Program Details
Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel Game

A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter printed on each side. It is used during Chanukah to play a popular children's game that involves spinning the dreidel and betting on which Hebrew letter will be showing when the dreidel stops spinning. Children usually play for a pot of gelt — chocolate coins covered in gold-colored tin foil. Jewish tradition has it that a game similar to the dreidel was popular during the rule of Antiochus IV, who ruled in present-day Syria during the second century BCE. During this period, Jewish people were not free to openly practice their religion, so when they gathered to study the Torah, they would bring a top with them. If soldiers appeared, they would quickly hide what they were studying and pretend to be playing a gambling game with the top.

Get your residents together during Chanukah for some games of Dreidel! Here’s how to play:


  • Ten to fifteen pieces of Chanukah gelt or candy per player
  • One dreidel
  • A hard surface, such as a table or a patch wood flooring

Set up:

At the beginning of the game, players sit around the table or on the floor in a circle. Each player is given an equal number of gelt pieces or candy, usually ten to fifteen. At the beginning of each round, every player puts one piece of gelt into the center "pot."

How to play:

Players take turns spinning the dreidel. Each of the Hebrew letters has a specific meaning as well as a significance in the game:

  • Nun means "nichts" or "nothing" in Yiddish. If the dreidel lands with a nun facing up, the spinner does nothing.
  • Gimmel means "ganz" which is Yiddish for "everything." If the dreidel lands with the gimmel facing up, the spinner takes everything in the pot.
  • Hey means "halb" or "half" in Yiddish. If the dreidel lands with a hey facing up, the spinner gets half of the pot.
  • Shin means "shtel" which is Yiddish for "put in." Pey means "pay." If the dreidel lands with either a shin or a pey facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot.

Once a player runs out of game pieces they are out of the game.

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