My Hanukkah Hooplah Story: Celebrating the Holiday with a Special Needs Child (with a Giveaway!)

hanukkah hoopla

When my kids were small, I initiated a tradition in our house of giving eight gifts over the course of the eight days of Hanukkah. I didn’t have this tradition when I was younger, but I liked the idea of lighting a candle every night and giving my children a gift to unwrap to celebrate. It was easy to go into a toy store and pick up tchotchkes for less than $10 each, or even $1 each (at the Dollar Store). My children didn’t ask for anything much in particular and they liked whatever they got.

As the years progressed, I kept up the tradition of eight gifts for each night of Hanukkah but it started getting harder as the demands started to increase. All of a sudden, they wanted this…they wanted that…and none of seemed to fit into my perception of a holiday that was never meant to be commercialized as Christmas. I got in trouble for buying one child clothes, and the other child forbids the giving of books. Still, I had the gift buying control and even slipped in my one night of charity where I gave them money to donate to an organization of their choice.

But this year, Hanukkah became something else. My special needs son decided that he wants to build a computer, and it was up to me to buy all the parts during the eight nights of Hanukkah. When I wouldn’t agree to that, he decided he wanted a PlayStation. Then Amazon gift cards. Then money. And when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, he got upset. Really upset.

It was hard to deflect or get him to think of anything else.

I keep telling him that Hanukkah isn’t about greed or materialism. It’s about the miracle of an oil lamp that burned for eight days without replenishing. It’s about freedom. It’s about being proud of our heritage. It’s about fitting in to a world where we are a minority.

But his demands persisted. As a mother, I’ve been wondering where I struck out, but I know deep down that his obsessions are out of his control, and definitely out of my control.

Having a special needs child is as challenging as it gets. Some days are better than others and not all holidays work out the way I hope. But despite his shenanigans and unrealistic requests, he’s an amazing child who is showing me the true meaning of life. He’s bright, he’s eccentric, he walks to his own beat.

And as we enter a new year and light the candles approaching that time, I embrace his differences as I learn how to turn negative requests into positive ones.

So, are you wondering what #HanukkahHoopla is?

In the spirit of the season, myself and 7 other bloggers are giving 8 gifts to 8 lucky commenters. Click on the menorah above to be magically transported to the schedule where you’ll find links to visit other fabulous writers and increase your chances of winning holiday cyber-swag!

Taken together, we represent a broad range of Jewish experience. Some of us are Reform. Others are Conservative. Some are Orthodox. Some of us keep kosher; others, not so much. One of us is a rabbi.

We’re offering cyberswag to people who leave fabulous comments.

That’s EIGHT chances to win!

You can comment on anyone’s blog from December 16th all the way until the end of the 2014. Winners will be posted here & on individual bloggers’ pages in the new year.


12/17 : Rivki Silver. “The Miracle of Marriage”

 12/18 : Miriam Hendeles.  “Eight Personal Miracles of 2014.

12/19 : Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson. “Short on Decor, Long on Miracles.”

12/20 : Tikva Kennedy. “Hanukkah With a Christmas Tree”

12/21 : Rebecca Klempner. “Ready For a Little Hanukkah Hoopla”

12/22 : Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr. This Messy Life.

12/23: Monica Gebell.  “Light.”

What are you doing to celebrate this season? Want to hear about MY giveaway?


I’m giving away a copy of Jammin’ with Jew! Vol II Holiday Xxplosion (CD) andMama Doni’s “Jewish Holiday Party” (DVD)! 

Jammin’ with Jew! Vol II Holiday Xxplosion (Jamhouse Recs, 2014) is the highly anticipated follow up to Josh and Jamtones Jammin’ with Jew Vol I (Jamhouse Recs, 2012). With over 40,000 copies of Vol I in distribution (mostly thru PJ Library!) the Jamtones have been jet setting around the country playing shows in PJ communities including NY, Texas, Fla, DC,  all over New England and the Northeast. Holiday Xxplosion! offers families a funny and ultra funky twist on holiday classics and original songs based on holidays including Chanukah, Tu b’shvat, Rosh Hashana and of course Shabbat! 

Mama Doni’s “Jewish Holiday Party” is her debut DVD with a brand new bonus soulful, acoustic CD soundtrack. From a bluegrass “”Chanukah Oh Chanukah”” medley sing-along to a fun instructional “”Making Challah with Mama Doni”” video throw-down in the kitchen, this DVD celebrates Chanukah, Passover and Shabbat like never before. Join Doni as she sings and dances through the holidays. Party along at home with helpful how-to’s for making mouth-watering matzo-pizza, sizzling latkes and other scrumptious surprises! This exciting new soundtrack features 12 original acoustic versions of classic Jewish favorites by Doni Zasloff-Thomas and guitarist Eric Lindberg. Mama Doni’s “”Jewish Holiday Party”” fills your home and holidays with a hoedown of Jewish deliciousness and delight! With a whole lot of soul and a country-lovin’ spirit, “”The Original Jewish Cowgirl”” will capture your heart & soul with a “”Bluegrass Dayeinu”” and so much more. Eric Lindberg rockin’ the guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin and ukele, makes this DVD/CD pack a happy heimish hoedown!! It’s the perfect rollicking gift for the whole family to enjoy for many holidays to come.

You can comment on my blog or any of the Hanukkah Hooplah blog from December 16th all the way until the end of the 2014 listed here: http://rasjacobson.com/2014/12/15/time-for-hanukkah-hoopla-2015.

If you respond on my blog, answer this to win:

What is your advice for teaching kids the TRUE meaning of Hanukkah?

Winners will be selected randomly. The giveaway will end on December 31st, 2014. Winner must be U.S. based and accept the prize within 24 hours.

Disclosure: I was not compensated to participate in this campaign. I worked with my prize sponsors to provide a FABULOUS prize to celebrate #HanukkahHooplah.

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  1. My boys are still little (under three) but I can see how this is starting to become an issue. They are still the first set of grandchildren so everyone wants to see their faces when the open gifts – too many gifts, daily gifts, big and small! (Honestly I only bought two and then picked up 6 used books for the whole holiday and thought that was over doing it.) I’m trying to follow the example set by my parents growing up – one “larger” gift the first night, lots of hanukkah story books and family gatherings but I didn’t account for the barrage of grandparent gifts as an outpouring of love. My grandparents used to give gelt and a couple of dollars in coins to play dreidel with – how times have changed!? This post came at a good time for me because I have been thinking about how to deal with the gifting phenomena. So far I recognize that I will just have to put a stop to it next year because my oldest is getting a taste of it and he likes it. Oy! That is going to be a conversation with the loving extended family, but I have to because even with the focus on the story of hanukkah and doing mitzvot, the gifts are overshadowing the celebration.

  2. Your love for your son is evident in this post, and he is fortunate to have you as a mother! Parenting is so tricky sometimes, and traditions we may start in all our hope and parental innocence can certainly take a different turn than we envision! Wishing you the best of luck with finding the balance between creating the traditions and teaching your kids to keep them in perspective.

  3. Renee sent me over here. I enjoyed your post, and, although I have no special needs kids or grandkids, I can imagine he teaches you about as much as you teach him.

    God bless you.

  4. Happy Hanukkah! Don’t enter me in the drawing because I do not need one more thing in this house. Just stopping by to say I’m so glad you shared your story. I think many will relate to the challenge and it was nice to read something personal like this about Hanukkah. (Though I’m sorry it has been frustrating!) My oldest is starting to ask for unreasonable things is probably getting a big lecture tonight.

  5. The true meaning of Hanukkah? I think it’s about remembering the miracles, small and large. That’s my take anyway. 🙂

  6. Oh, yes. It is so hard for our kiddos to understand. But we just keep doing our best. And remembering to love ourselves for that.

  7. I love that you are celebrating Hanukah along with other bloggers. Happy Hanukah to you all! Unfortunately I am not feeling well so our Hanukah won’t be the same. But I do have our menorah out and we will light candles. Gifts are not going to happen, but that’s okay. My son’s 22nd birthday was last week and my husband’s is this week. So we have a lot to celebrate. Plus my father will be 87 on Christmas Day.

    About special needs: you are amazing in being a wonderful mom to your son. My nephew has Asperger’s so I remember when he was young (and he still does this to some extent) keeping his mind focused on a singular thought. But your son has brought so much joy to your life, and that is what G-d’s gift is to you and the world. He is an awesome child, and that is a joy.

  8. Holly
    I totally got this. Having two special needs sons every day was and still is a challenge. As they have grown the needs have changed but the one part of the holiday that still prevails is the giving to others. Each year we discuss where as a family we Will go to share the gift of light. This year we are going to a local food bank. As a family we try to realize that there is someone who needs us. We might not be perfect but….

    • Thanks for stopping by, Liza, it always helps to hear other stories about people relating and I should talk about this more often but it’s very personal and very difficult to raise a special needs child, as you know. Have a wonderful holiday.

  9. Hi! Loved your story about the Hanukkah gift giving. I think the best way to reach children is through singing and music. Maybe compose lyrics with the child about his feelings about Hanukkah and then put the lyrics to his favorite tune. I had lots of challenging times when my kids were small. Music worked (sometimes!!!) ! Good luck!

  10. Holly:

    I cannot imagine it.

    Except I kinda have it in reverse.

    My son never asks for anything.


    It’s like I wish he’d want something because it’s hard to figure what to get for a 15 year old boy who locks himself in his room when he isn’t doing homework. I long for the days when my easy-going, carefree son wanted to put together LEGO sets.

    No matter how you slice it, this parenting stuff isn’t easy, is it?

    Great post! And great cyberstuff. Thanks for posting the schedule. I’ll send you an update!

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