Grandpa’s Chanukah Gelt

Grandpa’s Chanukah Gelt

Chana Shapiro reminisces about past Chanukah celebrations with family.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

My family always lit the first Chanukah candle together with our maternal grandparents and all our aunts, uncles and cousins. We turned down the electric lights, sang the Hebrew songs, then sat comfortably together, enjoying the glow from our menorot. Each of us lit our own menorah, and it was on Chanukah that my siblings and I first learned to use matches.

I’m sure that people passing my grandparents’ front windows were awed by the amazing array of dancing light.

Before we crowded around the table to enjoy my grandmother’s latkes, my grandfather ceremoniously gave each of his grandchildren a quarter. My grandfather explained that Chanukah gelt was the proper Jewish gift, and other goyishe items weren’t nearly as fine. While we dined, my grandfather told us stories about his life before coming to America. I treasured the quarter and the stories, and could have listened all night.

These days, when I see foil-wrapped chocolate coins, stamped with a menorah imprint, I wonder if contemporary children know what the candy replaces. Does anyone else miss the old days of authenticity?

Happy, Chanukah to all! May each of us experience miracles and illumination all year!

Chana Shapiro is a writer, educator and flea market junkie, currently co-writing the sequel to “Fruitfly Rabbi.”

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