The Chanukah Dreidel (Dreidle)
The dreidel is one of the best known symbols of Chanukah. A four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side, the dreidel is used to play a fun Chanukah game of chance.
SHIN, HEY, GIMEL, NUN
The letters on the dreidel, Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Shin, stand for the Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means A Great Miracle Happened There.
In Israel, the modern-day land of Judea in which the story of Chanukah took place, the letters on the dreidel are Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Peh, which stand for A Great Miracle Happened Here (Po, in Hebrew).
To play the game of dreidel, two to four players each get a handful of pennies or chocolate money called gelt. The remainder of the pot is left in the middle. The youngest players spins the dreidel and depending on what letter the top lands on, he or she will:
NUN – Lose his turn, the top passes to the next player.
GIMEL – Win all the pot.
HEY – Win half the pot
SHIN (or PEH) – Lose all of his coins
The dreidel — or Sivivon in Hebrew, from the verb to spin — continues to be passed around the circle until one player has won everyone’s coins. The word dreidel comes from a Yiddish word meaning to turn.
According to some historians, Jews first played with a spinning top during the rule of the Greek King Antiochus’. In Judea, Antiochus had outlawed Jewish worship, so the Jews would use a game with the spinning top as a ruse to conceal that they were secretly studying Torah.
Dreidels can be made out of just about anything — from wood, plastic or polymer to precious metals (although perhaps you shouldn’t let your kids play with the solid gold dreidel!) You can even make a dreidel at home out of an old milk carton. Read our Chanukah craft article to see how.
Make your own dreidel with our easy to make pattern. You can print this pattern directly from your browser. Color or paint anyway you’d like