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News in Youth Services

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Happy Hanukkah

What is Hanukkah?

At sunset on Sunday, December 6, Hanukkah begins.  Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights and it commemorates the victory of the ancient Israelites over the Syrian Greek army.  The miracle of Hanukkah is that only one vial of oil was found with just enough oil for one day, and yet it lasted for eight full days. For the next eight days, families will light a candle on the menorah each night to celebrate the victory, play dreidel, and eat special foods unique to Hanukkah like latkes or jelly donuts. 

Just recently I looked into how to play dreidel and it seems like fun.  A dreidel in the United States will have the four letters on the sides of it.  These letters stand for "A Great Miracle Happened There," referring to the miracle of the oil.  So here is how you play:

Gather friends.  It can be played with as few as two people, but the more the merrier!
  • Distribute tokens evenly among all the players.  The tokens can be anything: pennies, gold fish crackers, Legos, etc. 
Ante Up.  Before each spin, players put one token in the middle of the circle to create "the pot."
  • Every time the pot is emptied, or there's only one token left, every player puts another token in the pot.
Take turns spinning the dreidel.  When it's your turn, spin the dreidel once.  The letter which comes up determines whether you win, lose, or draw.  According to the letter that appears, the player should perform the following action:

  • Shin ("shtel" or "put in" in Yiddish) - Put one more token in the pot.
  • Nun ("nisht" or "nothing" in Yiddish) - Do nothing.
  • Gimmel ("gantz" or "everything" in Yiddish) - Take all tokens from the pot.
  • Hay ("halb" or "half" in Yiddish) - Take half of all tokens lying in the pot.  If there is an odd number of tokens, round up.
  • If you run out of tokens, you are either "out," or you may ask another player for a loan.
Pass the dreidel on to the next player.  Keep playing until someone wins by collecting all the tokens in the pot!

Sounds fun, right?  The library has some great Hanukkah stories for you to share with your family.  It's always fun to learn about something new.  Tis the season!

Hanukkah stories 
Dreidel Game Directions



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