Cool Facts How To

How to Celebrate Hanukkah

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The Dreidel Game

Hanukkah is celebrated in a variety of ways: potato latkes, jelly-filled doughnuts, candle lighting (of course), and the dreidel game

A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Shin*. Together these form the acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there”.

(*In Israel, the letters are Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Pay.Together these form the acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Poy– “a great miracle happened here”.)

A tradition arose that the game was played by Jews who studied the Torah in seclusion as they hid from the Seleucids under Antiochus IV. At the first sign of Seleucids approaching, their Torah scrolls would be concealed and be replaced by dreidels.

So, how do you play the dreidel game? First of all, most people play with candy! Yum!

At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece (or candy) into the center “pot”. Every player puts one in the pot after every turn. Each player spins the dreidel once during their turn. Depending on which player side is facing up when it stops spinning, they give or take game pieces from the pot:

If Nun is facing up, the player does nothing.

If Gimmel is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.

If Hay is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot.

If Shin is facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot. (The letter is Pay in Israel, Shin outside of Israel.)

If the player is out of pieces, they are either “out” or may ask another player for a “loan”.

The Hebrew Alphabet:

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For more on Hanukkah, click here.

For a Hanukkah coloring book, click here.

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