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Why is Dreidel played at Hanukkah?

Happy first evening of Hanukkah! I'm not sure if you've played Dreidel or not, but it's this fun game where you start out with coins (usually chocolate coins in our house, they're more valuable) and then go around the circle and each spin a top with four sides. "Nun", "Gimel", "Hey", "Shin". Which stands for "nes gadol haya sham" -- this can be translated to "A great miracle happened there" (Likely talking about the Maccabees and the oil lasting 8 days instead of the one day it should have).


So why is Dreidel played during Hanukkah? It is often explained the in a time when studying the Torah was illegal, Jewish children would use this game to cover up the fact they were actually studying. They could quickly hide their books and tell anyone who asked they were simply playing this game with a top.


Dreidel did not originate with Jewish children. Similar top games have been played for centuries. In fact, In England and Ireland there is a game called totum or teetotum first mentioned in the early 1500's that is especially popular at Christmastime, which was very similar to Dreidel.







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