The History of the Chocolate Coin
There are many versions of how the chocolate coin came to be, so many so that no one can tell you for sure. The Christians insist that it was started by St. Nicholas while the Jewish religion state that long before that, they are the ones that started the tradition. Whether you see these chocolate coins as Hanukkah gelt, Christmas stocking stuffers, Kwanzaa favors or edible money for a rousing game of Texas hold 'em, they sure are good enough to eat.
As a Christmas tradition, the chocolate coin giving was thought to be started by the deeds of Saint Nicholas. He was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, which is now considered Turkey. Although there isn’t any written documentation, many legends speak of his kindness to children. He was said to be an incredibly shy person and wanted to give money to the poor children of Myra without them knowing about it. One night he climbed on a roof and threw down a purse of money down a chimney, which landed in a pair of stockings that a little girl had hung up to dry. Every year Saint Nicholas would keep giving coins or money to the children of Myra.
Much later different customs would include their own special version of hiding coins around the house for the children to find. At some unknown date the coins were later made into chocolate coins and put into the stockings of children on Christmas morning. Many companies started producing the gold foil wrapped chocolate coin treats that have become a symbol of Christmas.
Gelt is a Yiddish word that means money, and although there were many suggestions as to how gelt came to be, they each have a different meaning. The most widely understood suggestion came from the The Shulchan Aruch which is the code of Jewish Law. It explains that the Menorah may only be viewed to recall the miracle of life, and nothing else. The author of The Shulchan Aruch included counting money as an example of what the Menorah could not be used for, as one of the nights the candle was lit. Giving out gelt was one of the ways to remember this tradition.
It has turned into so much more as the modern times took over much of Jewish tradition. Gelt was then turned into chocolate coins to remember this as well as to give the children of Jewish tradition a prize so to speak every time they lit the candles. Chocolate coins can also be used to play games on the nights of Hanukah.
Either holiday you celebrate, chocolate coins are a very important part of the tradition. Take notice of the chocolate coins this year, and remember what made them what they are today.