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A Hanukkah dreidel

A Hanukkah dreidel

How old is the dreidel game?

Since the 1700s AD, people have often celebrated Hanukkah by playing the dreidel game. The first thing you need to play the dreidel game is a dreidel. It’s better to buy a dreidel (you pronounce it DRAY-dell) because if you make your own it’s very difficult to get it to play fair. It’s always going to land on one side more than the others. Your game won’t be any fun. So just go to any toy store or department store and buy a dreidel (or buy a dreidel from Amazon).

More Hanukkah projects
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah in the Middle Ages
Religion in medieval Europe
All our medieval Europe articles

Dreidel’s a gambling game

You’ll also need something to bet. Often people use nuts or chocolate coins (Hanukkah gelt). Other traditional choices are pennies, or raisins.

Where do raisins come from?
How about almonds?
A project with almonds

How do you play dreidel?

Sit on the floor in a circle. If you’re on a rug, get something hard to spin the dreidel on. A large book or a chessboard or backgammon board will work. Divide up the nuts so everyone has the same number. Everyone puts one nut in the middle to start the game.

How to read the dreidel letters

How to read the dreidel letters

What do the letters mean?

The first player (at our house, the youngest child goes first) spins the dreidel like a top. If it lands on Nun (N for nisht, or nothing), you do nothing. If it lands on Gimmel (G for gantz, or everything), you take all the coins in the middle, and everyone puts in one new one to start things off again.

What if it lands on the Hebrew letter Hey (H for the Yiddish word halb, or half)? Then you take half the coins in the middle (if there’s an odd number, take the extra one too). If it lands on Shin (S for Shtel, or put in), then you put two of your own pieces into the pot.

When does the game end?

Keep going around. If you run out of nuts, you stop playing (but if you are little and might cry, maybe someone will share some nuts with you). You play until one person has all the nuts, or until you decide to stop.

More about Hanukkah
Hanukkah in the Middle Ages
Learn by Doing – Making Latkes
Make your own oil lamp

Bibliography and further reading about Hanukkah:


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