Jewish children celebrating Hanukkah or Chanukah (the Festival of Lights) traditionally have received “Hanukkah gelt” (money), which the children would spend on candies or on a charitable cause. “Chanucah Geld” was cited in print in 1914.
The Hanukkah gelt often is chocolate, wrapped in gold tin foil to resemble a coin. “Chanukah gelt, chocolate wrapped in gold foil to represent coins” was cited in print in 1949.
WIkipedia: Hanukkah gelt
Hanukkah gelt (Yiddish: חנוכה געלט ḥanukah gelt ; Hebrew: דמי חנוכה dmei ḥanukah, both meaning literally “Hanukkah money") refers to money as well as chocolate coins given to Jewish children on the festival of Hanukkah.
Rabbi A. P. Bloch has written that “The tradition of giving money (Chanukah gelt) to children is of long standing. The custom had its origin in the 17th-century practice of Polish Jewry to give money to their small children for distribution to their teachers. In time, as children demanded their due, money was also given to children to keep for themselves. Teenage boys soon came in for their share. According to Magen Avraham (18th century), it was the custom for poor yeshiva students to visit homes of Jewish benefactors who dispensed Chanukah money (Orach Chaim 670). The rabbis approved of the custom of giving money on Chanukah because it publicized the story of the miracle of the oil.”
According to popular legend, it is linked to the miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the ancient Greeks. To celebrate their freedom, the Hasmoneans minted national coins. It may also have begun in 18th-century Eastern Europe as a token of gratitude toward religious teachers, similar to the custom of tipping service people on Christmas. In 1958, the Bank of Israel issued commemorative coins for use as Hanukka gelt. That year, the coin bore the image of the same menorah that appeared on Maccabean coins 2,000 years ago.
American chocolatiers of the 20th century picked up on the gift/coin concept by creating chocolate gelt. In the 1920s, Loft’s, an American candy company, produced the first chocolate gelt, wrapped in gold or silver foil in mesh pouches resembling money bags.
Chocolate ‘geld’ is also given to children as part of the St. Nicholas holiday in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (geld, spelled with a d, being both the Dutch and German word for money).
Jewish Life in Modern Times
By Israel Cohen
Spending-money (Chanucah Geld) is given to the youngsters, who also demand a similar bounty on Purim (Purim Geld), wherewith to celebrate the downfall of Haman with fitting rejoicing.
22 December 1919, The Jewish Daily News (New York, NY), “The Festival Revivified,” pg. 2, col. 7:
Jewish children knew only that Chanukah was the time when you went to your grandfather or your rich uncle to get “Chanukah-gelt.”
26 December 1919, The Jewish Monitor (Fort Worth-Dallas, TX), “Compliments of the Season,”, pg. 8, col. 2:
... remember Chanukah was also a festival of the early Christians, and that is where they got their Christmas giving spirit—pardon us, the spirit of the giving of “Chanukah-gelt.”
THe Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project
8 December 1922, The Jewish Criterion (Pittsburgh, PA), “Chanukah Gelt,” pg, 12, col. 1:
It was an old Jewish Custom. It always was a good custom. Many of us still remember the joy and pleasure we experienced when, as Chanukah rolled around, our parents presented us with our Chanukah Gelt,— how we cherished the few coins, for some larger coins,— for most of us smaller coins.
20 December 1929, The Jewish Chronicle (Newark, NJ), “Chanukah ‘Gelt’” by David Schwartz, pg. 11, col. 1:
The kindling of the Chanucah lights was a pretty piece of symbolism to the Jewish child, but in addition there was Chanucah “gelt.” Chanucah “gelt” meant the wherewithal to purchase the sweets and goodies which are the delight of children universally.
Jewish Customs and Ceremonies
By Ben M. Edidin
New York, NY: Hebrew Pub. Co.
Children receive Hanukah Gelt, part of which they donate to a worthy cause.
The Jewish Kindergarten,
A Manual for Teachers
By Deborah Pessin and Temima Gezari
Cincinnati, OH: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Chanuko gelt, they call it. The little boys jingle their coins in their pockets. They’re thinking of all the things they will buy with their Chanuko gelt.
Youth Is the Time
By Robert Gessner
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
“Hanukah gelt!” cried Mrs. Fine, applauding loudly. “Isidore, give them the Hanukah gelt!”
Jewish Center Program Aids
National Jewish Welfare Board
Hanukah gelt were placed on the table, and refreshments of potato latkes, cookies, tea and coffee were prepared.
Old Fulton NY Post Cards
19 December 1949, The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY), “175 Atend Chanuah Party At Jewish Community Center,” pg. 4, col. 5:
The Ladies Auxiliary served refreshments, and children received tiny dreidles and bags of Chanukah gelt, chocolate wrapped in gold foil to represent coins.
18 December 1955, The Sunday Courier and Press (Evansville, IN), “During the Festival of Lights,” pg. 17, col. 1 photo caption:
Other traditional decorations are the shield of the Lion of Judah, the elephants of ELiazar’s armies, the six-pointed star of David containing Hanukkah gelt, or money. THis is usualy made of blue cheesecloth or felt and contains chocolate candies covered in gold foil.
A Pictorial Treasury of Jewish Holidays and Customs
By Morris Epstein
New York, NY: Ktav Publishing House
Hanukkah is a time for “Hanukkah gelt.”
4 December 1960, Sunday Courier and Press (Evansille, IN), “Happy Hanukkah” by Ena Naunton, The Sunday Look, pg. 5, col. 1:
But modern children are less concerned with the background story than that their Hanukkah gelt is “gold” coinage filled with chocolate.