All About the Dreidel, A Traditional Hanukkah Activity

The Dreidel is a four-sided top with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet on each side. Associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the most common use for the Sevivon is for a game. Children and even adults participate in spinning the Dreidel. The letter on which it lands determines the winner. You can learn more about the Sevivon, its game, and all its other interesting aspects by reading this article.

Within this article, you can discover:

  • The symbols on the Sevivon
  • How to play the game of Dreidel
  • The history of the Dreidel
  • Songs that accompany the Dreidel game
  • Why the Sevivon is a significant aspect in Hanukkah

The Symbols on the Dreidel

The Dreidel is a spinning top with four sides. Possible mediums include wood, plastic, or clay. Four letters from the Hebrew alphabet appear on each side of the toy.

  • Nun (נ)
  • Gimmel (ג)
  • Hey (ה)
  • Shin (ש)

The letters on the Dreidel make up an acronym in Hebrew that translates in English to “a great miracle happened there.”

How to Play the Game of the Dreidel

The game played with the Dreidel is entirely based on luck., but this is what makes the game fun! To start, you need to have some form of currency to bet. This currency can consist of coins, candy, food, or even paper money. This currency then should be divided equally among all the players.

After everyone has an equal share of the betting currency, players spin the Sevivon to see who goes first. The spinner who lands on the highest letter goes first. The letter with the largest value is nun. Following the list above, nun is the highest and shin is the lowest.

After the person who can go first is discovered, everyone puts one unit of the betting currency into a pot or some holding place to which everyone has access.

Each letter on the Dreidel determines different outcomes.

If a player lands on nun, then nothing happens.

If a player lands on hey, then then they win half the pot. If there is an odd amount, then the odd unit remains in the pot.

If a player lands on gimmel, then they get to take all that is in the pot. After this, everyone else must put another unit of the currency into the pot.

If a player lands on shin, then the player must put one of their units of currency into the pot.

Players become eliminated from the game when they have no more currency after spinning on shin. The winner is the last person remaining with enough currency.

Of course, these rules are easy to change based on what the players want to do. If you are going to make it more intense, then, instead of donating one unit to the pot, you can make it more! The Dreidel game is a fun and dynamic aspect of the Hanukkah festivities. Although a traditional game, it is easily changeable to ensure everyone has a good time.

The History of the Dreidel

The Dreidel is, in fact, not initially of Hebrew or Jewish origins. Although differing in some ways, the Sevivon is a version of other games played around Christmas. One of these games includes “totum,” commonly played in England and Ireland.

The German version of the game “totum” is the foundation for the Hebrew Dreidel. However, originally, it was called the sevivon. This name is still common for the Sevivon today, but most people refer to it as the Sevivon.

To associate the Dreidel with Jewish culture, rabbis formed different reasons based on historical occurrences. For example, a rabbi in the 1800s stated that Jewish children used to play the Dreidel so that they would not receive punishment for reading the Torah. This rabbi said that during a time when the Greeks outlawed the study of the Torah, Jewish children would play with the Sevivon so they would not get into trouble.

Another interesting connection between the Dreidel and Jewish culture is that each letter supposedly represents four different kingdoms that suppressed the Jewish population or attempted to destroy them. In Hebrew, “n” represents Babylon. “H” represents Persia. “S” is the equivalent to Rome, and “G” is for Greece.

One final relation has to do with the sum of the numerical equivalents of the Hebrew letters on each side. Letters in the Hebrew alphabet have numerical equivalents. According to these values, all four letters on the Sevivon added together equal 358. This number is the numerical equivalent to the Hebrew word for “Messiah.”

Songs That Accompany the Dreidel Game

To make the Hanukkah festivities brighter, you can sing one of the many Hanukkah songs about Dreidels. Songs include:

  • Sivivon Sov Sov Sov”
  • “The Dreidel Song”
  • “The Dreidel Song” by Debbie Freidman

The first two songs are more conventional, while the last song is a little more modern. The traditional “Dreidel Song” is one of the more popular tunes to sing while playing with the Dreidel, or to celebrate Hanukkah. Here are the lyrics to “The Dreidel Song:”

I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready
Oh dreidel, I shall play
Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made you out of clay
And when you’re dry and ready
Oh Dreidel we shall play
Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made you out of wood
And when you are all ready
I’ll play you when I could
Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made you out of glass
And when you are all ready
I’ll play you on the grass
Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel
I made you out of gold
And when you are all ready
I’ll play you in the cold

Why the Dreidel Is an Important Aspect in Hanukkah

The Dreidel is a fun game to play that brings everyone together to celebrate Hanukkah. Unlike most of the celebrations in the Jewish faith, the Sevivon comes from other traditions. Overall, it is a fun and memorable game that people look forward to playing during the Hanukkah festivities.

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