanim (my son’s in-laws, who else?) have somehow always already booked the prime time: the coveted Sunday Night Slot. What do I need to do to be good enough to deserve my children around me for just one Sunday night Chanukah party? Who knew that my sons would love their shviggers more than me one day?

It’s very simple. Pick yourself up and book your Chanukah party no later than Rosh Chodesh Elul, like all vindictive mothers-in-law. And if all else fails, crash the Sunday Night Slot with the rest of your marrieds.

We have a block Chanukah party every year, and my neighbor takes her role as Game Slavedriver very, very seriously. She nominates herself for the position every year, and I’m pretty sure she rigs the votes to make sure she gets it. She also emails out game instructions seven days before the party, then will call you personally to ask you why you didn’t respond “Okay” to her email.  Last year she also snail mailed letters in hand-drawn calligraphy (a skill she learned specifically for this event) detailing the game rules. Plus, she brings a megaphone.

You’re right. People who take the Yom Tov spirit seriously are such a drag. What is she thinking, trying to facilitate fun? What a monster. The only problem we see here is the megaphone, and our best idea would be to send her a message to kindly leave it at home, via mail, email, text, call, and singing telegram.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 823)

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