Sharing leftover toys and food brighten holidays

I knew Hanukkah was finally over when Jack flipped through the Farmer’s Almanac that I gave him on day eight and searched for crisp dollar bills in between the pages of astronomical data. When Sari opened a box with a purple sweatshirt inside, I could tell by the disappointed look on her face that she rather would have a Limited Too gift card and pick out her own wardrobe. Even though I got a “thanks mom,” I didn’t feel the love. Where’s the true appreciation? I was disappointed by their selfish attitudes. Next year they’re getting a navel orange in their tennis shoe like their Christian friends wake up to on St. Nick’s Day.

Growing up, I was thrilled to receive a brand new pair of knee-highs for Hanukkah. In fact, on the third candle I would get the right sock, and on the fourth candle I would get the matching left one. I didn’t know any differently. When I became a mom, I somehow allowed Hanukkah to get out of hand over the years. Like everything else, it’s my own fault. I buy so many presents, in fact, that I forget where I hide all the wrapped packages. Just the other day I actually found under the couch a 2003 puppy calendar topped with a dusty silver bow.


Just like Christmas, Hanukkah can bring too much of a good thing. I mean how many furry Webkinz does a second-grader really need? These innocent stuffed animals encourage young children to play with their friends on the computer instead of in person. By giving our kids everything they want, parents are raising a spoiled generation that’s always hungry for more. During this holiday season especially, adults overindulge in everything as well. When I entertain, for example, I bake enough chicken to feed an entire synagogue at the High Holidays. The latkes are devoured, but the cinnamon applesauce lasts way past the expiration date.

So this year I vowed to do something different with all my leftover food and toys. The December gift-giving season provides endless opportunities to “repair the world”, otherwise known as tikkun olam, by sharing my abundance with others less fortunate.

For example, community soup kitchens, such as the Salvation Army, and other organizations, such as HavenHouse, are happy to receive cookies, casseroles, and whatever delicious leftover goodies I have that would otherwise end up in the freezer, garbage disposal, or my waistline. After New Year’s, I’ve had my fill of Ritz crackers and cheddar cheese cubes, which are great snacks to share as well. Likewise, colorful holiday decorations and beautiful cut flowers still in bloom help brighten a nursing home or senior living facility. My kids usually get new coats and snow pants for Hanukkah, so the clothes they outgrow are donated to various nonprofit charities. Winter clothing is always in need, and places such as the International Institute St. Louis, which helps immigrants settle in our country, and Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JF &CS), always welcome warm jackets, hats, scarves, boots, gloves, mittens, and the like in all sizes.

Also in need are new toys and books at local hospitals and children’s homes. I have a closet full of board games that my kids rarely play with, so this time of year is a good excuse to clean house. I also encourage my kids to share some of their Hanukkah gelt (the green kind) and buy a little something for another boy or girl who has way less. To find out how you can help make the holidays more meaningful and share your leftover food and toys, contact your temple’s social action committee.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is obsessing over everything for her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, so please feel free to send any advice to: [email protected] or visit her website at