Now that Tu B’shvat is behind us, the stores have dismantled their beautiful displays of fruit, and begun concentrating on Purim. This year they actually have an extra month to advertise and customers have extra time to decide what they are doing. Enter the new phenomena in mishloach manot called “themes.”
Once upon a time, preparing mishloach manot depended solely on the balabusta’s talents in the kitchen, and on how much time she had to devote to baking and packing. Whether it was hamantaschen, cookies, or a small whole cake, she prepared the quantity she needed, found some nice way to package it, added a fruit or small bottle of wine, and her Purim was done.
I think that the new emphasis on “themes” is putting unwarranted pressure on countless families. It’s not enough to come up with something original yet not too complicated. You must wrack your brain to come up with something that no one has thought of yet.
I remember that once, before themes were in style, a cousin who likes to be “ahead of the times” sent my mother in law, her aunt, a “lemon themed “ mishloach manot. On a lemon printed plate there was an assortment of lemon flavored concoctions. A bottle, with lemons printed on its side, held some homemade lemonade. A package of lemon printed napkins completed the package. Frankly, I think my mother in law appreciated the “old fashioned” babka and grape juice she got from another niece just as much.
A neighbor once had UPS as a theme, with everyone in the family dressed in the familiar brown, and the mishloach manot packed in shipping boxes. At least the food part of her theme wasn’t too hard. Isn’t chocolate the same color as UPS trucks and uniforms?
Sending fish for mishloach manot? Use a fishing theme, dressing the kids as fishermen. Just please don’t make them carry fishing rods that they will end up tripping over all day.
It is okay to do something cute, as long as you don’t get carried away, or need lengthy explanations at each stop. One daughter in law once sent me a three tiered plate. The bottom plate held apple pie, the middle one held cherry pie, and on top she put a picture of her dear little “cutie pie.” I still cherish the card that came along with that.
I once admonished my daughter for sending me mishloach manot on a fancy tray. I told her that she does not have to spend money on something that will just be added to the clutter in my already overfilled cabinets. Her answer gave me food for thought.
“Mommy,” she said, “I feel that my children have to know that a zeidy and bubby are someone special, and for them we have to up our mishloach manot a notch or two. Even if I send you the exact same thing that I send everyone else (and trust me, she doesn’t), there’s a certain excitement when the children see the special tray that is dedicated for zeidy’s mishloach manot.”
So what is my theme, you ask? I don’t do anything fancy or different. My theme is simply “Purim.”
By P. Samuels