Party Pooper

I hate party favor bags. Call me a big old stinky-butt (I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before my own daughters do) but I don’t understand why parents insist on sending home a bag of crap every time my daughter attends a birthday party. The goodies (a misnomer if I ever heard one) typically consist of some combination of junk-food and just plain junk. Usually from China. So far, we haven’t held any birthday parties (see? I really am a big old stinky-butt) but when we do, I promise I will not send my guests off with a bag of chazarai.
Which leads me to Purim, the ultimate chazarai giveaway. I suppose one could make an argument that mishloach manot, the gifts of food we deliver to friends and family on Purim, are even more insidious than goodie-bags. By sending your kids to a birthday party, you’ve signed on to a tacit age-old agreement to take home some crap. But mishloach manot deliveries catch you totally unawares. They arrive at your doorstep like an abandoned baby. (Or, more accurately, like abandoned octuplets if you have a lot of Jewish friends.) While the mitzvah is to deliver a 2 different kinds of foods, some Jews have a tendency to go a little over the top, if you can believe that. 


See what I mean?

What is the appropriate bracha for a clown?

Over the next few days, I’ll be blogging about our attempts to make green, simple, and if we’re successful, truly appreciated mishloach manot. In the meantime, I’d like your ideas. Can one create mishloach manot (or your goodie-bags, for that matter) that instill the value that less-is-more? If so, how? And what favorite treats are you including this year?

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Heidi Estrin

posted March 4, 2009 at 10:14 am

Why can’t it just be all food? That’s green because it all gets eaten and nothing goes to waste. I know: a recyclable container of unwrapped hamantaschen, that’d be totally green.

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posted March 4, 2009 at 10:16 am

Love it! My suggestion is to include only edibles or potables.

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Adrian Durlester

posted March 4, 2009 at 11:29 am

Although I agree wholeheartedly in sentiment, and always endeavor to do my best to keep the chazarai (and the ecological footprint) down, it’s a balancing act, as not all parents share these sentiments. It’s a matter of educating everyone to the purpose and meaning of the mitzvah, and informing them that they are green ways to do it.
I’ll share a story. Once a few congregants came to me as a religious school director to ask me to stop buying metal and plastic groggers, and have all the students make the ubiquitous paper plate and beans graggers (and have a few wooden ones on hand as well.) I cheerfully agreed and complied with the request. After Purim other sets of congregants came to me. Some said their older children felt silly with the paper-plate graggers. Some said I should have stuck with the metal ones, as they last longer and are louder. Some said they were so grateful that these homemade graggers were so much quieter than the metal ones. Another congregant came to me quite angry, chastising me for 1)wasting food and 2) using paper plates. When I explained the paper plates were made from recycled materials, she backed down a bit-on the plates. While I strongly object to arts and crafts projects that waste food, I just didn’t see this usage of some dried beans in the same category. I have been rattling my brain to find something that would work as well as beans, but isn’t food, and is green-friendly. Plastic bottle tops, perhaps?

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posted March 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

OK, I am not a mom, but I totally agree on out-of-controlness of the misloach manot . So I always go with a mini theme – tiny hamentachen, tiny muffins, a tiny clementine and some tiny nuts like pistachios in a tiny, preferably reusable (full disclosure: I have, though, been known to use dixie cups) container. Hopefully people think this theme is ‘cute’ and also practical (given that Pesach is just four weeks away and how much chametz do people really need?) as opposed to cheap…

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posted March 4, 2009 at 2:18 pm

It’s true that it’s probably impossible to please everyone. I’m sure some people thought it was very clever that we made our baskets out of old cereal boxes last year, and others wondered why I was giving them my trash. I hope they liked the hamentashen, anyway.

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posted March 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm

My favorite give-away was for my daughter’s second birthday. We made homemade play dough in various colors, wrapped up balls of it in plastic wrap, tied them up with ribbon…it was a greenish gift, not candy, not junk from China. But it did take a lot of time.

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posted March 4, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I love the play dough idea. Those are the kinds of things we find time for when our children are two, isn’t it? I was so idealistic when they were really young. After all that cloth diapering, there are days I’d probably buy disposable underpants if they sold them.

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posted March 6, 2009 at 9:08 am

In response to Adrian, how about pebbles from outside? In, say, a recyclable empty container (soda bottle or a rinsed out can of peaches with the top taped shut)? Totally not food, and the container could be emptied and recycled after Purim. Though personally, I am partial to a nice wooden gragger, I thought the idea of macaroni and cheese boxes which were then donated to a food bank were a nice idea. But there’s probably a healthier food out there that’s just as noisy in its package… rice pilaf perhaps… or bean soup…
Ok now I feel guilty about my paper-plate shalach manot baskets. But they’re so cute, and a toddler can help decorate so effectively…. hrm.

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posted March 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

Groggers – we decorated boxes of macaroni and cheese, used them, and then donated them to the Survival Center. Not much waste at all, and you get two mitzvot in one.

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Jonah's mom

posted March 8, 2009 at 10:02 am

Our mishloach manot have always been simple and, I think, pretty green: enough home-made hamenstaschen for everyone in the family to have a 1 or 2, a few clementines or apples, maybe some nuts if I know the family’s not allergic and some herbal tea-bags, carefully tucked into recycled paper bags that have been decorated with markers or crayons in hopes that they are recycled again. (We sometimes get the ones with candy, which I’ve generally been able to ditch before anyone in my house is the wiser…)

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Jonah's mom

posted March 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

Another thought on the b’day party favors–I, too, have always resented the drek, and I’m sure that I had a reputation as being a bit of a party-pooper, too by never giving out candy. We did send kids home with some memento of the party, but it was always something pretty benign and related to the theme/activities: t-shirts the kids tie-dyed at his 4th b’day party, shiny colorful rocks kids ‘panned’ for themselves when I turned our kitchen floor into a ‘sluice’ of sorts when he was 7…there are definitely ways to be creative, have fun and be pretty green at the same time… I think most parents would be grateful if someone would break the plastic and candy mold!

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posted March 8, 2009 at 11:56 am

I love the word drek!

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Bible Belt Balabusta

posted March 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

Hi, ya’ll. It’s almost too late for a response, but as Purim doesn’t start until tonight..
We usually make paper plate mishloach manot “baskets” by folding a plate like a hamantasch, stapling the corners, attaching a reinforced construction paper handle. After first coloring the back with brown crayon and the front with red crayon Filling: homemade hamantaschen and a few Hershey’s kisses. We’ve had the same stack of paper plates for years, since this is the only time we use them, and the colored paper is usually re-used art from school.
I love the Annie’s Mac grogger idea. We have a couple of boxes in the pantry right now.
Happy Purim,
Bible Belt Balabusta

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