On The Eighth Day of Hanukkah Your Bubbe Gave You Socks

The first night of Hanukkah is over. I hope you lit the menorah with loved ones and had too much fun singing “le-had-lik ner shel…HAAAA-NUUU-KKAAH” for the first time this year. But what does it mean now that one night is down, with seven to go?

I have a secret to tell you about Hanukkah. As a kid, I remember my friends freaking out about how unfair the holiday seemed. Maybe you were one of these kids. Maybe you were someone who couldn’t believe that Jewish kids had enough presents to last for eight days.

I’m not sure what other Jewish kids did when confronted with this situation, but I know what I did: I lied. “Why, yes,” I would say. “On the first day I got my very own Motorola RAZR and on the last day I got some pearls, la la la.” Then I would swing my Claire’s string of pearls over my shoulder and walk down the middle school hallway into a mysterious ether, leaving the haters behind.

I’m sorry, everyone who I fooled. This was a lie and I will ask G-d for forgiveness during Yom Kippur. In fact, I think all Jews need to come clean about what we really get for Hanukkah. Luckily, I have compiled eight charts for your reference.

Day One: Drake Hanukkah card, Strawberry Sufganiyot, Rainbow Latkes


Drake my breath away. This is Jewphoria. Day one of Hanukkah should feel like this, as if every one of your dreams is handed to you on a latke-filled platter. Memorable day one gifts of my past include: a bike with glitter streamers, a polaroid camera with endless film packs, a furby, etc.

Day Two: Hanukkah Dressy Cats Craft, Martha Stewart Latkes, Assorted Hanukkah Cookies


The second day is when your really crafty aunt gives you a fun Hanukkah paint-by-numbers and serves latkes on fine china. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to decorate your own dreidel at Hebrew school. One year for this day I got Mary Kate and Ashley dolls. Not bad, Aunt Vicki.

Day Three: Vegan Latkes, Vegetables in the shape of a Menorah, Gelt


Day three is like day one if you’re vegan. Bubbe has to monitor her blood pressure now and recently went Paleo, so she’ll make you something that she’s really proud of from whittled vegetables. Naturally, you break out the dreidel and gorge on gelt with your siblings.

Day Four: Beer Menorah, Half Eaten Gelt, Perfect Crispy Latkes


So you’re out of Manischewitz. Or you’re in college and you have to get creative with the menorah. Maybe you invite non-Jew friends over and they steal all your gelt so you have to gamble with alcohol. Either way, you’re drunk, and you’re gonna need those leftover latkes tomorrow morning.

Day Five: Hanukkah Bento Box, Dancing Cat in Kippah Sticker, Dog and Dissatisfied Cat with a Menorah Card


Hanukkah is halfway over and this cat is not chill about it. From here on out, get ready to open up grab bags filled with any Hanukkah themed item that your relatives can find on the internet. Honestly, if I made a Holigay Gift Guide, it would probably just be a million of these “Dancing Kitty with Kippah” stickers which, and I really want to emphasize this, exist so much that you can actually buy them on the internet.

Day Six: Menorah Socks, Hanukkah Harry Sweater, Burnt Latkes


Happy Hanukkah, here’s an Amish man on a sweater and some socks. Also we ran out of oil and the latkes are burned, so everything you know about this holiday is a lie.

Day Seven: Hashbrowns, Hand Menorah, Popsicle Stick Star of David


Hash browns have been going through a hard time lately and no one has told them that they’re not latkes. Fun fact: I remember reading in the Talmud that this day is traditionally saved for nightmares filled with crafts from Jewish preschool days.

Day Eight: Hanukkah Harry Candy Canes

yes but can you wear a box on your hat, santy claus?

This is all you get.

Now that the secret’s out, we can all come clean. What were some of your favorite gifts or some of your really awful gifts from past Hanukkahs?

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Cecelia is a playwright and student living in Houston. She is most passionate about writing and watching the honest queer experience in film, television or theatre. She also finds herself to be very moved emotionally by zines, squirrels and emojis. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @zo0mbini.

Cecelia has written 24 articles for us.


  1. My aunt uses this holiday to shame us into being some sort of healthier. One year she gave us metal water bottles and made us promise not to buy bottled water for a year. Last year she gave us automatic soap dispensers with statistics on how many germs are on a container of soap.

    To be fair, this year she gave us leg warmers and they are HELLA great.

  2. Never got so much as a chocolate coin past night #4. The second half of Hanukkah felt like walking towards the finish line. :( I did, however, make some kick-ass latkes last night.

  3. I remember getting several good gifts a night for all eight nights. I remember one especially great Hanukkah in high school that included three Green Day CDs on one night =D

    But my family also celebrated Christmas for the sake of decorating a tree and even more presents lol. I think most other Jewish people I knew did that too.

    As an adult now the best part is living in a Jewish neighborhood and the grocery store stocking several different brands of (vegan!) gelt <3 <3 And Manischewitz.

  4. we had different themed nights, like one night would be Books and another would be A Calendar For Next Year and one would be Clothes and one would be Give A Present To Charity and another was Neighborhood Hanukkah Party and Gift Exchange… maybe my mom was a miracle of hanukkah

    • That was exactly my situation aside from the year that I came out to my extended family and my aunt called me ALL EIGHT NIGHTS with a different ‘nice jewish boy’ to date.

      • oh my g-d that’s like a shalom night live skit just waiting to happen, and in the end you marry a partridge-in-one-of-those-trees-they-always-want-you-to-plant-in-israel

        • do jews even know about partridges though? the only animals I ever hear about are pickled herring and the occasional paschal lamb. oh and whatever the hell constitutes “schmear.”

          • Gonna officially lose it if schmear is animal based (also are lox and schmear the same? I am a Jew from the south and don’t think the bagel thing is as strong over here halp)

          • Schmear usually refers to the cream cheese but can also be used generally to refer to all toppings, and more often specifically to spreadable toppings.

    • my family totally did the themed nights too!! we had a book night, and a family game night etc. we had it so we got our ‘big present’ on the last night, so the build up was very intense, obviously. now i just get gift cards

  5. My parents enjoy telling me that anything I received from them in the six months leading up to Chanukah counts as my gift. Thanks for that book you gave me in August, parents. Yay Chanukah.

  6. I hate being a killjoy but I’m not super here for hanukka harry. I’m not comfortable with changing jewish traditions to look more like western christian culture. It feels to me like accommodating judaism to a colonialist image of normalcy.

    • I agree, actually. I think the most ridiculous thing about Hanukkah is how in many ways it’s so obviously marketed to be sold in the same image as Christmas, which skims past tradition and misses the religious and cultural mark so much that it’s laughable. If Hanukkah Harry becomes a serious symbol of Hanukkah, my post next year will be angrier. But I feel like there’s solidarity in a bunch of Jews looking through these capitalist nonsense symbols as a silly and unsuccessful ploy.

    • To be honest I’ve never even heard of Hannukah Harry (hashtag badjew)but I definitely think that if he is to become incorporated he needs a lightning bolt scar. Also I like to spell it with the C, but Channukah Charry just seems like what happens when you leave the latkes in the oil for way too long.

    • While, at the heart of it, I agree with you, the other reality is Jewish traditions are always morphing while encountering other cultures. That many “Jewish traditions” are already Eurocentrically dominated (I’m thinking of Ashkenazi jewish practice valued over Mizrahi, Sephardic or Bukharan Jewish practice). I believe Jews have a right to celebrate Hannukah (that spelling is already an example of cultural blending and majority dominance) as they wish. What I don’t like is non-Jews just assuming and marketing it as if it’s “the Jew Christmas” (which smells a little bit of how Pesach is referred to in France as ” Paques Juives” (Jewish Easter). But let’s face it, there are elements of all these celebrations which come from pre-monotheistic religion and I don’t believe for one second that the Menorah is anything other than a holdover from another ancient Winter celebration which predates Judaism.

      • all good points. I also agree 100% that the ashkenazic narrative being treated as the only diaspora jewish narrative is eurocentricism.

      • I don’t think that’s true. The seven-branched menorah is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and was lit every day, I believe — look at the one depicted on the Arch of Titus and on other ancient carvings, including from the Second Temple period. It had nothing specifically to do with winter. The Hanukkah menorah has the two extra branches, and is the one specifically related to that holiday. So I don’t see the relationship to any possible pre-Judaic winter festival; if that were true then the menorah would have been associated with winter from the beginning.

        • Donna, the idea of lighting something each night came from somewhere. Sorry, I don’t believe that’s a Jewish creation out of whole cloth. Maybe the number of nights and calling it a menorah is from our peeps but Judaism wasn’t created in a vacuum. It especially bugs me how the Jewish religion just dodges the issue of the Canaanites and their cultural and ethnic intermingling with Jews as though they just vanished when they were conquered.

          • All I’m saying is that if you’re talking specifically about menorahs, there’s no connection with any kind of winter festival, because the regular menorah wasn’t only lit in winter. As far as the Hanukkah menorah is concerned, you’re talking about something that was inspired by a specific historical event, and started what, 600 or 700 years after the conflicts with the Canaanites mentioned in the Hebrew Bible? In a more general sense, obviously some Canaanites became Jews and some didn’t (after all, they lived in what’s now Lebanon and Syria too), and I’m sure ancient Jewish culture and religion were influenced by all sorts of different ancient Near Eastern cultures, not only the Canaanites. I was talking only about the menorah!

    • I honestly am a pretty bitter person about all the winter holiday crap for these exact reasons. I pretty much feel like if you wish me a happy Hanukah but not a happy Succot, you don’t really know anything about Judaism. Which isn’t your fault at all, but I hate that our society tries to act as if talking about Hanukah is a way of being inclusive of Jews.

  7. My family is Catholic, so I buy myself Hanukkah presents with Christmas money I get from friends and relatives in advance. #multifaithprivilege

  8. “Dear Sarah, we want you to know that we reject the appropriation of a minor Jewish festival to normalize the Holiday Season ™ and capitalist-Christian values, but we know how much you love legos so we bought you some”

  9. This was back in 2001 or so, but I have to say my favorite gift was a Motorola pager watch. It was a smart watch before smart watch category official existed. In the morning I would wake up and I would get paged the weather report(well just a small icon for sun, cloud, snow, or rain and temp for the day. And mid-day would give me scores from last night in the NBA. It had this neat feature that you would put the watch face on your monitor, and with the included pc software transfer notes on to the watch. I used it to cheat on a science test on the periodical tables. Most people had the info on water bottles and other methods for that test, I used my watch. I still have the watch face, and I’m sure if I put a battery and strap on it, it would still work.

    • Oh man, my dad had one of those! The voicemail system his company made integrated with it and they were sure it would be the Next Big Thing. Alas.

  10. once, my dad got me this thing for chanukah that only played like 3 spice girls songs. i have no idea where/how he found it, but it was probably the best gift i have ever received

  11. As a non-Jewish person that works at a bar with a few Hanukkah celebrating folks I thought I would share our improvised menorah so they could celebrate on Tuesday – pineapple and birthday candles! Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday!

  12. I was a master of delayed gratification and was super down for a “save the best for last” gift situation so my parents always did a ramping-up-each-day gift situation… like: 1) hologram stickers 2) gel pens 3) soft socks 4) watercolor set 5) Klutz fairy-doll building kit 6) Freddi Fish CD-ROM 7) PLAYMOBIL DOLLHOUSE!

    i miss those days

    • also i never remember getting 8 days of gifts, the most i remember is getting 7 once and then each year they decreased. it has devolved and now i get a tiny sheep wool-felting kit in the mail sometime in january

  13. I think I got this image thing down – sorry to double post. I deleted the other one so it will eventually go away. Fingers crossed I am bad at technology…

    As a non-Jewish person that works at a bar with a few Hanukkah celebrating folks I thought I would share our improvised menorah so they could celebrate on Tuesday – pineapple and birthday candles! Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday!

  14. Chanukah presents for me are usually a couple larger presents / things I asked for (this year it was pajamas and fleece-lined leggings. I am going to be SO COZY!) mixed with smaller fun things (this year it was hair chalk, teensy tiny walkie talkies, and a chocolate orange)

    Do other people have family all eight nights?? Mine just does one night all together.

  15. Number the Stars; Lydia, Queen of Palestine; Letters from Rivka… As soon as I could read well enough to move past picture books, my mom bought me a new chapter book about children surviving the holocaust EVERY YEAR. When I complained about the books making me sad, she lectured me about the importance to learning our history, and then started to pick out books that included children surviving other historical tragedies, too. So, Hannukkah was for that, and socks, basically. For the first couple days, we got those presents and soggy, not-properly-deep-fried-because-GASP!Cholesterol! latkes. That was it. My parents also did Christmas, though, because my dad isn’t Jewish anyway, and they didn’t want me to feel left out. So Christmas was for some toys and also for clothes we needed anyway (packages of hanes undies, long-sleeved shirts, that kind of thing).

  16. I am old. I have a 14 year old daughter and a 7 year old gnc kid. I am also broke, and we celebrate Christmas also and screw the corporate materialistic plot to convince us that having more shit makes us happy. First night my teenager got 2 pairs of second hand jeans(but perfectly fitting and one pair was Lucky). My 7 year old got Heelys! $10 at thrift store, took me a year to find them. They were both thrilled. Other than that it is gelt and I will surprise them with lip balm, water bottles, little stuff on a couple other nights. They will get Christmas from all the non-Jewish relatives and also I make awesome latkes really fried and we make applesauce all from scratch.

  17. Oh hey fellow AS Hanukkah-celebrators! I celebrated Hanukkah this year with a really great party. I really enjoy hosting my friends. And I cooked 96 latkes.

    I could really do with the commercializations of Hanukkah! I wasn’t able to find dreidels or Hanukkah candles in a physical store for love or money. Instead I’m paring down the bases of Shabbos candles to fit them in my menorah. That’s safe, right?

  18. Gift giving is EXHAUSTING. So this year, my sister and I went together to Mountain Equipment Co-Op, and basically just used the holiday as an excuse to treat ourselves to something we might not otherwise have bought, and then we each paid for the other’s gift. Much less stress. My sister bought me a yoga mat, so that when it’s cold and snowing all winter I can still work out, and I bought her a pair of cross-country skiing pants (because apparently those are different from regular work out pants or from regular skiing pants, but whatever, that’s what she wanted).

    And then last night, sh invited me over while her and her roommate made 4 different kinds of latkes. So far, Hannukah’s been pretty great!

  19. Hello Autostraddle Chanukah-ers! I made a super exciting trip into the Chasidic area near where I live to buy Chanukah candles, and I was a bit nervous about being a clearly-not-Chassidic-person in the really frum shop, but although I got lots of side-eye at my short hair, the woman at the cash register gave me a smile. So that was a success.

    I’m not hugely into presents at Chanukah, because it’s just a follow-on from Christmas presents, plus commercialisation and all that jazz. I like this post on the topic (which also has good ideas for present alternatives if you have kids). http://www.outoftheorthobox.com/2013/11/chanu-scrooge.html

  20. This is all so interesting-thanks for sharing your stories/traditions everyone! My roommate and her Mom made latkes a couple of weeks ago but I am hoping for some fresh ones. Those things are BOMB.

  21. umm hold up you get popsicle stick stars of david?? i haven’t gotten Chanukah presents since i was in grade school.

    but in fairness, i always get a card from my mom, and sometimes flowers. nothing says ‘festival of lights’ like highly combustible decorative foliage.

  22. Never been a part of Hanukkah, but I have a distinct memory of watching popsicle stick star of David getting made and a hand menorah. In 1st grade class and a girl scouts thing respectively.
    And that star was not as dry as I thought it was, it stained like a blue razberry jolly rancher. Sorry cute fluffy haired girl whose name I don’t remember.

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