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Hanukkah Gift-Giving Goes Commercial

Boy With Menorah

Boy with menorah. Courtesy of Hashomer Hatzair Archives Yad Yaari & Wikimedia Commons.

By the 1890s, Jewish publishers began promoting the Jewish holiday Hanukkah (then commonly referred to as Chanukah) as an occasion for gift giving among Jews. In 1921, Asher Hamburger, whose popular Hamburger’s Department Store on Broadway in Los Angeles was the largest retail store west of Chicago (and later sold to May Company), was believed to be the first to use commercial advertising to promote gift-giving for Hanukkah. Hamburger’s ads offered “Happy Gift Suggestions for Chanukah” and promoted “gifts of apparel,” “gifts for the home,” “remembrances from Toyland for the children,” and “gift boxes of California Fruits and Nuts.”

Hamburgers Department Store, 1908

Postcard of Hamburger's Department Store, 1908. Los Angeles Almanac Postcard Collection.