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As we embarked on Hanukkah this year, I wanted to share my heritage with Addie. She is getting older and more able to understand that although my father passed almost 18 years ago, Judaism is important to me and will be to her, as she learns about her ancestors. Having the opportunity to share in the joy of the holidays is important to me, and many of our traditions stem from readings, prayer, and food. Hanukkah is no different. We read stories, learn about lighting the candles and the traditional prayer, as well as play games to celebrate.
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam
asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu
l’had’lik neir shel Chanukah. (Amein)
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us
to light the lights of Hanukkah. (Amen)
Dreidel has always been one of my favorite games to play, and this year I decided I would teach Addie and Dave how to play with me! The rules are pretty simple, you just have to know a bit of Hebrew! For starters, let’s go over what dreidel is.
Dreidel is Yiddish for a spinning top. There is a Hebrew letter embossed (or printed) on each of a traditional dreidel’s four sides. The dreidel is usually wooden, and spins on its pointed end. The four letters form the acronym of the phrase: “Nes gadol hayah sham,” which translates as “A great miracle happened there”. This saying is a reference to the Hanukkah miracle that transpired in the Land of Israel.
I wanted to make our game fun and simple, so I grabbed some supplies from WALMART and made my own version of the dreidel game:
First, I covered a square piece of cardboard with Hanukkah wrapper paper and, using washi tape and a fastener, I made a spinner:
I then used the washi tape to put a נ (nun), ג (gimel), ה (hay), and ש (shin) on one Snack Pack of a different variety (chocolate, vanilla, and vanilla/chocolate):
It was much easier for Addie to flick a spinner than to spin a traditional dreidel AND I was without the worry that Millie would choke on the wooden object. I call that a win-win! Plus, at the end of the game, we took our winnings and crushed them up into our favorite pudding, topped with an OREO and had a delicious snack!
So, how does one play dreidel? To begin, grab any number of people who want to play and read on!
- Each player begins the game with an equal number of game pieces (about 10-15) such as pennies, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, matchsticks, or as we used, Mini-Nilla Wafers!
- At the beginning of each round, every player puts one game piece into the center. Also, every time the pot is empty or has only one game piece left, every player should put one in the pot.
- Every time it’s your turn, spin the dreidel once (or flick the spinner). Depending on the outcome, you give or get game pieces from the pot:
a) Nun means “nisht” or “nothing.” The player does nothing.
b) Gimmel means “gantz” or “everything.” The player gets everything in the pot.
c) Hey means “halb” or “half.” The player gets half of the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one).
d) Shin (outside of Israel) means “shtel” or “put in.” Peh (in Israel) also means “put in.” The player adds a game piece to the pot.
- If you find that you have no game pieces left, you are either “out” or may ask a fellow player for a “loan.”
- When one person has won everything, that round of the game is over!
It’s really easy and really fun… and while you can play with the traditional chocolate Hanukkah gelt, Mini-Nilla Wafers give you much less guilt!
Addie LOVED learning a new game… and getting a tasty snack, too! You can make this awesome, delicious game at home with your kids and save while you do it with the Ibotta app! Making the holidays a delectable learning experience is the best fun you can have! How do you teach your children about Hanukkah? Share in the comments!