| Two Cents |

Two Cents: Chanukah Parties

Unsolicited advice from people with no credentials but plenty of opinions


Illustrations by Esti Friedman


My kids are five, three, and one, and for the fifth year in a row, the family party was called for 7 p.m. Do you know what’s going on in my house at 7 p.m.? Nothing. It’s silent, besides for the sweet, sweet sound of noise machines. Skipping my kids’ bedtime for two-plus hours will kill the rest of our week. Why do they always put me in a position that makes me look uptight? Structure matters, people.

It sounds like you’ve done a cheshbon hanefesh and decided where your priorities lie. Now set a good example for others by getting a babysitter, not making a big deal about it, and enjoying your night out.

Who’s uptight now? Is it the one whisper-screaming at the kid about to give Bubby’s newly upholstered couch a melted-gelt handprint, or you, sipping your iced coffee in peace like the principled planner you are? Maybe other family members will take a hint and realize that if they had structured bedtimes their kids would be a lot easier to handle. (Let’s be honest, though — if it hasn’t happened yet, it probably never will.)


What is the appropriate Chanukah gift for my coworker? My office has a Chanukah party where gift giving is expected.

Our rule of thumb is: On a scale of one to ten, how much are you apologizing for the gift as you hand it over? Anything above a three needs to be reconsidered.

How do I set a FT tablescape without the florals catching fire?

Great question. If you want to be on trend and have those drapey, romantic florals everywhere, use flameless candles and save yourself the excitement of feeling a pang of panic every time someone puts down a glass.

Also, you did know those tablescapes are meant to be editorial eye candy/inspiration and you could and should tone it down for your family party, right? Just checking.

My great-aunt loves seeing the extended family over Chanukah, and she’s busy all night taking pictures of the kids. The next day, she’ll send the photos to her email list of her friends from back in the day, 99 percent of whom have literally never met me. I love to be the source of her nachas, but I try to be careful about keeping my kids’ pictures offline.

Tell her your husband’s minhag is to be super makpid about ayin hara. And if all else fails, ask to see a photo on her camera and make sure it gets passed around for hours until the party’s over.

Ilove hosting, I really, really do. But somehow I find myself overextending every year and then feeling resentful while the rest of my family is sitting back and relaxing. As I insist they do. But they should have insisted on helping harder more than I insisted that I have it under control. Am I spiraling?

Um, yes. Yes, you are. But you’re also self-aware and that’s half the battle. Luckily, there’s an easy fix. Follow several life coaches on social media and read all their posts until you have done all the necessary inner-child work and are a healed and perfect person. Proceed with a problem-free life. (This method can be applied to all questions above and below.)

It’s my sister-in-law’s turn to host the Chanukah party and her house is pristine. My rowdy (can we call him creative, please?) three-year-old will 100 percent be coloring on her walls. Hiding the crayons isn’t an option; he makes messes appear out of thin air.

Number one, this is what Hashem invented child leashes for. Don’t judge us. If you’re not in the mood to be mercilessly judged (lower your expectations, because that will happen regardless) then forewarned is forearmed.

Research the best wall cleaners, carpet stain removers, and hardwood scuff removers and bring them all with you in a Savta Simcha style carpetbag (for effect, but also because you’re totally in on the joke). Whip out whatever you need whenever you need it, and make sure the mess-maker is pitching in with the cleanup. Be hailed as the mother of the century who allows her kids to be themselves while showing them that their actions have consequences.

Then, after the kids are strapped in their car seats and listening to “Tatty My King,” run back inside for cleaning round two, because there’s no way you got it all the first time around.

After we tallied up the Tishrei credit card statement, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s skip Chanukah gifts for each other this year.” Obviously, we didn’t ‘MEAN it’ mean it. I showed immense restraint and got him a monthly beef jerky and wine subscription box. He got me nothing. Not even a cooking implement! Not even Ali Express costume jewelry! Is our marriage in trouble?

Honey, this obviously means he wants you to buy something for yourself, and smart man, he’s leaving you in charge of budget. Lucky for him, this is a teachable moment that you’ll both gain from. Don’t forget to thank him for those new boots (or bag, bracelet, whatever floats your boat) every time you use it. He’s definitely going to get the hint before next Chanukah. Men are amazing at getting hints.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 721)

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