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Tips and Background for Playing Dreidel

December 31st, 2012 Seasonal

You don't have to be Jewish to have a blast playing dreidel. Scheinerman.net describes a dreidel as a top with four sides, each showcasing one of the Hewbrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hay and Shin. These are meant to signify the first letters of the phrase "A great miracle happened there," according to the source.

Interestingly and appropriately, the Hebrew word for dreidel is "sevivon," meaning "to turn around," according to the online resource MyJewishLearning, which cites the book A Different Light: The Hanukkah Book of Celebration. Scheinerman.net points to a handful of different stories that could account for how and why the game of dreidel was invented. One version of the story tells of Jewish children who required an excuse to play outside. However, the author notes that it's more likely that game of dreidel was conceived in Germany.

To play the game, players need a pile of small tokens of some kind. Pennies will do, as will candy or nuts. Players who are old enough to legally gamble may want to consider using quarters. All players start the game with equal amounts of whatever the currency is. In addition, it's preferable that all players have their own dreidel.

One player at a time takes a spin. If the top lands on Nun - which resembles a backwards "L" - nothing happens. A player whose dreidel lands on Shin - which looks like a "W" - must put one of his or her pieces of currency in a pot. If a player lands on Gimel - which looks like an upside down "Y" - they get to take all the pieces in the pot. Hay - which looks like a lowercase "N" - means the player gets half of the currency in the pot. The round ends when one player has collected all the tokens.