The Hanukkah Game

The dreidel (also dreidl, dreidle, dreydel, and draydel; sevivon in Hebrew) is a spinning top used to play the traditional dreidel game during Hanukkah.

Black-and-white photograph showing two boys and a girl playing dreidel at a table. A Hanukkah menorah stands on the table with all of the candles lit.

The photograph Kinder beim Trendelspiel (“Children Playing Dreidel”) was taken by Herbert Sonnenfeld in 1934 in Berlin; Jewish Museum Berlin


The four sides of the top, which is shaped like a die, bear the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hay, and shin (or peh). These are the first letters of the words in the sentence “Nes gadol hayah sham” (or “Nes gadol hayah poh”), which means “A great miracle happened there” or “A great miracle happened here”—depending on whether the game is played in the Diaspora or in Israel.  continue reading