The four sides of the dreidel, from right: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. Click for playing instructions and the meaning of these letters.
Around my house, we take dreidel spinning seriously. My sons, my husband and I crowd around the table with a notepad and pencil, spinning the dreidel and making a note of the score on a yellow legal pad. It’s known as The Dreidel Book and it resembles an ancient text…sort of. On some of the patches, you’ll see a spatter of grease, on others a smear of chocolate.
Here are some fun facts about the humble dreidel:
1. There have been college mathematics seminars on the probability of winning a game of dreidel, the expected number of spins in a game of dreidel and whether the first player has a statistical advantage over the other players.
2. U.S. astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman brought a menorah and a dreidel on his Space Shuttle mission in 1993.
3. The Yiddish version of “The Dreidel Song” is Ikh Bin A Kleyner Dreydl, Yiddish: איך בין אַ קלײנער דרײדל Ich Bin Ein Kleine Dreidel (I am a little dreidel). In the Yiddish version, the dreidel is made out of “blay,” Yiddish for lead.
4. The game of dreidel is based on a European gambling game that used a spinning top. The Yiddish word “dreidel” come from the German word “drehen” which means “to spin.”
5. Dreidels are also known in Yiddish as: fargls, a “varfl” [= something thrown], “shtel ein” [= put in], and “gor, gorin” [= all].
6.”Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel was sung by Kyle in the first South Park Christmas special.
At Challah Connection, you can find not only our award winning kosher baked goods but also exquisite and unusual Judaica, including a beautiful selection of dreidels including the very popular No-Limit Texas Dreidel Game. An elderly relative collects dreidels and I look forward to her joyful phone call after she has opened her
Chanukah gift. She knows, and I know, that it will be a dreidel, but she claims that each new dreidel is more beautiful than the next. Wouldn’t she be surprised to see my family dreidel? After countless spins, the paint has worn off here and there, and Sophie (our dog) got a hold of it once, leaving her mark until I pried it from her mouth.
Still, when I unearth it every year, it reminds me of how much fun my family and I have sharing a simple game.