Teach your Kids How to Play Dreidel!

This simple Hanukkah game is a Family Holiday Tradition

By Macaroni KID November 25, 2022

A favorite Hanukkah tradition for families around the world is to play a fun game called dreidel.  The Hebrew word for dreidel is sevivon, which in Yiddish, means “to turn around." The dreidel has four sides with a Hebrew letter on each side: nun, gimel, hey, and shin - they stand for the saying, "Nes gadol hayah sham," which translates to "a great miracle occurred there."  What does it mean? "There" refers to Israel, and "the great miracle" refers to the miracle of Hanukkah, during which a small amount of oil lasted eight days – allowing Jews, who were celebrating their victory over a tyrant king, to keep the rededicated Temple's menorah lit for a miraculous eight days. 

You can read more about Chanukah here.

This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 18, 2022 and lasts through December 26. 2022 at sunset.

Pexels via Canva

How to play dreidel

Dreidel is a simple, but fun game that even the youngest kids in the family can enjoy!

What you'll need: 

  • At least one dreidel 
  • lots of small items such as: chocolate coins / gelt, real pennies, beans, or small candies to distributed equally amongst the players. You can start with any amount, but 15 pieces each is good.

How to play:

  1. Each player puts one item from his pile into the center, making a "pot."
  2. Players take turns spinning the dreidel. The Hebrew letter that comes up when it lands determines what the player must do.
  3. At the end of a player's turn, every player places another token into the pot.
  4. When the player runs out of pieces, they are either out of the game or can ask another player for a loan. 

What do the Hebrew letters on the dreidel mean?

Here's what the letters mean in terms of the game:

נ  If the נ "nun" is facing up, the player does nothing.

ג  If the ג "gimel" is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.

ה  If ה "hey" is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot, if there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player rounds up.

ש  If ש "shin" is facing up, the player adds one to the pot. 

If this is your first time playing just know that sometimes it takes a bit of practice to spin the dreidel, some spin easier than others, little ones might need a little more help to get it spinning. Keep in mind if you choose to play with edibles you will need extras since some might magically disappear.  Pennies and M&Ms are my family's favorites.

dreidel by arinahbich from Getty Images  via Canva

Happy Hanukkah