The Dreidel Game Played During Chanukah

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Dreidel is a traditional Chanukah (Hannukah) game played mostly in Jewish homes around the world. Dreidel in Hebrew means sevivon, which in Yiddish is to turn around. The Dreidel is one of the most popular symbols of Chanukah. Dreidels are essentially tops with four sides having Hebrew letters embedded on each side. Dreidel is a fun game of chance, played during Chanukah.

The letters found on the sides of the Dreidel are Gimmel, Hey, Nun and Shin. The letters on the Dreidel stand for Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which translates to “a great miracle happened here.” Playing Dreidel is actually quite simple. There are two to four players that can play the Dreidel together. Each player should have a handful of pennies or chocolate money (gelt) to play Dreidel with. The players place their bets in the middle as the youngest player spins the Dreidel. Depending on what letter the Dreidel lands on a corresponding action should be followed.

If the Dreidel lands on a Nun, the player will lose his turn and pass on the spinning of the Dreidel to the next player. If the Dreidel lands on Gimel, the player will win the entire pot. A Hey will give the player half of the pot while if the Dreidel lands on a Shin or Peh, the player will need to add money or gelt to the pot. The game of Dreidel ends when a single player has won all the money or gelt.

Dreidel’s history and how it came about dates back to the era of the Greek King Antiochus in Judea. Anthiocus banned Jewish worshipping during that time, and as a way of secretly studying the Torah, they would spin the Dreidel keeping under wraps their religious acts. Dreidels can be made of just about anything – plastic, polymer, wood or precious metals. Just about anything that could be molded and constructed into the shape of a top can be used to make Dreidels.

Dreidel’s popularity worldwide is evident in its presence in the pop culture. There are numerous songs that have been made that carry the name Dreidel in it. Animation shows such as Simpsons and Southpark have also aired episodes that include the game.

Many believe the game of Dreidel is European influenced. For centuries, gambling games have been played using a spinning top in many parts of Europe. In England and Ireland for example there’s a spinning top game called teetotum or totum, first recorded during the 1500′s and popular during Christmas. The Germans also have their own version of the spinning top. It is believed that the game Dreidel was derived from the German word drehen meaning “to spin.”

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Posted by on Sunday, February 21st, 2010. Filed under Chanukah. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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