I admit it; I love dreidels. It all started when one of my sister’s best friends in college invited us to a Hanukkah party. We sat around listening to music and playing dreidel, which this Atlantic City girl was delighted to discover was actually gambling. From then on, I was hooked.
When my son recently came home with a handmade menorah from school, I thought the time was right to introduce him to the dreidel.
Maybe it’s not the best way to get my son interested in Hanukkah and Judaism, but it’s a start.
Dreidel: the rules of the game
Each player starts the game with an equal number of whatever commodity you’re gambling: coins, peanuts, gelt, etc.
Each player puts one piece in the “pot”. When it’s your turn, spin the dreidel.
Nun means nothing in Yiddish. The player does nothing.
Gimmel means everything in Yiddish. The player gets everything in the pot.
Hey means half in Yiddish. 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.
Shin means put in in Yiddish.
The game is over when one player wins everything!
Below: the four sides of the dreidel, from right: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin.