Last year, my neighbor invited me and my kids over to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah. The party was simple. She served jelly donuts and potato pancakes. We lit the menorah. Before we left, she gave each of my kids a dreidel and taught them the rules of the game. They had a blast playing when we got home. It’s super easy and fun!
When I took down the box of Christmas decorations a week ago, I found the dreidels from last year and retaught the game to my kids. I beam every time I hear my kids shout the Hebrew words: “Nun! Shin! Hay! GIMEL!!” While the rules may vary, here’s how we play:
1. Divide equal amounts of pieces between each player. It can be anything from pennies, raisins, or gelt. Gelt is chocolate wrapped in shiny paper to mimic coins. You can find little bags of gelt at the grocery stores or online for around $1 each. Or for a splurge, buy Jacque Torres gelt!
2. Each player puts one piece into the pot. Tip: If the pot is empty, each player must put in another piece.
3. The youngest player spins the dreidel. When it stops, look at the symbol to know how to proceed:
Nun – “nothing” – the next player spins
Gimel – “all” – the player takes the entire pot
Hey – “half” – the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
Shin – “put in” – the player puts one or two in the pot
4. The next player goes. The game is played until one of the players has won all the pieces!
Last year when my kids ate all their chocolate gelt, they played the game with Christmas ornaments. Ironic, but it works! Hanukkah begins this Saturday. I can’t wait to play the dreidel game with my family again. I love teaching my children about the many holiday traditions of the season!