Children, as well as adults, love to play the Dreidel Game during Hanukkah (also spelt Chanukah), and a wide range of dreidels can easily be purchased online at judaica shops. The selection and variation of styles available can be overwhelming, but the game played with them is always the same!
A dreidel (also spelt draydel and draydle) is a four-sided top or any shaped spinning item with four Hebrew symbols on it. The symbols are each a different Hebrew letter: nun, gimel, heh, and shin. These four letters stand for the words: nes, gadol, hayah, and sham. The translation of these four words is: "A Great Miracle Happened There." In Israel, the last letter on the dreidel is peh instead of shin. This last letter stands for the word poh, which changes the meaning to: "A Great Miracle Happened Here."
To play the Dreidel Game, you start with a "pot" in the middle. The "pot" can be made of candy, coins, chocolate gelt, or any other small thing of value, although most times children play with gelt. Gelt is the Yiddish word for "money," but in this context, gelt often refers to chocolate coins widely available during Hanukkah. Each player is given a certain amount of gelt and puts one piece into the center to start the "pot." The players then take turns spinning the dreidel, and whichever side faces up (or whichever Hebrew letter is pointed to) when it stops spinning determines what you do:
If the letter NUN is facing up, you do NOTHING.
If the letter SHIN is facing up, you PUT ONE piece of gelt into the pot.
If the letter HEH is facing up, you TAKE HALF the gelt from the pot.
If the letter GIMEL is facing up, you TAKE ALL the gelt from the pot.
If ever the pot is empty, each player puts one piece of gelt into the center. When a player runs out of gelt, he or she is out of the game! The winner is the last one left in.
Some dreidels are hollow and can be filled with candy or chocolate. Some play music when they spin. And still others can be stacked on top of one another as they spin. They are made from many different materials, including plastic, wood, ceramic, glass, gold, and silver. The plastic versions cost as little as ten cents, but gold and silver dreidels can cost in the hundreds of dollars. Even though dreidels are mostly enjoyed by children, no matter how young or old, many adults collect ornate and beautiful dreidels, and display them in china or curio cabinets.
"L'dor l'dor" means "from generation to generation," and it refers to the importance of passing down traditions and religious practices to your children. Hanukkah is one of best times to pass down your Jewish traditions to your kids because of how many resources there are, and how much fun the holiday is.
Fortunately, it's easy to help your kids enjoy and understand the Hanukkah season, and to get them involved in Hanukkah activities. Of course, most popular is the dreidel game. If your kids don't have dreidels, buy at least one for each of them and teach them how to play. If you want to encourage their artistic side, you can get dreidels your kids can color and decorate themselves, or even ones that they can build themselves such as the new clay dreidel that can be molded, dried and then painted before it is played with.
Other activities during the Hanukkah season include reading Hanukkah books, eating candy and gelt, coloring, putting together puzzles, sending out Hanukkah cards, making cookies with Hanukkah cookie cutters, playing with Hanukkah stickers, and more. Kids can even get Hanukkah yo-yos that play traditional songs like The Dreidel Song, which begins, "I have a little dreidel."
It is common for each child in the family to have their own Hanukkah menorah to light. But if you have kids who are too young to light candles, then you may want to consider some of the kid-friendly menorahs available today. For instance, there are stuffed menorahs with flames that Velcro on, and thin plastic ones that stick to the window and have separate plastic flames that can be attached.
Because the Hanukkah season is so festive, there are big parties and family gatherings. Many families give their children a present each night of Chanukah and decorate their homes with blue and white festive decorations and electric lights, often shaped like dreidels. Gifts run the gamut from gelt to clothing, from hanukkah toys and crafts to video games.
Some families choose to get and fill Hanukkah bags for their kids so they don't feel left out when their non-Jewish friends receive gifts and candy in stockings. Again, all of these wonderful items are easily available online as you shop from your armchair, and you can shop to your heart's content as you plan on making this a hanukkah for your kids to remember with hanukkah toys, activities, dreidels, puzzles, cookie cutters, menorahs, and more.