Hanukkah gelt is a traditional way of celebrating Hanukkah in Judaism. It is a time to give money, traditionally coins, deliciously chocolate coins, to our kids. In today’s world, people are giving gifts and forgoing the ‘gelt’ (Yiddish for money) but perhaps we shouldn’t give up on the gelt so quickly.
Hanukkah coins are used to bet on the outcome of spinning the dreidel. Everyone would put money into the pot and bet on which letter the dreidel would land on. There are 4 Hebrew letters on a dreidel, to spell out the sentence of a great miracle happening there. Legend has it that because Jews weren’t allowed to study Hebrew, on penalty of death, parents created these toys with the Hebrew alphabet on it as a way to continue teaching Hebrew to their children. In order to fool the soldiers, they told their children to make it look like they are playing a money game. Then the soldiers won’t look too closely at the dreidel because the money would distract them.
It is traditional to still play the dreidel game and still bet with chocolate coins, but the legend doesn’t always get told.
When we give Hanukkah gelt to our kids we should tell them the legend.
Hanukkah is about being creative to maintain our Jewish identities as we secure it from one generation to another.