Chanukah Gelt

Question

Is it customary to give presents on Chanukah?

 

, 5 days

Answers

  1. There is a widespread custom to give children presents of money on Chanukah. This is called “Chanukah gelt”.

    This custom has it roots in the Talmud.

    The Talmud states that even a very poor person must light Chanukah candles even if he can’t afford it. A person with no money is required to go “knocking on doors” until he collects enough to buy at least one candle for each night of Chanukah. The Torah concept of charity requires us to help the recipient in the most dignified manner possible. Therefore, the custom arose to give gifts of money so that someone who needs money for Chanukah candles can receive it in the form of “Chanukah gelt.”

     

    There is another idea that the origin of “Chanukah gelt” dates back to the triumphant coinage of silver minted by the Maccabees. The Maccabees were so overjoyed at their victory that they minted their own coins and gave them out on Chanukah.

     

    Since Talmudic times the custom to give money has blossomed to become one to give presents as well. My family custom is to give presents to the younger children and “Chanukah gelt” to the older ones. It seems to work very well!

     

    Nowadays there is a custom to give chocolate “money” to the younger children, as a means to giving them a gift that they can savor immediately and yet retain the spirit of the custom of “Chanukah gelt”.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team