I grew up eating and enjoying the standard foil-wrapped chocolate gelt my mother found at our local grocery store, and I introduced my own kids to the same stuff. It’s not great chocolate, but it tastes like sweet dreidel victory to me.
We play dreidel our own way, with a combination of pennies, faux gold coins rescued from a dumpster, and chocolate. Players play each round with pennies and faux gold, and everyone wins a bag (or pile) of chocolate at the end of the evening’s games. This cuts down on crazy-making candy consumption and keeps the peace between siblings.
A couple of years ago, my desire to stay away from plastic whenever possible spurred me to make a change in our chocolate. Instead of the little plastic mesh bags of “official” gelt, I started buying foil-wrapped pirate coins from our local grocery’s bulk bin section. It’s the same rather iffy chocolate, with pirate symbols instead of Hanukkah icons, same gold foil, with no plastic packaging.
Then came my dawning realization that chocolate production is too frequently tied to slavery, including child slavery. Neither the standard mesh-bagged gelt nor the bulk pirate coins are fair-trade or guaranteed slavery-free.
Celebrating anything at all with chocolate grown by slaves just isn’t right; honoring a holiday that celebrates a victory over tyranny and the survival of identity and personhood with slavery chocolate? That seemed even more perversely profane. My girls and I were determined to find alternatives this year.
Fair-trade “guilt-free gelt” does exist: visit the Fair Trade Gelt Campaign’s Facebook page for a list of suppliers, and this Tablet article has a round-up of various options for Hanukkah 5773 (2012). My kids surprised me when they vetoed the idea of Fair Trade chocolate chips (“not exciting enough!”), and we couldn’t find any suitably exciting, affordable, and locally available chocolate gelt for this year by the time we started looking (we’ll start at least a month before Hanukkah next year).
We settled on one large bar of fair-trade, slavery-free chocolate for the eighth night and as many tiny satsumas or clementines as each dreidel player desired every night. We went through a lot of satsumas!
Whether your local grocery stocks satsumas, clementines, or another variety of mandarin oranges, they’re readily available in the US in November and December, just in time for Hanukkah wherever the 24th of Kislev falls in the secular calendar. While they’re frequently packaged in plastic mesh bags, we found them in bulk or just packed into crates.
Oranges may not have a perfectly low carbon footprint, and there may still be plastic produce stickers on their peels, but they’re not grown by slaves…True, we have a way to go regarding living wages, safe conditions, and respect for agricultural workers in the US, but on the continuum of justice, satsumas seemed like an improvement, at least.
If you do find yourself with a plastic mesh bag to deal with, turn it into a produce scrubber with my tutorial here (this works only with the stiff plastic mesh, not the fabric-soft variety).
Turn all those orange peels into an all-purpose vinegar-based cleaner with my tutorial here.
Do you have a favorite gelt with less guilt? Please share – We’d love other options to try next year!