Why "Hanukkah Gelt" and not "Hanukkah Money"?

It sounds less mercenary—which is probably also why real coins eventually gave way to chocolate ones.

Chris Melzer/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Chris Melzer/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Observation
Dec. 5 2018
About the author

Philologos, the renowned Jewish-language columnist, appears twice a month in Mosaic. Questions for him may be sent to his email address by clicking here.


“Hanukkah gelt” is an unusual expression in American Jewish speech. Apart from the Orthodox, such Yiddishisms aren’t commonly employed in English for Jewish religious practices and customs. Orthodox Jews may go to “shul,” but most other Jews go to synagogue or temple. The former “daven,” the latter pray. The more punctiliously observant speak of “Likhtbentshn”; for the less rigorous, it’s candle lighting. Yet who says “Hanukkah money”?

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More about: Arts & Culture, Gelt, Hanukkah, Money, Religion & Holidays