Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel: The History and Legends Behind a Hanukkah Pastime
The dreidel comes in many different forms and sizes. Alongside the menorah, this spinning top game is one of the most recognizable Hanukkah traditions.
Spinning the dreidel is a popular game during Hanukkah. Alongside the menorah, this spinning top game is one of the most recognizable Hanukkah traditions. It’s such an integral and memorable custom that some who play with dreidels as kids go on to collect them as adults. Where did this little top come from, and how did it become part of Hanukkah celebrations? The answers to these questions may surprise you.
What Is a Dreidel?
Dreidels come in many different forms and sizes. Chabad explains that most are square or rectangular with four sides and a pointed base. They’re usually made of plastic or wood, but collectible versions can be crafted from silver, bronze, ceramics, glass, crystal, brass, or pewter.
Every dreidel is decorated with four Hebrew letters. However, there are slight differences between those used in Israel and those on dreidels made in other parts of the world. The iCenter for Israel Education clarifies that Israeli dreidels bear the letters nun, gimmel, hay, and pey. These letters stand for “nes gadol hayah po,” which means “a great miracle happened here.” Dreidels outside of Israel are decorated with different letters: nun, gimmel, hay, and shin. These letters stand for “nes gadol hayah sham,” translating as “a great miracle happened there.”
Legends of the Dreidel’s Origins
Chabad retells one common tale that explains the dreidel’s invention. During the middle of the 2nd century B.C.E., Judea was part of the Seleucid Empire ruled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Shortly before the Maccabean revolt, the king had outlawed all Jewish religious practices. Learning the Torah had become a crime punishable by death, Jewish children continued to study it while hiding in caves. When Greek patrols approached, the children would put away their Torah scrolls and play with their spinning tops instead.
Rabbi David Golinkin discusses other explanations for the dreidel’s origins. These include detailed numerological backstories for the four Hebrew letters on the dreidel. Others involved wordplay, and a few insist that they stand for the four classic empires that oppressed the Jewish people: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Did the Dreidel Come From Ireland?
During the early 1500s, English and Irish children played a spinning top gambling game called “totum.” By the 1700s, it was a Christmas pastime called “teetotum.” The Irish version used a four-sided top with four words: “take all,” “half,” “put down,” and “nothing.” Each player would follow the directions based on how the top landed. Winners took all or half of the pot. “Put down” directed the player to add to the pot. “Nothing” required no action.
Rabbi Golinkin adds that this game made its way to Germany, where the top was decorated with the letters n, g, h, and s. Jewish children eventually learned the game, and Hebrew characters replaced the Roman letters on the top.
Two Names, One Object
Where did the word “dreidel” originate? Merriam-Webster Dictionary explains that it comes from the Yiddish word “dreydl,” derived from the Yiddish verb “dreyen,” which means “to turn.” Yiddish is a fusion of High German and Hebrew, and “dreyen” comes from an older German verb “drǣjen.”
Some people call this top a “sevivon,” a modern Hebrew word taken from the verb “saváv,” meaning “to turn.” The term may have been coined in 1887 by Itamar Ben-Avi, the son of lexicographer Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the first native speaker of modern Hebrew. Israel 21c’s Rachel Neiman mentions that its first printed appearance dates to 1897, with journalist David Isaiah Silberbusch claiming credit for its invention.
More Than Just a Game
Humans have played with spinning tops for thousands of years. In some cultures, these ordinary objects take on deeper meanings. Regardless of the dreidel’s origin, it speaks to joyful celebrations and the strength of the human spirit.
Wedding Gifts Currently Seeing Popularity on Amazon
More and more guests are buying wedding gifts online through Amazon and other retailers, so it can be helpful to see what items are most popular online.
Wedding trends change quite frequently. One tradition that has remained somewhat consistent, however, is the practice of giving gifts to the happy couple. Though people might be buying their presents in different ways these days, the sentiment remains the same. Unfortunately, it can also be a real pain in the neck to try and find the ideal gift for the soon-to-be-married. To make the experience a bit easier on you, it can be helpful to explore some of the year’s most popular gift options and give yourself some inspiration.
Amazon is one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the modern day and age. Because of this, more and more guests are buying gifts for weddings online through this site. This has brought about a great deal of insight in regards to what gifts are most popular in a given year. Check out these hottest gift trends on Amazon and find the perfect present for the happy couple in your life.
Turn It Up
Who doesn’t love music? While your friends may not be on top of new tunes the way they once were, a vast majority of couples appreciate turning on some music now and again. Whether they decide to play old favorites or something just released, you may be able to find a great gift by considering speakers. Nowadays, there are some amazing options available for home entertainment. Brands like Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser put a ton of research each year into developing the ideal music output methods.
If you want to try something a bit different, then consider some shower speakers! A product like iLuv Aud Shower Bluetooth Speaker is a great fit for most homes. This handy item makes singing in the shower a whole new experience, letting you play tunes from any compatible device. If your friends are always on their phones, these speakers even allow you to take a call while in the shower without damaging your phone in the process!
Tradition Meets Tomorrow
Once upon a time, couples would receive items like plates from guests and hold onto these gifts for decades to come. This trend might not be as popular as it once was, but plenty of couples still add plates and silverware to their registries. Data from Amazon shows that these gift options are still quite popular, which means guests are definitely encouraged to explore this choice when it comes to finding the ideal gift. The brand might matter somewhat, but there are more important considerations.
You definitely want to make sure any eating or serving utensils are made from sterling silver. This ensures both quality and longevity. Stainless steel can also prove to be a beneficial choice, especially for convenience of cleaning. The more flatware is used, the easier it is to clean. Buying a couple decorative plates that will only be pulled out for special occasions means you need to think long and hard about how simple it is to get the items clean. Knowing this information can help you find the right fit for your friends.
Finally, you can always find a good fit when you think about what the happy couple might need in their kitchen. According to Amazon, cast iron skillets continue to be popular for newlyweds. These durable and practical items are a winning pick because they prove themselves useful time and time again, will last for years, and are a perfect complement to almost every kitchen.
When you have a wedding on the horizon and are not sure what to buy, it never hurts to do a little bit of research on Amazon. Search out the most popular gift items and see what might fit the tastes of your friends on their big day.