Belated Gifting: Delinquent Edition

It’s 11 a.m., and those within the Eastern Time Zone and beyond have likely unwrapped the majority of their Christmas gifts. There are three nights left of Hanukkah, and so still plenty of time for belated gift purchasing.

For some, gifting is enjoyable and easy. For others, especially those who fell victim to the crappy economy, gifting is a pain.

I tend to gift sporadically. Cards are more my style so that I can reach many more people while not spending my life savings.

My cousin Max alerted me to a humorous gift option a la George Costanza’s “The Human Fund” donations. Check out “Helping Those Who Can’t Afford to Care,” a fake charity donation generator.

Humor aside, if you do have a little extra to spend, consider making an end of year donation to a real charity. I’m passionate about social media for social good, and thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to give a little with the potential of making a big difference. Check out the IRS tips for end of year giving.

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Holidays on Ice

Holidays on the rocks may have been an appropriate title, too.

Family is funny. The word is fairly loaded. In my experience, the term “family” applies beyond blood relatives. When referring to actual relatives, I tend to make reference to the specific level of relation – aunt, cousin, brother, sister.

Growing up, I was surrounded by cousins. Our tiny suburb – and by tiny, I mean teeny tiny at one square mile – was full of my maternal relatives, save one segment of my father’s family that we weren’t particularly close with.

The winter holidays make me nostalgic about my upbringing, mostly because there was a pleasant break from family bickering, filled with Hanukkah gift-swaps and my Great Aunt Phyllis’ annual New Year’s Eve party.

Hanukkah was big for my father’s family. We used to gather – when everyone was able to at least pretend to get along – at my grandparents’ house, removed from our cozy bubble in Huntington Woods. Gather we did, with all ten grandchildren, three sons, three daughters-in-law, and the elder Kirschs. Looking back, it seems like a bigger deal now – likely because a jolly gathering of the sort will never again be replicated.

I don’t remember very much about these parties, but I remember them happening almost yearly. My dad’s parents would give each grandchild a large black garbage bag full of gifts. My Kirsch core preceded me, as I can clearly remember slapping my sister at age 3 or 4 when she tried to help me open my porcelain tea set.

I look forward to converting the home videos my grandparents have saved to DVD so that I can look back more fondly.

My mom’s family is a bit different. Her mom, who passed away two years ago, had a huge, close family. For as long as I can remember, we gathered at my Great Aunt and Uncle’s house – my grandmother’s brother and his wife, with whom I’m quite close – and would spend the holiday eating, drinking . . . eating some more, and counting down to midnight with a disco ball constructed out of Solo cups and twinkle string lights.

Even at this point in my life, and throughout college, if I was close enough to even make an appearance at this gathering, I did. It was almost a magnetic force that pulled me toward their house.

This is where family becomes more of an expansive term. People gather who have been so close with the family for years, that it’s hard to distinguish them as anything else.

At this house, like many others, the basement was kid territory. Complete with plenty of entertainment – a big, projection-style television, radio and record player, trampoline, and air hockey table – it was hard to pry us away.

Things are different now, but the tradition lives on. I spent last year in Washington, D.C. for New Year’s, but felt I was there in spirit as people called me throughout the evening. This year, however, I’ll be in town, and at my Aunt and Uncle’s, where I will be ringing in 2012 with those most near and dear to me. And while I will not have a black bag full of gifts, my entire paternal family will see each other earlier in the evening at my cousin’s wedding.

As my mother always says, you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family, and I’m fairly sure that I would not have it any other way.

Hanukkah

Since May, I’ve experienced a lot of firsts. This weekend, I had my first family Hanukkah party in New York.

Growing up, Hanukkah celebrations were split. On my mom’s side, parties consisted of the Detroit-based relatives gathering at a cousin’s house, and having a grab bag of gifts for the kids. While I always enjoyed seeing family, I tended to leave disappointed, with a monogrammed keychain and bookstore gift card in-tow.

My father’s side was a tad more material, and so the celebrations reflected just that. My paternal first-cousins would gather at my dad’s parent’s house for a simple latke-laden dinner and what seemed like never-ending gifts. My dad’s parents had this tradition of giving each of their ten grandchildren a bag full of gifts, videotaping each grandchild as the gifts were revealed. As we aged [and they aged, too], we started to receive monetary gifts as opposed to particular items we had wished for. Instead of unveiling the gifts, we had to justify how we would spend our newly earned [being a Kirsch is not easy work!] money. My answers changed quickly from “I’ll buy some fuzzy stickers,” to, “I need to pay my part of the heating bill.” You see, mo’ money, mo’ problems.

My New York Hanukkah qualified, too, as its own breed of celebration. My cousin Molly is a gifted hostess. Her Manhattan apartment is perfect for entertaining, and somehow, she can turn it from living space to a venue within a moment’s (or a week’s) notice. I gathered with my cousins and extended family earlier in the day to assist with set up. Wrapping gifts, draining cucumbers and scallions from their marinade, and arranging the challah into serving dishes: cake walk. Navigating an apartment filled with people whom I’ve never met: interesting. My cousin boasted about my social media skills [I am ninja, read my tweets], and so I was approached by many of her business-owner friends with questions about my line of work, and how it can benefit them. Noshing on latkes, some delicious orzo salad, sipping on a personally mixed vodka lemonade (I should not go into mixology), and schmoozing with a variety of people, I truly enjoyed myself.

For those of you who are celebrating, I hope you are continuing to have a חג שמח!

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, Spooky, Scary [happy hanukkah, for real this time]

While my pre-Hanukkah blogified greeting was pretty nifty (thanks to Laura and her friend and their awesome cookies), my mind has been haunted as of late, thanks to my favorite show, 30 Rock.

From the creative mind of Tina Fey, and the unstable behavior of Tracy Morgan, I wish you all a very happy Hanukkah, with this clip of Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.