Dreidels are one of the first images that come to mind when you think of Hanukkah. But while many people can sing the short version of the popular Dreidel song, most non-Jewish people do not know the significance of the dreidel or even how to play the game. To get you ready for the Festival of Lights, this printable dreidel craft and lyrics to the dreidel song will have you spinning in no time.
History of the Dreidel
Dreidel is a traditional religious game played with a spinning top and is most closely associated with Hanukkah. But the dreidel is more than just a fun game; during the period of the Jewish people's oppression, it is said that allowed them to defy the ruling class and practice their religion in secret.
The Meaning of the Dreidel
During King Antiochus' reign in 170 BC, he prohibited the Jewish people from practicing their religion. To get around the prohibition, children studied the Torah in secret. When they were in danger of being caught, they would hide their Torah and pull out their dreidels, which were four-sided tops, to make it appear as though they were playing, rather than studying.
Today's dreidels are inscribed with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hay, and shin. These letters are an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, which translates to "a great miracle happened there". The miracle is the miracle of oil, when the menorah at the Second Temple remained lit for eight days, despite having only enough oil for one.
The Dreidel Song
Many people, Jewish or not, know the Dreidel song. The song is not an official part of the game, though some people do like to sing the short version of the song during play, which is:
I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay.
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I will play!
Free Printable Dreidel Template
This printable allows you to create a paper dreidel that you can use to play the dreidel game during your Hanukkah celebration.
What You'll Need
You will need the following supplies to make the dreidel:
- Paper or heavy card stock, any color or design
- Hole punch
- Glue or tape
- Craft stick, short pencil, or straw
- Dreidel template, found to the right
- Optional: Colored pencils, markers or crayons, to color the dreidel
To make your dreidel more festive, use blue or silver card stock (the colors of the Israeli flag) or look for card stock printed with Hanukkah designs in the scrapbooking section of your local craft store. To make the dreidel more sturdy, glue the template to a cereal box and proceed as directed.
How to Make the Dreidel
- Download the template and print onto paper or card stock. For help downloading the printable, follow helpful Adobe tips.
- Color the dreidel if you wish.
- Carefully cut out the dreidel.
- Fold the small flaps on the outer edges of each side of the dreidel in. These will be used to keep the dreidel together.
- Use a hole punch to create a hole in the top or use scissors to cut out the hole carefully.
- Fold the top portion of the dreidel down and in and make a strong crease.
- Fold each side of the dreidel inward (you should always see the Hebrew letters when folding). Make sure to create a heavy crease.
- Fold each triangle inward, making sure to create a crease.
- Bring the nun and shin sides together and use tape or glue on the flap to connect the sides. You should now have a square, with the four triangles hanging down and the top pointing up.
- Bring the top down and use tape or glue on the flaps to connect to the top of the dreidel.
- Bring the triangular bottom portions together so the sides are just touching. Make sure they come to a point, or the dreidel will not spin properly. Glue or tape the flaps to connect the sides.
- Insert the craft stick, small pencil, or straw into the top of the dreidel. Make sure it reaches to the bottom (points) of the dreidel. If you are using a straw, cut it so that only an inch or two protrudes from the top of the dreidel.
How to Play Dreidel
Dreidel is played with two or more people. Each player starts with the same number of playing pieces (it doesn't matter how many you start with) for their pot. Use Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins), pennies, beans, or any other item on hand as your playing pieces. Each player puts one piece in the pot. Once all players have paid into the pot, play begins.
Each player spins the dreidel. The letter the dreidel lands on determines what happens next.
- If the player lands on nun, he does nothing.
- If the player lands on gimmel, he gets everything in the pot.
- If the player lands on hay, he gets half the pot (or half the pot plus one, if there are an uneven number of players).
- If the player lands on shin, he must add one piece to the pot.
Play continues until only one player has any pieces left.
Traditional Yet Fun Game
Although the dreidel game is most closely associated with Hanukkah, it is not only a holiday game. Now that you know how to play, you and your family can create dreidels and play year round.