I always thought that the dreidel game is all about “WHO SPINS THE LONGEST”. Apparently there are some other legal (approved by the rabbi) gambling games going on in Chanukah, here is one.
There are four Hebrew letters, one on each side of the dreidel
Each letter stands for a word:
Nun–Nes Gimmel-Gadol Hay–Hayah Shin-Sham
This means “A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED THERE”.
It seems though these letters have a double meaning. They also stand for words in Yiddish that set the rules for the game. In the game these Yiddish words correspond to the outcome of each spin of the dreidel.
How to play: (2 players and more)
1. Each player is given an equal amount of tokens (chocolate gelt, pennies, buttons, etc.)
2. Before each spin of the dreidel, each player puts a set amount of gelt in the pot (kupah)
3. Each player gets a turn spinning the dreidel
4. When the dreidel falls, the letter displayed on top determines the outcome of the player: Nun – NICHT (nothing) move on to the next player
Gimmel – GUT(good) takes all the gelt in the kupah
Hay – HALB (half) take half from the gelt in the kupah
Shin – SCHLECT (bad) add one to the kupah
5. The player looses all his gelt is out of the game, the player with the most gelt wins.
Package the game:
A great gift idea is to package the game in a canvas sack with the rules of the game printed on it. This is how:
1. Make a fabric sack or buy one. I used 5”x6” sacks that I got online at Paper Mart.
2. Print the lovely graphic i did (i was playing graphic designer for a bit) on an iron transfer paper following package directions. (you may also write it on the sack using fabric paint or permanent markers). Open graphic template
3. Fill the bag with Approximately 20 pieces of gelt such as buttons, chocolate gelt, beans, pebbles etc. And one dreidel
4. Give away as many as you can to keep this tradition going.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
The game began when Antiochus forbade the Jews to study Torah. Groups of boys who had memorized the entire Torah would secretly study together until they heard the footsteps of the Syrian soldiers. Then they would quickly pull out spinning tops (dreidels) and pretended to be playing games.
The dreidel is such a fun and simple game yet so much culture and history is embedded in it.