When I was shopping around for Hannukah gift ideas, I came across the Mensch on a Bench. I thought it was a pretty cute parody of Elf on the Shelf, but I didn’t have much interest in actually buying one.
Hannukah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but it is a holiday that’s important to both my husband and I. It’s important to my husband because he grew up not celebrating Christmas so Hannukah was his major gift-giving occasion. It’s important to me for the opposite reason – I grew up celebrating Christmas in a big way, with lots of Christmas decorations and Christmas traditions. I’m eager to recreate that for my kid but in a Hannukah way.
Sadly, it’s hard to find many good Hannukah clothes, toys, or decorations. I’ve walked into several local toy stores and asked, “Do you have any Hannukah stuff. I will buy it.” Sadly, the only thing I could find was wrapping paper. This is partly because we live in Vermont, with a Jewish population of 4, but also partly because there’s just not that much cute Hannukah stuff, even on Amazon.
Because I didn’t grow up with an Elf on the Shelf and actually find the elf a little creepy, it didn’t occur to me to get a Mensch on the Bench. But some friends bought us one…and I’m really glad they did.
I don’t like Elf on the Shelf for several reasons – Christmas already has enough traditions without having to create a blatantly commercial new one, the idea that he’s spying on your kids and reporting to Santa is a little creepy, and I have better things to do with my time than remembering to move an elf every night in December, or feel bad because I’m not creating the elaborate scenes depicted on Pinterest.
But I still like the Mensch on the Bench. Let’s face facts, it’s pretty commercial. But I think Hannukah could use a small percent of the commercialism that gets thrown at Christmas every year.
The doll himself is quite cute and well-made. He has a suit, a traditional hat, and a tallis (prayer shawl). He comes holding a stuffed candle, which you can replace with a real candle. He comes with a cardboard bench (which of course I broke when opening the package, but also sits very effectively on the edge of a shelf or counter. If nothing else, he’s a cute little dude who sits there and holds the shamash (the candle you use each night to light the other candles). Yay, fun and interactive Hannukah decor!
I’ll have to decide when A. gets older if I’ll actually bother moving the Mensch each night or if I’ll just give him the candle to hold. If I do move him, I’m only committing to the 8 nights of Hannukah, not a whole month!
He also comes with a cute book retelling the Hannukah story. Of course, it takes some historical liberties, but pretty much any book for kids does so and it’s a nice opportunity to talk about the story of Hannukah.
Plus, I may die of cute overload when my daughter is two years old and starts talking about the “Mensch.”