Growing up, Hanukkah was never complete without a bag of gelt for my brother and I to share. As a tradition, my grandma would give us five or six pieces each night as we opened our presents. Because my brother doesn't like chocolate (still unsure how we're related) I was the beneficiary of double the gelt. But, now it's years later and I realized that I still have no clue where gelt comes from (besides my grandma). So, what is gelt? 

Root of the Word

So, as I said chocolate is involved and gelt is a Yiddish word that means “money”. Chocolate + money = chocolate coins wrapped in gold or silver foil, which makes them look like currency. As a kid, it was most exciting thing to be able to save up all my gelt and enjoy devouring it over the holidays. Someone, please let me know who I have to talk to in order for gelt to be the next U.S. currency. 

Where Did It Come From?

Hanukkah gelt wasn’t always made of chocolate. It was first real coin that school children gave to their teachers as a holiday bonus. The holiday of Hanukkah was meant to teach children about the value of education, as the word Hanukkah stems from the Hebrew words “Hinnukh” which, in fact, means “education”

Parents would often give their kids a little extra gelt for doing well in school. So, they did get a little bit of a reward, even if it wasn’t chocolate like it is today.

How Is It Used Today?

Since it can’t be used as real money (because it’s chocolate), gelt is meant to teach kids about the importance of charity and giving to others. Parents will encourage their children to share with friends and as a lesson in the importance of helping others. But if you’re anything like me, after you have one, you won’t be able to stop. So, good luck trying to get me to share mine.