On the Third Day of Chanucah, My True Love Gave to Me…

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One of the traditions on Chanucah, is the giving of Chanucah gelt or דמי חנוכה (d’mei Chanucah) to children. There are different theories as to how this custom originated. One is that because of the linguistic connection between the Hebrew words “Chanucah”(חנוכה)  and “Chinuch” (חינוך) meaning “education”,  it became customary during the late Middle Ages in Europe (especially in the Eastern European Jewish communities) to give the children money which they would then give to the local Jewish teacher as a gift at Chanucah, to show their appreciation for the education  he was imparting to them. As time went by,  it became customary to give money to the children for themselves, to encourage them to study – a bribe, if you will ;-). Nowadays, at least in orthodox Jewish homes, the children are encouraged to donate their Chanucah gelt to charity, to teach them about the importance of giving to those in need.

In the early 20th century, it became customary to give silver and gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins instead, although many families continue to present their children with real money. However, the proximity of Chanucah to Christmas and the increasing commercialisation of the latter, has led to the spread of the custom of giving increasingly lavish gifts.  Alas, this commercialisation has affected many of our festivals – and I’ve heard many Christians making the same complaint about Christmas and Easter. Maybe the worldwide recession will force us to cut back our rampant consumerism and, instead, consider the real meaning behind Chanucah (and Christmas too). Every cloud, after all, has a silver lining – at least, that’s what they say.

Meanwhile – here’s some more musical cheer for Chanucah :-).


About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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2 Responses to On the Third Day of Chanucah, My True Love Gave to Me…

  1. gold price says:

    The word “gelt” is actually the Yiddish word for money. It’s unclear when the tradition of giving children money on Hanukkah began and there are several competing theories. The most likely source for the tradition comes from the Hebrew word for Hanukkah . Hanukkah is linguistically connected to the Hebrew word for education, hinnukh, which led many Jews to associate the holiday with Jewish learning. In late medieval Europe it became a tradition for families to give their children gelt (money) to give to the local Jewish teacher on Hanukkah as a gift to show appreciation for education. Eventually it became customary to give coins to the children as well to encourage their Jewish studies.

    • Thank you. Everything you have written was actually written in my post above. I give you credit for slightly more intelligence than most spammers in that you at least took the trouble to copy from some online encyclopaedia and post a comment which is relevant to the subject of my post – but it wasn’t good enough to get past my Spam Guard. However, I am posting this as a warning to other spammers, after removing your spam links.

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