During the olden tradition of celebrating Hanukkah, some time around the 17th Century, actual gelt was given to children. Today, Hanukkah gelt may come in several forms: the actual money, chocolates shaped like coins and other sweet treats formed into coins.
Hanukkah Gelt Sizes
Gelt chocolate coins are the more popular form of Hanukkah gelt given away during the festival. These basically come in two different sizes, with the small one measuring approximately 1.25 inches in diameter and the larger one measuring about 1.5 inches in diameter.
There is also a variety of chocolate gelt coins that are about 3 inches in diameter and this is considered as an even more special treat by children who receive them. Usually, gelt chocolate coins are wrapped in gold foil to make it look more like the real coins.
The coins also have the traditional symbols of Hanukkah such as prints of dreidel on one side, the Star of David or the menorah on the other; or a combination of any of these three symbols.
Sometimes, games are played where children are tasked to look for the hidden gelt coins and those who get the biggest ones are considered as the winners of the games.
These games are often incorporated into the modern-day traditions of celebrating the 8-day Hanukkah festivity. Among these games include playing the dreidel, a 4-sided spinning top that is traditionally played in celebration of Hanukkah.
How the Tradition Started
Back in the 17th Century, it was customary for parents to give younger children Hanukkah gelt and ask them to give these to their educators in school. Soon, both younger and older children also wanted to be in on the tradition, asking that they, too; receive Hanukkah gelt.
Olden tradition also had it that underprivileged children will go to Jewish patrons who are known to give away Hanukkah gelt. This custom was practiced in order to underscore the essence of the “miracle of oil” which was the basis for Hanukkah.
Today, Hanukkah chocolate gelt coins made in Israel is more preferred by those celebrating the festival. However, this chocolate coin has evolved from a simple sweet treat into gourmet chocolates which a few well-known chocolate makers manufacture in time for Hanukkah.
Grandparents on the other hand still prefer to give their grandkids actual gelt as their official present in celebration of the festival.