Dreidel: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About the Hanukkah Game


Who doesn't love playing games? 
Especially when those games involve winning chocolate money! (AKA chocolate gelt)
During Hanukkah, one of the most popular traditions for children (and adults) is playing the dreidel game. There are many versions of the game; adults and children alike have found ways to "up" the ante to ensure it really is a classic. With all of this in mind, we decided to dive a bit into the history of the dreidel, game, and ways to play. Comment below to share your dreidel game traditions!

What is a dreidel?
A dreidel, or sevivon in Hebrew, is a four-sided spinning-top. Letters are inscribed into each side to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah and comprise of the first letter of each word in the statement in Hebrew "נס גדול היה שם‎" (transliterated as Ness Gadol Haya Sham) and meaning "a great miracle happened there". There being Jerusalem, Israel, where the Hanukkah miracle occurred. 
Need to buy a few dreidels? Check out our selection! They make wonderful gifts. 

How did the game come about?
There are many theories of how the dreidel game came about, but our personal favorite is that it originated from the English top called teetotum which was inscribed with letters denoting the Latin words for “nothing,” “half,” “everything” and “put in.” When the teetotum arrived in Germany it was called trendel. This evolved into dreidel in Yiddish and used as a teaching tool for letters. The game overtime was adapted into the game for Hanukkah. 

How to play?
Number of Players: 3-10 
Ages: Any age! 
Game Pieces
The most important step is the selection of the winning/game pieces. The winner gets to keep all of the winnings so it's really important you pick wisely. Each player should start somewhere between 15-20 game pieces. Some of my favorite game pieces include:
  1. Chocolate gelt
  2. Quarters
  3. Raisins
  4. M&Ms
Game Steps
1. Split the pieces equally between all the players (~15-20 pieces each)
2. Select a player to start, typically the youngest player goes first. 
3. Before the first player plays, each player puts in one piece into the pot. 
4. Each player spins the dreidel once until it falls on a side. The side up decides which action the player needs to complete:
  • נ‎ (nun) is face up. The player gets a pass and does nothing.
  • ג‎ (gimel) is face up. The player gets everything in the pot!
  • ה‎ (hey)  is face up. The player gets half of the pieces (rounded up) in the pot.
  •  ש‎ (shin) is face up. The player puts a piece in the pot. 
5. When the pot runs out, each player needs to put another piece in. 
6. A player is out of the game when all of his/her pieces run out. 
7. The game continues until a player wins all of the pieces 

What other versions can we play?
  • Get Competitive! Turn the game into a real dreidel tournament with this Major League Dreidel's Spinagogue! (Sold out for the season.)
  • Adult Only Party? Introduce some fun drinking games!
  • Create your own dreidel bingo game
Don't forget to tell us about your dreidel and Hanukkah traditions in the comments below :) 
Back to blog


I played this game with my Oma, over 60 years ago. I had more fun with her, she taught me everything. I miss her so much.


I played this game with my Oma, over 60 years ago. I had more fun with her, she taught me everything. I miss her so much.


Thanks for the contest. ..sounds fun!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.