Eight Crazy Posts! (#1)


The older boy, many years ago.

Tonight at sundown, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah begins! We have already begun celebrating; last night our old friends came over for a pre-holiday dinner (because we couldn’t match schedules during the holiday!) and we had our Annual Hanukkah-palooza. I wrote about it last year when I had about three readers, and frankly this year was almost exactly the same: same food, same people, same fun, so I think last year’s post still holds. Click here to read about our fun evening and see photos of the phenomenally fattening–but delicious–food we made.

Now, a little about dreidels.

Basically a dreidel is a four-sided top which has four Hebrew letters on it: nun, gimel, hay, and shin. The letters stand for the words “Nes Gadol Haya Sham”, which means “A great miracle happened there.”

One interesting fact: Israeli dreidels replace the letter shin with the letter pay, and the letters then stand for the words “Nes Gadol Haya Po”, which means “A great miracle happened HERE.” (I love that!)

You may be surprised to know that dreidels don’t just come in one form. The most familiar kind looks like this:

There are in fact, countless different kinds of dreidels, from cheap toys (above) to actual, collectible works of art:

I know that some of you may wonder how to play dreidel, so…here we go! Playing the dreidel game is gambling; I’ll just put it all out there. It’s religiously-accepted gambling.

All players begin with candies, pennies, Hanukkah gelt, or other small objects that they will place in the “pot” (the center). To start the game, everyone puts one of their whatevers into the pot. The first person spins the dreidel, and his or her actions are determined by which letter is facing up when the dreidel lands:

Nun: Nothing happens.
Gimel: The player takes everything in the pot (like landing on “Free Parking” in Monopoly)
Hay: The player takes half of everything in the pot
Shin: The player puts one into the pot

That’s pretty much it! Simple, huh? It’s a fun game and can take as little or as much time as you want.

One more thing: did you know that there is NOT just one dreidel song? Click here to watch a children’s group sing “the other one”. The director talks a little bit about the song meaning in the beginning. I like this song lots better than the one everyone else knows, which the same group sings at the end (just fast-forward to about 3:18!).

Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers! Seven more crazy posts to go!



  • Lilacspecs

    I haven’t clicked over to it but if you’re talking about s’vivon sov sov sov, I like that one better too.

  • Jennifer

    Happy Hannukah Melisa! Thanks for the info about dreidels. If I had to choose, I’d definitely go for the dreidel with bLiNg! Very pretty!

    I have a question…why is there more than one spelling for Hannukah?

  • k a t i e

    I’m loking forward to getting home after Christmas and reading them ALL, in one big installment 🙂

    Happy Holidays Melisa X

  • Mom24

    Happy Hanukkah!

    Julianna can not wait to play dreidel…we didn’t have time tonight–had to fit in the Rugrats Chanukah.

    We’ll be doing our big Hanukkah celebration tomorrow night–brisket, latkes, etc. It’s getting a little crazy though, we have so many menorahs on the table there’s hardly room for any food. I love Hanukkah.

  • nonna

    so now we know how to play dreidel, will you tell us what it’s meaning actually is?

    i went back and read about your feast(s) – how the heck do y’all live past 20 eating all that stuff?? lol

  • Melisa

    Jennifer: A-ha! That is a good question. And the subject of tomorrow’s post! 🙂

    Sarah: Come on over!

    Katie: Happy holidays to you too! But you probably won’t see this! But I’m wishing it to you anyway!

    Stacey: I LOVE Rugrats Chanukah. “A Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do!” We’ve screened that in my 2nd grade religious school class for the last 10 years now. 🙂

    Nonna: Do you mean WHY we play it? I need clarification on the question and then I’ll do my best with it. As for the meal…Ugh. I have no idea how I’m even still alive. LOL

  • Michelle

    I used to know how to play the dreidel game… and the refresher helps. But umm I remember sitting with the Hebrew letter cheat sheet next to me to whole time so I’d remember what the rules were 😉

    Happy Hanukkah!

  • Melisa

    Michelle: Should it be called a cheat sheet if it’s helping you follow the rules? Hmm. Let’s think about that. LOL

    Weaselmomma: Totally. We’re all so similar! 🙂

  • Dea

    LMAO @ drinking and gambling sanctioned! Yeah, don’t forget the guilt, too! 😀 Ahhh, memories!

    Thanks, Melisa – I honestly had forgotten the meanings of the markings!!! 😀 I’ve seen some really beautiful dreidels before. And I have to agree, I like the sevivon version of the song better too!

    Last year, my son’s art teacher had them make dreidels and they played dreidel in school as part of their cultural learning, I loved it. They had this amazing packet of holidays and religions around the world – I am constantly amazed by the diversity schools can bring to the table these days. I was lucky enough to be taught at a Benedictine Catholic school, so we had an entire year devoted to Judaism during Religion. But you know how it is, it gets fuzzy, LOL!

  • Colleen - Mommy Always Wins

    This is cool – we had a Jewish co-worker friend bring in dreidl’s and we all learned to play a few years ago.

    Thanks (again!) for sharing!

  • nonna

    i guess “why” would be what i mean. basically, does each letter stand for something that happened?

    for example, the letter that says you get 1/2 the “ante” correlate to the jews getting 1/2 of something a long time ago?

    i don’t know how to word what i want to know!! daggumit! maybe you’ll understand what i’m trying to get at :p~~

  • Melisa

    Deanna: I’m with ya on school diversity. It’s really cool to read about *lots* of different traditions.

    Colleen: Gambling at work: I love it!

    Nonna: A-ha. I wasn’t sure, so I did a little research (don’t worry, it only took a minute. They call me “Google” at work because I can find almost anything instantly!) and it looks like there are a couple of ways to play (probably over the years people changed the rules: just like my kids try to do when they’re losing Monopoly. 🙂 ), but with the main way, each of the letters also stands for a Yiddish word. Here are the names of the letters and then the Yiddish word after. The bolded English word is the meaning of the Yiddish.

    – Nun – Nisht – the player collects nothing from the pot.
    – Gimmel – Gantz – the player gets it all.
    – Hay – Halb – The player collects half of the pot.
    – Shin – Shtel – The player sets one of his own items into the pot.

    Interesting, huh!