Want to Learn More About Hanukkah?

By Chris Wilson
More About Hanukkah

The festival of lights, known as Hanukkah, is celebrated for eight days beginning on the 25th day of Kislev of the Hebrew calendar, which can occur anytime from late November to late December.

The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV, ruler of the Seleucid Empire. After the Maccabees, a Jewish rebel army, successfully defeated Antiochus’ army, it was believed there was only enough sacred olive oil to fuel the eternal flame for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was just enough time to prepare and consecrate fresh oil. In addition, Jews were not able to celebrate the holidays of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret during the Maccabee Revolt and it is believed that they did so in the weeks following their victory in an eight-day celebration.

The Menorah is a candle holder that stands tall holding a total of nine candles, one for each night of Hanukkah and one to light each candle. One candle is lit each night during Hanukkah, until all the candles are lit on the eighth night.

The Dreidel Game

The dreidel is a four sided spinning top-like toy, with the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hey and shin on each one of the sides, which translates to “A great miracle happened here.” Traditionally played during the eight days of Hanukkah, the dreidel is customarily made from plastic or wood.

How to play the game:

Each player begins with an equal number of game pieces (usually 10-15). The game pieces can be any object, but typically they are chocolate coins.

  • At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center “pot.” Every time the pot is empty and sometimes if it has one game piece left, every player puts another one in the pot.
  • Each player spins the dreidel once during their turn. Depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning, they give or take game pieces from the pot:
    • If nun is facing up, the player does nothing.
    • When gimel is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.
    • When hey is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. (If there is an odd number, they get half of the total plus one).
    • If shin (or peh) is facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot.
    • When the player is out of pieces, they are either “out” or may ask another player for a “loan.”

The Dreidel Song

By Samuel S. Grossman

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.

When it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

It has a lovely body, with legs so short and thin.

When it gets all tired, it drops and then I win!

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, with leg so short and thin.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it drops and then I win!

My dreidel’s always playful. It loves to dance and spin.

A happy game of dreidel, come play now let’s begin.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, it loves to dance and spin.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.

Come play now let’s begin.

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.

When it’s dry and ready, dreidel I shall play.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play

 

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