During the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, there is a toy that children play with. Adults play with it, too. It’s called a dreidel (rhymes with cradle.)A dreidel is a spinning toy, like a top, that has four flat sides. Each side is marked with one of four Hebrew letters: Nun, Gimel, Hei, or Shin.Here’s how the game is played. There is a single dreidel, which all the players will use. In addition, each player has an equal number of game pieces. These can be pennies, pieces of candy, paper clips, raisins, anything that everyone agrees to use. The number of game pieces for each player is usually around 10 to 15.To start off, each player puts one game piece in the middle. The pieces in the middle are often called the pot. Each player gets a turn to spin the dreidel. Whichever  letter is facing up when the dreidel stops spinning determines what a player must do.If Nun is facing up, the player does nothing and the dreidel is passed to the next player.If Gimel is facing up, the player gets all the pieces in the pot.If Hei is facing up, the player gets half the pieces in the pot.If Shin is facing up, the player puts one of their pieces into the pot.So depending on your spin, you can do nothing, get all the pot, get half the pot, or add a piece to the pot.If a player runs out of pieces, they are either out of the game or may ask another player for a loan.If the pot is empty or there is only one piece in it, each player must put one piece in.You might think that such a simple game would be boring, but it’s not. In fact, a game of dreidel can be as fun as any fancy card or board game. During  the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, many thousands of Jewish people around the world – families, gatherings of friends, children, and so on – enjoy playing dreidel.Dreidel comes from a game called Teetotum that was played in Europe during the 1500s. But Teetotum is much older than that. Versions of the game were played by the Greeks and the Romans at least a couple of thousand years ago.At some point, we don’t know exactly when, Jewish people learned the game and made their own special spinner with Hebrew letters on it. The four Hebrew letters (Nun, Gimel, Hei, and Shin) are used to represent the saying “nes gadol haya sham,” which means “a great miracle happened there.” Notice that each Hebrew word in the saying starts with one of the letters on the dreidel.What does the saying mean? What miracle happened? And where is there? To answer those questions, we need to know what Hanukkah is. (Hanukkah is pronounced HAH-nuh-kuh, and is sometimes spelled Chanukah.)At one time, there was a beautiful building, called a temple, in Jerusalem. It was built by King Solomon back in 1000 BC.  It was destroyed in 586 BC when the  kingdom of Babylon conquered Jerusalem.Later on, a second temple was built. When a Greek army conquered Jerusalem, they messed up the inside of the temple. Jewish religious things were thrown out and Greek religious things were brought in.A small band of poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated the Greek’s mighty army and drove them out of the land.When the Jews regained control of Jerusalem. They took all the Greek things out of the temple, cleaned it up, brought their own sacred things back in, and re-dedicated the temple. Hanukkah means dedication.During the dedication, they lit seven candles that were supposed to be kept burning every night. The set of seven candles is called a menorah. They were made from pure olive oil. There was only enough olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day. They tried to find more olive oil to keep the candles burning, but couldn’t. Then a miracle happened. The menorah didn’t burn for one day, it stayed lit for eight days, which gave the people time to get more olive oil for new candles.So in the saying,“a great miracle” refers to the miracle of the eight-day menorah. And “there” means Jerusalem.Hanukkah is an eight-day festival and is sometimes called the Festival of Lights.It is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, eating traditional foods, playing games, and giving gifts.This year, Hanukkah begins on sundown of December 18 and ends at sundown  December 26.Though playing dreidel is not an official part of Hanukkah, it is a tradition that many people enjoy at that time of year.Fun Facts:• In dreidel, if someone rolls Shin, players sometimes chant “Shin, shin, put one in!”• You don’t have to be Jewish to play dreidel. There are English versions of the game. Instead of Hebrew letters, the dreidel had four English letters: H (for half), G (for get all), N (for nothing), and S (for share, meaning put a game piece in.)• There is a song called The Dreidel Song. It’s also called I Have a Little Dreidel. The first verse begins “I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay. And when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.”• Today, dreidels are not usually made of  clay, but of wood, plastic, ceramic, or even metal. Some are simple and some are beautifully decorated.

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