A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that is played with on the Jewish festival of Chanukah. Each of the four sides bears a Hebrew letter; Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Shin that make up the acronym “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham” meaning “A great miracle happened there.” The letters also form a mnemonic for the rules of the game. Each letter stands for a Yiddish word that tells the player what to do. Nun stands for “nisht” meaning “nothing”, Hay for “halb” meaning “half”, Gimmel for “gants” meaning “all” and Shin for “shtel arayn” meaning “put in”.
There are many different types of dreidels that can be purchased nowadays, both online and in local Judaica stores. Plastic, nickel, wood and pewter are just some of the materials that dreidels are made of nowadays.
A lovely Chanukah activity to do with children, when relaxing in front of the Chanukah lights is to make your own Dreidel:
You will need:
- A printed dreidel pattern
- Lightweight cardboard
- A short, sharpened pencil
- Game pieces- nuts, raisins, chocolate coins etc.
Steps to making the Dreidel:
- Glue the printed dreidel pattern to the cardboard and cut it out. If the pattern doesn’t come with marked holes on the top and bottom panels make sure to make them and cut them out.
- Fold the pattern into a box shape and use the glue to stick the flaps in place. Allow the glue to dry.
- Push the pencil through the holes that you previously marked and cut out so that the point of the pencil comes out through the bottom of the Dreidel. It is advisable to secure the pencil with a little glue.
- Play the dreidel game!
The dreidel game:
- Each player should receive an equal number of game pieces and then everyone puts one in the middle.
- Each player takes a turn to spin the dreidel.
When the dreidel comes to a stop, the player who spun does whatever the letter displayed means:
- Nun- the player does nothing
- Gimmel- the player takes all the game pieces from the middle
- Hay- the player takes half of what’s in the middle, plus one if there’s an odd number of pieces
- Shin- the player puts two game pieces into the middle.
- When only one or no objects are left in the middle each player puts in one game piece.
- Once a player has all the game pieces s/he wins!