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Hanukkah game

How to play dreidel

Published on December 27, 2016 | Last Updated April 22, 2022

The dreidel game is one of the most famous Hanukkah traditions. It was created as a way for Jews to study the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Christians call these the Old Testament. It was also a way to learn Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people. They had to do this in secret after Greek King Antiochus IV had outlawed all Jewish religious worship in 175 BC.

Today we play the dreidel game as a way to celebrate this history and have fun with friends and family!

What you’ll need:

  • two or more players, ages three and up
  • the dreidel: a four-sided spinning top made of wood, plastic, or the proverbial clay
  • something to use as tokens for your game pieces (about 10-15); people traditionally use chocolate covered coins called gelt, but you could use nuts, marbles, marshmallows, you name it!

Before you begin:

On the four sides of the dreidel appear four letters from the Hebrew alphabet:

  • Nun (נ)
  • Gimmel (ג)
  • Hey (ה)
  • Shin (ש)

Together nun, gimmel, hay and shin translate to “a great miracle happened there.”

How to play:

1. Divide the game pieces equally between all the players.

2. Everyone takes a turn at spinning the dreidel, the one with the highest spin has the first turn. Note: nun is highest, then gimmel, hey, and shin. If there is a tie, those who tied get to spin again.

3. Everyone puts one game piece into the middle (the "pot").

4. Spin the dreidel once — depending on the side it lands on, you give or get game pieces from the pot.

  • Shin: put one more token in the pot
  • Nun: do nothing
  • Gimmel: take all tokens from the pot
  • Hay: take half of all tokens lying in the pot. In case of an odd number of tokens, round up.

5. Pass the dreidel on to the next player after your turn is finished in a clockwise direction.

6. Keep playing until someone wins by collecting all the tokens.

7. If you run out of tokens, you are either "out," or you may ask another player for a loan.

Don't have a dreidel? Make one out of paper!

Download and print out the PDF template.

DIY dreidel paper craft


Since you're playing dreidel, why not eat a dreidel! Make your own edible marshmallow dreidels to share with your friends!

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