Then Dreidel I Shall Play

I don’t remember where we got our first Dreidel.  The kids were about 2 and 4; and for a few years they just spun it around and watched it go.  After a while, I looked up the rules – how hard could they be? It’s a kids’ game; and an old one at that.  Dreidel is a game associated with Hannukah, which we have loosely learned about by reading Latkes Latkes Good To Eat, and then eating latkes {which are, in fact; good to eat}.

This year Hannukah begins on December 8.  We play Dreidel all year long, but step it up this time of year.  It is a top with four sides; each with a Hebrew Letter that begins the words in the sentence Nes Gadol Haya Sham, or “A great miracle happened there”.  Very briefly, the great miracle was the reason for celebrating Hannukah, or festival of lights; is the re-dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem after it was trashed by pagans and the Jews had been treated harshly and cruelly by the Syrian King, Antiochus. Judah Maccabee (yup, as in “Macabees”) decided to fight back and after three years, he and his army won.  When they reclaimed and cleaned up the Temple, they found a container of oil to burn that should have lasted only one day but instead it lasted 8 days.

We play with pennies as our Hannukah gelt {money} to keep it simple and inexpensive. The game starts by everyone tossing in a few pennies, then one person spins the Dreidel.  Depending on which letter it lands on that person does nothing, takes all of the pennies, takes half of the pennies, or puts a penny in.  After one spin, the Dreidel is passed on to the next player.  The game is over when everyone except one person runs out of pennies. On their first Dreidel, the words were written out {look for one like this if you are just starting} but my kids have played for long enough that they know the Hebrew letters and what to do when it lands on each side.  They make it easy to remember by what the Hebrew letters sound like.

      • Gimel “Gimme ’em all“, The player takes all of the pennies.
      • Hey “Half“, The player takes half of the pennies.
      • Shin “Put One In“, The player puts one penny in.
      • Nun “None“, No pennies in, no pennies out.

Dreidel is easy and fun; and makes it easy to sneak in a little cultural learning too.  Give it a spin!

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  1. Did you know that dreidels made for/in Israel are actually different? They have a Pe instead of a Shin – and the translation is “A Great Miracle Happened Here.” Cool, huh?

    LOVED dreidel as a kid. So glad you share this with your kids.


  2. My very first year of teaching we were singing a hanukkah song and we made latkes in my classroom. It was definitely an experience :) We like playing dreidel too :)


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