By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thursday is the first night of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday often known as the festival of lights.

With it comes a number of rituals and traditions, but it’s only been over the past century in North America that gift-giving has become associated with Hanukkah.

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“What we do traditionally, we give gifts on Purim,” said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, referring to a different holiday celebrated in February or March. “Purim is a time where we give gifts to each other and to the poor.”

She says giving gifts is one way to show thanks.

“In gratitude, we give,” she said. “In gratitude, we celebrate.”

There are so many reasons for giving at any time – goodwill, personal gain, tradition, religion and more.

“I’m a devoted Muslim,” said Salah Mohamed. “One of the main values of Islam is you should always help those in need.”

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The psychology behind giving can be complex, according to psychologist Dr. Shonda Craft.

“I think, at the end of the day, most people want to see other people happy,” she said.

She said not only does giving offer joy to the giver, but it also helps build connections between people. There are hormones shown to be released in a person’s body when they give. Serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone, and oxytocin, a “cuddle” hormone.

“That idea that it makes you feel warm inside is a real thing,” she said.

Dr. Craft also points out the importance of memories during gift giving. For example, the experience of getting a necklace from grandma or first baseball bat from dad can be more important than the gift itself.


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Heather Brown