Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

gelt, chocolate “coins” (from the Yiddish טלעג, for money or gold), are given to children as part of the current Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, the holiday commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Greeks in 165 b.c.e. Special triumphal coins were struck after the victory, possibly serving as the inspiration for modern Hanukkah gelt. In any case, gelt started out as real coins given out, variously, as donations to the poor for ritual candles, as an incentive for children to study (as Maimonides taught), or as a bonus to teachers.