My very favorite Jewish holiday tradition, bar non, is the mitzvah of mishloach manot – preparing and delivering gifts of homemade goodies to friends and neighbors on Purim day.
This is a mitzvah which embodies so much of why Judaism is meaningful to me and why I’m sharing it with my daughters. First of all, I love to prepare food for others. Because I’m married to a man who once told me he would rather “take a food-pill” than eat dinner, I don’t get a lot of satisfaction from cooking for him. But, I’m actually a good cook and baker, and I love when I can use that talent to bring joy to someone (and, yes, get a few compliments.)
I model for my daughters that food is a way to care for others in times of need. We sign up regularly (though not frequently enough) to prepare meals for new moms, members of the community who are undergoing medical treatment, and the homeless shelter.
Second of all, making hamentashen is a way to connect to my ancestors. Often, my mom schedules a visit all the way from Baltimore to help us bake, and we always, ALWAYS, make my great-grandmother’s recipe.
Third of all, making mishloach manot gives me a chance to teach my children about some of my consumer values, which I believe are in keeping with the Jewish value of caring for creation.
I’m not a crafty-mama. But, on Purim, I do get a kick out of making interesting, recycled or reusable containers with my daughters for our Purim baskets. In the past we’ve decorated old cereal boxes and made tissue-paper bowls (you can read my post about this from last year, complete with pictures and directions.) I model for them that when we give gifts to others, or celebrate for ourselves, we don’t need to spend a lot of money, nor do we need to go to the dollar store and buy a lot of cheap crap. We can make something beautiful AND avoid adding to the waste stream.
This year, my fantasy is to make edible mishloach manot baskets. Last year, the Bible Belt Balabusta came up with preztel dough baskets. I’ve got two other recipes in mind.
Here are some edible cookie baskets someone made for Christmas, and here are some rice-crispy treat baskets someone else made for Easter. (If we make those, I’m going to omit the handle, and use smitten kitchen’s recipe for salted brown-butter rice crispy treats.) See, mishloach manot are even a chance to teach my kids about other religions!
My daughters recently came up with a new tradition that I wanted to share. They have become the neighborhood cookie fairies. Every time we try a new recipe from the cookbook Martha Stewart Cookies, which we bought Zoe for Hanukkah, we choose a few families to deliver a surprise gift of cookies to. I’m not sure who came up with the name “cookie fairies”, but it’s stuck. Since we aren’t traditionally shomer shabbat, we often bake cookies on shabbat and after havdallah go out on our fairy mission. Here they are last night with two packages of snickerdoodles.