Look, I like a good sale as much as the next girl, but my perspective has most definitely shifted.

It was just a few weeks back that we made our annual trip to Vermont for Thanksgiving. And since Shabbat now comes in so early, we decided to begin our seven-hour drive back home on Thursday evening.

At first, I couldn’t understand what I was seeing. There were lines and lines of people outside. And it was cold! I wasn’t sure what they were doing, or why they were there. After seeing this a few more times, I finally realized that they were literally camping outside, waiting in line.

We do not give gifts. I know: our poor kids. But trust me, they have survived just fineThese people must have either left the minute their Thanksgiving feast ended, or perhaps chose to ditch it altogether to make it to the front of the line. How ironic. On the very day dedicated to being grateful for what we already have, so many celebrated it by rushing to buy even more.

And don’t get me wrong . . . I have nothing against someone trying to save money and buy their children gifts or things for their households. Though to me there is something very wrong with needing to spend the night outside to do so, and then pushing, shoving or clawing your way into that store to make those purchases. Being that almost every year someone has been hospitalized, if not killed, after being trampled, I do feel it is safe to say that nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth that risk.

I guess this year these sales stuck an even deeper chord, knowing just how many people are currently displaced following Hurricane Sandy. People lost their lives, their homes, all their possessions in this disaster. I have friends staying in others friends’ living rooms. Not for the night, not for the week, but for months. Endless months. And so, I guess, in contrast it is hard for me to feel there is that much that I need. I have all my basics covered. There are things I want, but need is really another story altogether.

And this gift-buying follows us straight into Chanukah. Now, I realize what we do in our home is far from popular . . . but for us, it works. We do not give gifts. I know: our poor kids. But trust me, they have survived just fine. It is not that they never get gifts; it is just that we don’t give them particularly at Chanukah.

Chanukah is about remembering the miracle and how we were saved. It is about spending time with our family, and lighting the menorah, and recognizing that togetherness and acknowledgement are the true gifts in life. I don’t want my children rushing through the songs so that they open a present. Ultimately, I don’t want Chanukah to be about presents to them. And the nice thing about them not receiving gifts is that the next day in school there is no competition. They don’t come home wondering why they got clothes and their friends got iPods.

As much as we want them to appreciate what they have, we also want them to learn what it means to giveThey do get something, though. Every night they open a card with a coupon for something they can do with us. One night is a coupon for an evening at a cafe or pizza. One night is a coupon for choosing what I make for dinner. Each time it is something specific to the child, that will make him or her feel special and get some much needed individualized quality time with us . . . And they love it!

But this year, we have upped the ante. As much as we want them to appreciate what they have, we also want them to learn what it means to give. So this year, in addition to them receiving coupons from us, they will be giving them as well. Each child, according to his or her age, will need to commit to something that will help another. It can be a coupon for helping a sibling with homework, babysitting for someone in the community for free, or helping a neighbor mow the lawn. It is their choice how they want to help and what they want to do. And hopefully, they will experience firsthand how the most rewarding gift is not when you get but when you give.

In truth, we have just added to the traditional Jewish custom of giving gelt. The concept is that by giving children some coins, they will first learn the meaning of giving charity from their own money (as we give 10 percent from all our earnings to charity), but then they will also have something for themselves, something small, that they can enjoy. The word Chanukah shares the same root as the word chanech, which means “to educate.” Chanukah is about teaching our children how fortunate we have been, and how to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

To be honest, in addition to what I hope my children learn, there is a fringe benefit for me as well. By celebrating Chanukah this way, I will never, ever have to spend my night outside to get to the sale the minute the doors open. And more so, for anyone who really wants the sales . . . guess what . . . they are always after the holidays. So when everyone else is done shopping, that is when I can pick up a few things I know my kids will really love. And then I can dole out those gifts when they really deserve them or have earned them . . . not because they feel entitled to them because it is Chanukah.