Spin, O Dreidel, spin!

Friday, December 22, 2006 |  by Staff Writer  

Israelis will light the final candle of Hanukkah on Friday evening, but the holiday does not go without some fun.

A traditional Hanukkah game is played with a Dreidel, a round top with Hebrew letters on its four sides.

Customarily the Dreidel has four Hebrew letters, Nun, Gimmel, Heh and Shin, and was used as a gambling game. The original letters come from Yiddish. The ‘Nun’ stood for Nichts (nothing won), the ‘Gimmel’ for Ganz (won all), the ‘Heh’ for Halb (won half cash box) and the ‘Shin’ stood for Shtell (pay /deposit to the cash box).

The Jews in the Diaspora (outside of Israel) changed the letters to: “Ness Gadol Haya Sham” – “A great miracle happened there” (in Israel), and later in Israel it was slightly changed to “A great miracle happened here,” pointing to the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judas Maccabee in 165 BC when enough oil was found to light the menorah for only one day actually lasted for eight days.

Here’s how the game is played:

A “cash box” or “pot” is created. The stakes in the Dreidel game aren’t money, but tasty snacks such as M&M’s, raisins, Hershey’s Kisses, foil-wrapped chocolate coins, or other items along this line. The pot is then divided equally among the number of players, which can be anywhere from three, four or even more.

Each player will spin the Dreidel in turn. When the Dreidel “lands,” the letter facing up is the letter you get. If you get the letter “Nun,” you get nothing; if your spin lands the letter “Gimmel,” you get the whole pot; “Heh,” you get half; and if you get “Shin,” you have to put your own “token” in the pot.

If a player manages to collect all the goodies in the pot, that player is the winner!

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