- What is a dreidel?
A: A dreidel is a four-sided top. The word comes from the Yiddish word dray, which means “turn” or “spin.”
- What are the markings on the sides of the dreidel?
A: Each side is labeled with a Hebrew letter: Nun, for nes (miracle); gimmel, for gadol(great); hai, for haya (was); shin, for sham (there). The resultant sentence means, “A great miracle happened there,” referring to the one-day’s supply of consecrated oil for the Temple that lasted the eight days.
- How is the dreidel game played?
A: There is a central pot and each player has a supply of items, usually small denomination coins, nuts, or chocolate, to gamble with. The players spin the dreidel. Depending on which letter is showing when the top stops spinning, the player gets nothing (nun), half (hai), all (gimmel), or has to add to the pot (shin).
- What is gelt?
A: The word is Yiddish for “money,” but Chanukah gelt refers not just to the coins but to the foil wrapped chocolates used for betting in the dreidel game.
- Is the game played differently in different cultures?
A. The only difference is in Israel with one letter and its subsequent word. In Israel, the final letter is pay for the word po, “here,” so the acronym stands for “A great miracle happened here.” And even though the Yiddish word dreidel is used in Israel, it is more
commonly called by the Hebrew word sevyvon, which means “top” and comes from “sov” – spin or turn.