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Perfect Hanukkah and Kwanzaa Gifts for Kids and the VIPs in Their Life

Santa might have Christmas gifts covered, but for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, you’re on your own—which is why we thought we’d offer a little help.

If you need a Christmas gift, you have plenty of assistance: Your mailbox and inbox are likely overflowing with lookbooks and discount offers, and everything from your Facebook feed to your favorite reads are brimming with options. But if you’re searching high and low for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gifts? The advice is comparatively sparse, especially if you’re hoping to find something small but sweet: something that befits a child, whether she’s getting the gift or presenting the gift to grandparents, teachers and caregivers. That’s why we’ve searched high and low for treasures that work nicely for these special situations. Here are a few of our favorite finds.

Hanukkah Gifts

(December 12 - December 20)

Hanukkah, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the purification and rededication of a Jewish temple in 168 BC; it also celebrates the miracle of a small jar of oil that was thought to be capable of lighting that temple for only a day, but in fact sustained a flame for eight. That’s why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. (The exact date differs every year because a lunar calendar is used.) Family and friends light one candle on the menorah the first day, and then an additional candle for every day that follows until the menorah is entirely lit on the last day. Hanukkah is not traditionally a big gifting-exchange holiday—the emphasis is on spending time with loved ones—but small treats are often given on each of the eight days, especially with children.

Hanukkah gifts for kids

Photo: Courtesy of Sara's Prints/The Jewish Museum Shop

Kids Hanukkah Pajamas
What’s the thing to wear for eight special nights? Cute dreidel jammies, that’s what. This two-piece comes in cozy cotton and festive colors—just right for celebratory gatherings where kids are bound to konk out immediately afterward.

Buy it: $36, Thejewishmuseum.org

Photo: Courtesy of Rite Lite

Wooden Emoji Dreidels
A modern twist on a classic gift: a fun set of four sunny dreidels decorated with amusing emoji expressions, each reflecting the letter that falls on the same side. LOL!

Buy it: $8 for the set; Moderntribe.com

Photo: Courtesy of Colorpix

Hanukkah Coloring Placemat
Keep the kids busy while they’re waiting for grown-ups to finish cooking up a feast. These 14” X 11” placemats come with four crayons in festive colors. With 10 mats to a set, chances are, there’ll be plenty for each kid to create her own masterpiece.

Buy it: $10, Thejewishmuseum.com

Hanukkah gifts for grandparents

Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Adler

Ceramic Dachshund Menorah
Does a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s also mean a visit with a much-loved family member of the canine variety? If so, kids will love presenting this adorable take on the menorah. The Jonathan Adler-designed piece is crafted in high-fire stoneware by skilled artisans in Peru and finished with a soft-satin matte glaze.

Buy it: $128, Jonathanadler.com

Photo: Courtesy of liviers and Co.

Il Fornacino Olive Oil
As any chef will tell you, a dish is only as good as its ingredients. And this essential element is pretty great. Whether the grandparents love to cook or love to eat (or both), this prize-winning olive oil can be splashed on whatever they’re serving during the holiday—in which case (bonus!) you get to enjoy it too.

Buy it: $58, Oliviersandco.com

Photo: Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Hanukkah Celebration Latke Platter
Hand-painted and crafted from stoneware, this serving piece depicts the four sides of a dreidel, spelling out: A great miracle happened there. It’s also microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

Buy it: $40, Potterybarn.com

Hanukkah gifts for teachers

Photo: Courtesy of Rite Lite

Make Your Own Beeswax Hanukkah Candle Kit
Teaching is hard. Have your child show his appreciation with a gift that calms on so many different levels—from crafting them to lighting them up to sitting back and relishing the glow. Each seven-color set comes with 44 beeswax sheets and 44 wicks.

Buy it: $17 for each set, Moderntribe.com

Photo: Courtesy of Target

Men’s Ugly Hanukkah Cardigan “Sweater”
We believe that the annual ritual of ugly-sweater wearing can (and should!) be shared by all faiths. Whether your child’s favorite teacher chooses to wear this ironically or not, it’s a fun keepsake to take out once a year. The real gag? It’s actually a tee shirt, complete with shirt and tie!

Buy it: $28, Target.com

Photo: Courtesy of World Market

Hanukkah Pasta
These festive shapes are made in Italy and kosher. They’re also 100 percent durum wheat semolina, which mean it’s also got more protein than your typical white pasta. Make it extra-special by gift-wrapping it with your own homemade sauce.

Buy it: $6 for set of two, Worldmarket.com

Hanukkah gifts for caregivers

Photo: Courtesy of Katz Delicatessen

Chocolate Babka
This traditional treat ships directly from New York City’s famed Katz’s Delicatessen. What’s special about this one? The yummy rich chocolate is generously marbled throughout the dough—making every bite downright heavenly. Comes in cinnamon too.

Buy it: $15, Katzdelicatessen.com

Photo: Courtesy of Page Street Publishing

The New Yiddish Kitchen, by Jennifer Robins and Simone Miller
Who says you can’t enjoy classic cooking and stick to your (very au courant) eating regimen? This hip cookbook, written by two paleo foodies, combines old techniques with new food trends, including paleo and gluten-free versions of Jewish favorites. No fewer than four bagel recipes inside!

Buy it: $19, Amazon.com

Photo: Courtesy of Zion Judaica

Judaic Unisex Bracelet
Here’s a versatile piece of jewelry that celebrates Hanukkah but is also simple and chic so it can be worn every day. Made of leather and pewter, it’s about half-inch wide with an adjustable length of 7 to 8.5 inches.

Buy it: $26, Zionjudaica.com

Kwanzaa Gifts

(December 26—January 1)

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, established in 1966 to celebrate African-American heritage. Derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” (which means “first fruits of harvest” in Swahili), this seven-day event is a time for family, friends and neighbors to come together, light candles on the kinara (a seven-stick candleholder) and celebrate the seven core principles that build strong communities. These include: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Kwanzaa is also a time to give respect to ancestors, feast together and make music. Gifts can be exchanged by family and friends throughout the celebration but are commonly given to children on the final day. Handmade gifts are particularly encouraged, as are those that celebrate African and African-American traditions.

Kwanzaa gifts for kids

Photo: Courtesy of Cookie Cutters

Kwanzaa Africa Cookie Cutter Set
This four-piece plastic set of cutters—which create cookies that piece together to form Africa—are a smart way to kick off the weeklong holiday. Besides kitchen skills, parents can use the time together to introduce the continent to little ones and talk about the principles of Kwanzaa. What’s more, your tasty batch can be packaged up as Kwanzaa treats for loved ones. Call it the gift that keeps on giving.

Buy it: $10, Amazon.com

Photo: Courtesy of Square Fish

My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz
Books that teach kids about their heritage are especially welcome during Kwanzaa. This one, from popular children’s book author and illustrator Karen Katz, is a rousing introduction to the joys of Kwanzaa and its rituals, complete with vibrant pictures. Buy it: $8, Amazon.com

Photo: Courtesy of Baby Okra Boutique/Etsy

Ankara Print Bows
This two-bow set—hand-stitched in 100-percent cotton African fabric—festively tops off any little girl’s holiday outfit. It comes with a clip as well as ribbon, so you can wear it alone or as a headband. (Frugal mom tip: Split the set up, and you’ve got two days’ worth of gifts.) It also works as a bow tie for boys.

Buy it: $50, Etsy.com

Kwanzaa gifts for grandparents

Photo: Courtesy of Wazi Shoes

2017 Limited Edition Nightjar Sandal
Kids are generally the gift recipients during Kwanzaa, but everyone appreciates a year-end treat, especially if it’s presented as a token of love from your child. These chic beaded sandals are handmade in Tanzania, with a portion of sales benefiting The Gretta Foundation, which supports young nurses-in-training in Eastern Africa.

Buy it: $130, wazishoes.com

Photo: Courtesy of Minted

African Drum Print
Update any room with this cool limited-edition print of an African drum, by a graphic designer from Trinidad & Tobago. It has both modern and historical appeal, and it’s available framed or unframed and in range of sizes and colors.

Buy it: starting at $21, Minted.com

Photo: Courtesy of The Black Art Depot

Kwanzaa Heart Kinara Set
This kinara and celebration goblet were hand-crafted by a master carver in Ghana; the heart shape (the Adinkra “Akoma” symbol) represents tolerance and patience. Besides the candleholder and goblet, the set includes seven candles and a bamboo mat.

Buy it: $80, Blackartdepot.com

Kwanzaa gifts for teachers

Photo: Courtesy of Baskets of Africa

Zulu Wire Shallow Plate
Here’s something your child’s favorite teacher will love setting the table with during Kwanzaa or any other time of year. Handmade by Zulu weavers, this brilliant shallow basket plate is crafted from copper and plastic-coated wire.

Buy it: $25, Basketsfromafrica.com

Photo: Courtesy of Target

Flames of Faith Throw Pillow
Teachers (and just about anyone) hosting a Kwanzaa gathering can appreciate the decorative powers of a smartly chosen throw pillow. This number is embellished with a graphic kinara, adding festive flair to any sofa.

Buy it: $41; Target.com

Photo: Courtesy of Amistad

** The Cooking Gene, by Michael W. Twitty**
Written by a renowned culinary historian, this memoir explores the author’s his ancestry—black and white—through food. Along the way, readers also discover the complicated roots of Southern food from Africa to contemporary America.

Buy it: $19, Amazon.com

Kwanzaa gifts for caregivers

Photo: Courtesy of Global Mamas/Gifts with Humanity

Red Bugs Apron
For recipients who’ll be hands-on in the Kwanzaa feast preparations, this handy gift will be put to immediate use. Made by Ghanaian mothers using traditional batik techniques, the festive, bold apron has a clever front pocket and is made with 100 percent machine-washable cotton.

Buy it: $20, Giftswithhumanity.com

Photo: Courtesy of Texda/Global Girlfriend

Ugandan Organic Waxcloth Wristlet
Just right for essentials, this wallet-sized clutch is handmade by female artisans in Uganda and backed by TEXDA, a group that promotes women textile entrepreneurs. The wristlet comes in a selection of colors and patterns and is made of 100 percent organic cotton.

Buy it: $10, Globalgirlfriend.com

Photo: Courtesy of Harry & David

Dried Fruit Tray
Help your superstar caregiver celebrate the holiday with a bounty of fruit. This colorful mix of dried varieties is a crowd-pleaser and will last through the holidays

Buy it: $30, Harryanddavid.com

Published October 2017