A bag of chocolate coins. I always buy Hanukkah gelt because it’s easier to get small individual bags in bulk. And the Hanukkiah on the back makes them taste better.
Each year at St. Paul’s we remember St. Nicholas of Myra on a Sunday morning. You might know St Nicholas better as Santa Claus, but we always call him Bishop Nick. Each year one of my beloved parishioners (the same one, he’s great) dresses up as Bishop Nick, including a scratchy white beard, a red costume miter, and a red vestment of some kind (I think it was a dalmatic this year?) and comes to teach the children of St. Paul’s about the life of St. Nicholas of Myra.
One famous story involves Nicholas secretly providing enough money for a poor family to pay a dowry to marry off their daughters, rather than selling them into slavery. We usually remember this story by our surrogate St. Nick handing out little bags of chocolate coins. This year, though, everything was different. We had our meeting on Zoom, and it was fun, if not as fun as it would have been in-person. Each family who picked up an Advent box got enough chocolate coins for the family to remember St. Nick together, and during our call with Bishop Nick, we each unwrapped and ate the chocolate coins together.
Something happened that I wasn’t expecting in that moment. The simple act of sharing in a common food took me back to eight months ago, the last time we shared Holy Communion together. I teared up a little bit as the chocolate coin melted in my mouth, and we remembered some of our sacred stories together. I could eat a chocolate coin on my own, and I probably would notice that it was rather waxy and disappointing, but to eat it together transformed it into something special. I don’t even know what it will be like to be able to share our sacred meal together again, whenever we can safely do that. But it filled me with hope, and I eagerly await the day.