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A Few Spins on the Dreidel

When we think of Chanukah, first is the Menorah or Chanukiah, then the food – Sufganiyot or latkes, then the dreidel, or sevivon. 

When we think of Chanukah, first is the Menorah or Chanukiah, then the food – Sufganiyot or latkes, then the dreidel, or sevivon. 

JewJu Box partner Judy and her husband began a tradition of buying a dreidel every year for their youngest son; a quick search for designer dreidel images shows you just how many, varied, and beautiful dreidel designs can be.

The Origins Like so much of the Chanukah story, what we grew up believing isn’t necessarily the true – or whole – story. Games very similar to the Dreidel game has been played for centuries in different countries, while the story explaining that rabbis or children used to disguise their gatherings for study by playing dreidel when approached, dates back to the 1890's. The English and Irish, for example, had a game called Teetotum, or T-Totum as far back as the 1500’s, with English letters signifying “Take” “Half”, “Put Down” and “Nothing”.


You can read more about the Dreidel’s origins at My Jewish Learning, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-origin-of-the-dreidel/  and at Shalom Says Hello https://shalommorris.com/2015/12/12/the-sephardi-origins-of-the-dreidel  .

Superlatives According to the Guinness Book of Records, Chabad in South Palm Beach, owns the most valuable dreidel, valued at $14,000 in 2015. It was designed by Pedro Maldonado, and is replete with diamonds and hanging gems, with a diamond point, which was valued in 2015 at $14,000. See a picture and brief article here: http://lubavitch.com/news/article/2056271/Guinness-World-Record-Certifies-World-s-Most-Valuable-Dreidel.html The Scouts of Ramat Gan seem to hold the current record for the tallest dreidel. A brief article and picture are here. https://www.timesofisrael.com/scouts-break-guinness-dreidel-record/

The longest dreidel spin is currently 35.8 seconds. Here's a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3E2p16B7RM 1000  people is the current record for the most number of people spinning a Dreidel at once, set in Tel Aviv in 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Vz9V7tZB-A The Game Do you play the Dreidel game? Do you have other games you play with it? The “officlal” game is played like this. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/how-to-play-dreidel/

Ben Blatt at Slate magazine suggested an innovation to speed up the game – it can get quite tedious after a while – that involves everyone spinning a dreidel at the same time, rather than one at a time. You can read the rules in depth, and also his computation of how long an “authentic” game takes, compared to how long his “Speed Dreidel” lasts. You can read the article and his rules here. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/holidays/2014/12/rules_of_dreidel_the_hannukah_game_is_way_too_slow_let_s_speed_it_up.html

We used to like racing to see who could spin the longest – essentially, a dreidel race. Judy designed a teaching game involving a construction-paper Chanukia with magnets where the candles go, and paper candles with paper clips attached. The letters are instructions: Add a candle, take off a candle, and so on, and the first person to fill their Menorah would win.

Do you play? How?