The Dreidel is perhaps one of the most popular yet historically mysterious of all Hanukkah traditions. Various Rabbi’s and scholars have tried to find a connection between the item that has provided countless hours of family fun in modern times, and the Hanukkah story which dates back to the 2nd century. Though the history is somewhat unclear, the explanation for the meaning of the Dreidel and its text is quite simple.
Most standard Dreidel's will have written on them the Hebrew letters of nun, gimmel, hay, and shin. These letters stand for nes gadol haya sham, "a great miracle happened there." Those in Israel have nun, gimmel, hay, pay written on them which means "a great miracle happened here." Of course, the history and meaning are of great importance, the Dreidel is best known for the game that is played with it.
To play Dreidel, only one is needed (Each player may use his/her own if they would like), along with a large quantity of small items such as pennies, raisins, or hazelnuts, which every player is given an equal amount of. Players sit around a table or in a circle on the floor, and each player begins by anteing in with 2 items. Players take turns spinning and follow the rules of the game depending on how the Dreidel lands.The basic rules are as follows:
- If your Dreidel lands on nun, you forfeit your turn and the next player spins.
- Land on Gimmel and you win all the pieces in the pot. All players ante-up again.
- Land on hay, you collect half the pieces in the pot. (If there are an odd number of pieces, the players decide among themselves what the convention will be for their game.)
- Finally, if you land on shin, you put one more piece into the pot.
The game is not the only reason to possess Driedel's. Recently, many people including children and adults have begun collecting them as novelty items. They have also become very popular in the field of Judaica to be given as gifts around Hanukkah time (or year round!).