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A dreidel is a spinning top, with four sides, each marked with a different Hebrew letter. It is customary to play dreidel on Hanukkah, based on a legend that, during the time of the Hanukkah story, when Jewish children were forbidden from studying Torah, they would defy the decree and study anyway. When a Greek official would come close they would put away their books and take out spinning tops, claiming they were just playing games.
The letters on dreidels are nun, gimmel, hey, and shin, which are the first letters in a Hebrew phrase that means “A Great Miracle Happened There” (There being the land of Israel).
To play dreidel, each player begins with an equal number of games pieces, such as coins, candies, nuts etc. At the beginning of each round, every player puts one game piece into the center “pot.” Players then take turns spinning the dreidel. When the top lands on nun, the player gets nothing; on gimmel, the player gets the entire contents of the pot; hey, the player gets half of the pot; and shin, the player must put a piece (or coin) into the pot.
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