Chocolate Coins and Christmas

The other day I was finishing up my Christmas shopping.  I absentmindedly tossed a few mesh bags of chocolate, gold wrapped coins into my cart and went along my merry way.

When I got home I began reviewing my purchases.  The coin enthusiast in me stopped when I got to the “gold coins” to look at them more carefully.  “Are they replicas of real coins?  Can I determine a grade?”I asked myself.  The answer, in my case was “no” to both of these, but they did taste delicious (sorry kids).  Then I got to my final question,  why in the world did I just buy fake, gold wrapped chocolate coins for my children for Christmas?

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“Chocolate Coins (11734099083)” by William Warby from London, England

It turns out there are potentially several reasons we gift chocolate coins to each other at Christmas time.

One theory dates back to the Christmas story found in the bible.  When the wise men went to visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus in Bethlehem, they brought with them gifts fit for a king.  Along with frankincense and myrrh was gold which symbolized virtue and kingship here on earth.  Perhaps this gift carried over to the traditions we have today.

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“The visit of the wise-men” by Heinrich Hofmann

The history of the chocolate coins can also be linked back to jolly old Saint Nick who, before taking a job at the North Pole, was the Bishop of Myra in what we now call Turkey.   Saint Nick had inherited a fortune when, as a child, his parents both died.  He was also very shy, but wanted to give to the children of Myra.  One night, he tossed a few gold coins down the chimney of a house with three girls.  One of the girls had just hung her stockings up by the fire to dry and the coins landed right in them!  When word got out that this had happened, children all over the town began leaving their stockings by the fire in hopes that Saint Nick would leave them gold coins as well.  Piero_di_Cosimo_026

In Jewish tradition, gold coins (called “gelt”) play a role in Hanukkah as well.  In the 17th century parents used to give their children coins to pass along to their teachers as a token of gratitude.  Something like an end of the year tip.  Over time, the tradition expanded and parents started giving money to their children to keep as their own.

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By liz west (originally posted to Flickr as candy coins) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of the traditions your family celebrates this time of year, you can be certain that gold coins played a role.  Although I have no plans to put real gold into my kids’ stockings, I will continue to include these gold wrapped chocolate ones .  As they carefully peel back the foil, we will take a minute discuss the many traditions and meanings of Christmas and how they have evolved over time.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions and can you trace their origins?  Please comment below!

From all of us here at the Stamp and Coin Place, we wish you and your family a Happy Holidays!

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