A dreidel is essentially a “top” that has four Hebrew letters on its sides. Each of these letters stands for a particular word. Depending on where one lives, there will be different letters on the dreidel, but I am going to explain a traditional dreidel found in here in America. There four letters are “Nun נ ,” “Gimmel ג ,” “Hey ה ,” and “Shin ש .” Together those letters form an acronym for, “Nes gadol ha’ya sham,” which means “a great miracle occurred there.”
This game is traditionally played during Hanukkah, and depending on where one lives, the rules may vary, as due the traditions. I am going to explain how to play the traditional game of dreidel. First and foremost, one needs to obtain a dreidel. These can be purchased during the Hanukkah season, and are usually found in the seasonal items at a grocery store or a department store. There is not a limit on the amount of players, so anyone can play.
Each player will begin the game with the same amount of candy, money, chips, etc. I recommend starting with 10 game pieces (coins, candy etc.) for each player. When starting the game, each player will put in one coin (or whatever one has chosen to play with) into the center pot. Choose who will start spinning first. We usually allow the youngest to go first.
Each player receives on spin of the dreidel per turn. Depending on what letter the dreidel falls on, will depend on what one will have to put into the pot, or what one will be able to get from the pot.
- Nun נ – If the dreidel lands on Nun, the player does not get anything from the pot, and they do not have to put anything into the pot. The player does nothing.
- Gimmel ג – If the dreidel lands on Gimmel, the player will receive everything in the pot.
- Hey ה – If the dreidel lands on Hey, the player takes half of what is in the pot.
- Shin ש – If the dreidel lands on Shin, the player must put a coin (or what ever game piece that was chosen) into the pot.
When one player has one all of the game pieces, the game is over.
Traditionally, the money that is won during the game is given to charity to help those who are in need of help. With this Thanksgiving being the first day of Hanukkah as well, add something fun and new to the holiday this year.
For additional information on how to play dreidel or to learn about different traditions about the dreidel game, visit My Jewish Learning or About Judaism.