Dreidels

Written by Stacy Chbosky
Bookmark and Share

Although Hanukkah is not regarded as one of the most important religious holidays for Jewish people, it may be the most popular. Perhaps the popularity of Hanukkah can be explained by its emphasis on children. Grownups adore children, and children adore holidays, gifts and games. It makes sense that a holiday which has so much to offer young children would become a favorite of Jewish families in general.

Dreidels, Toys and Fun

Children love Hanukkah because it's so much fun. They love the lighting of the menorah candles. They look forward to the delicious potato pancakes (latkes) and other goodies. Children also love playing with dreidels, the spinning tops which, along with menorahs, have come to symbolize Hanukkah.

Dreidels have four sides. Each of these sides is decorated with a letter that represents a word. These four letters--nun, gimel, heh, shin--represent the four words, Nes Gadol Hayah Sham. Together, these four words form a sentence which translates, "A great miracle happened there." This miracle, of course, is the restoration of the Temple of Jerusalem into Jewish control, and the miraculous burning of the oil, which lasted for eight days when it should only have lasted for one.

Dreidels from Israel are unusual to us in America, because they contain a different fourth letter. Instead of the fourth side being decorated with the letter shin, standing for Sham, the side is decorated with the letter Pey, standing for Po. The new phrase, Nes Gadol Hayah Po, states that the great miracle happened not "there", but "here."


Bookmark and Share