The manner in which this gift guide was assembled is the manner in which these gifts are meant to be bought, received, given and enjoyed: from the comfort of home.
Chanukah, which begins on Dec. 10 this year, is the time to let the people you love know you’re thinking of them, even if you can’t be together in the way you normally would.
If you’re looking for a funny and comfy T-shirt or hoodie, Schmattees offers a line of home goods and apparel for children and adults that combine Jewish pride and humor with a touch of chutzpah. The name is a take on the Yiddish word “schmatte” combined with “T-shirt.” Schmattees carry a lot of funny T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, mugs and face masks in sizes from infant to 3X. T-shirts start at $18 at shopschmattees.com.
“Happy Llamakah,” written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Lydia Nichols
Laura Gehl, the author of over 20 books for children, including two others about Jewish holidays, posits that one of the goofiest looking members of the camelidae family is the perfect vehicle to teach children about Chanukah. In this book, written by Gehl and illustrated by Lydia Nichols, the Llama family does everything that your family does for the holiday — spin the dreidel, eat latkes and light their menorah — but in their own llama way. You can buy it on indiebound.org for $14.99.
Pajamukkahs from Pittsburgh-based Chosen Threads
Speaking of llamas, Chosen Threads, by Jewish Pittsburgher Shira Levenson, sells Jewish holiday-themed apparel including Hanukkah Llamakkah PJs (or, as Levenson puts it on Facebook, “pajamukkahs”), glow-in-the-dark Light Up the Night PJs and Menorasaurus shirts. And there is year-round apparel, too, like “Oy Vey All Day” onesies and adult pullovers, “Here for Schmear” onesies and “ShalOHM” yoga tank tops. The apparel, mostly in the $15-25 range, is available on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/ChosenThreadsApparel.
Customized jewelry and Judaica by Pittsburgh-based Cathy Frank Designs
A handmade design by Pittsburgher Cathy Frank might, quite literally, have your name on it. Personalized mezuzahs feature Pittsburgh favorites like the Steelers, names with dreidels and Jewish stars, universities and more. You can also buy colorful dreidel and menorah cards and pins, hamsa and Jewish star earrings, and wall hangings like “Shalom Y’all.” And it’s all made from a gorgeous glass-like but lightweight material Frank produces called custom metallic acrylic. Frank’s products can be found on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/CFJoyousDesigns. Chanukah cards start at $4.25, jewelry starts at $14, and mezuzahs are $54 and up.
Candles and crafts from Pittsburgh-based Songbird Artistry
For the candle person in your life: Check out Songbird Artistry’s Chanukah-themed soy candles like Let’s Go for a Spin (featuring a dreidel, of course), Shine Bright like a Menorah and Keep Calm and Mazel Tov. Songbird Artistry, started by Jewish Pittsburgher Debbie Jacknin and her daughters, Jennifer and Jacklyn, also sells a free-form embroidery kit with your choice of a Jewish star, hamsa, chai or dreidel outline that Jacknin can help you make over Zoom. You can buy the candles for $14 and embroidery kit for $25 at songbirdartistry.com or in Songbird Artistry’s store across from Children’s Hospital (masks and social distancing required).
Chocolate rugelach from Marzipan Bakery
If someone in your life reads “chocolate rugelach from Marzipan Bakery” and says something like, “Well, why not mix it up and try the cinnamon ones?” cut that person out of your life, because they do not have your best interests at heart. Don’t reinvent the wheel here; go ahead and order some of the best rugelach on the planet to your front door. $14.99 on amazon.com gets you a package of 12.
If you really want to get nutty with it — and if there was ever a time to do so, it’s now — then a subscription to Trade Coffee is the way to go. Based on your coffee preferences (and it goes much deeper than just “light” or “dark”), they’ll send you one 12-ounce bag at intervals of your choosing, selecting from a list of hundreds of coffees from around the world. What sounds better than dunking your Marzipan Bakery rugelach into a delicious cup of coffee from, I don’t know, Malta? Anyway, your first bag goes for $12.50, with free shipping and 30% off from drinktrade.com.
“Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence,” by Claire Saffitz
The former “Bon Appétit” star Claire Saffitz has released her first cookbook, a gorgeously photographed slate of recipes that are uniquely arranged; besides the typical separation of sides and starters, there’s a matrix at the beginning of the book to help you determine the difficulty of the recipe and the time it should take to complete. In other words, an efficiency matrix that asks how much you really want to bake a babka-challah mash-up called a Babkallah, a nod to Saffitz’s Jewish roots. “Dessert Person” is available on bookshop.org for $32.30.
UGG Leda Cozy Crew Socks
OK, enough food. I quite like the slippers that I have, but they can quickly feel too warm, and I don’t always want the feeling of wearing shoes when I’m in the house. I have friends who swear by these UGG socks. Warm, but not too warm, and cozy as can be. One pair goes for $18 on bloomingdales.com, but you’ll get a lot of use out of these: They’re durable, according to most reviews.
The thing about Netflix, Hulu and every other movie streaming service is that the overwhelming glut of movies can only mask the lack of quality for so long. How many hours of scrolling have been lost on streaming services, staring at row after row of stinkers? Criterion Channel is the service that picks the highest quality movies, and offers selections from around the globe. This is the antidote to the feeling that there’s nothing good to watch, and it’s $10.99 per month at criterionchannel.com.
Faux fur throw blankets
Fur is a little iffy, ethically speaking, but there’s nothing iffy about it aesthetically. In a winter that’s going to involve untold levels of sitting on the couch — or staying warm for an outdoor hangout on a chilly evening — these stylish throws are a good way to stay cozy. Prepare to hibernate! These start at $60 at westelm.com.
Periwinkle Flower Seder Plate
This seder plate, which comes with a platter and six small bowls, is only available in the National Museum of American Jewish History’s online gift shop. It is certainly a hopeful gift, the hope being that by March 27, 2021, the world will allow Jews everywhere to come together once in again for joyous seder meals. Not that there wasn’t joy to this past year’s celebration, but still, this seder plate is pretty enough to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, in person. Find it for $112 at judaicashop.net. PJC
Jesse Bernstein writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Kayla Steinberg contributed to this report.