A practice that goes back a long way, to when people still believed there were spirits living in or near natural springs who needed appeasement and could influence the future.
The boy is a hungry agnostic.
a boy in the fountain
—KATHY LIPPARD COBB
I like how this can be read in more than one way. It could be the boy is stealing the pennies thrown/tossed into the fountain. As the first line tells us, it's potentially bitterly cold, and every penny towards food or heating is vital. Perhaps the boy is just going to buy some expensive fast food, or drugs, we don't know.
Whatever his wish or wishes, or other people's wishes, shouldn't we hope he makes it through the night unlike HC Andersen's The Little Match Girl?