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Old 02 January 2009, 02:31 PM
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Teacher Dreidel history/timeline

The Jewish Hanukkah custom of playing aDreidel(spinning top) appears to be taken directly from the German Christmas gambling game in which each letter signified winning or losing. explains
The letters on the faces of the gambling toy, which were mnemonic for the rules of the game, varied in each nation. The letters on the English spinning top were: T for Take, H for Half, P for Put, N for None. In the German game, the letters were: N for Nichts (nothing), G for Ganz (all), H for Halb (half), S for Stell (put).

The Hebrew letters on the dreidel seem to have come directly from the German gambling toy: Nun for Nichts (nothing), Gimel for Ganz (all), Hay for Halb (half), Shin for Stell (put). But the Hebrew letters on the dreidel are supposed to indicate Hebrew words that begin with those letters translating in English to"A Great Miracle Happened There."

Does anyone know when this interpretation of the game was first used? How did it start?
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Old 15 January 2009, 05:35 AM
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I was raised in the Jewish faith and we always played "Dreidel" at Hanukkah. We were taught that the letters on the four-sided dreidel meant "A Great Miracle Happened Here".

Hanukkah Dreidel

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter inscribed on each side. In America the letters stand for "A Great Miracle Happened There". In Israel the letters mean "A Miracle Happened Here". Each player receives a given number of coins or candy pieces. Before spinning the dreidel, each player puts a fixed proportion of the amount received into the "kupah" or kitty. Each player in turn spins the dreidel. When the dreidel falls, it will fall on one of the 4 letters. According to the letter, the following will happen: Nun no win / no lose Gimmel take all (from the kitty) Heh take half (from the kitty) Peh or Shin lose (what you deposited) The game continues until players have run out of 'funds' or it is agreed to stop (anyone losing all funds is out of the game). The dreidel game was popular during the rule of Antiochus before the Maccabees' revolt, a time when soldiers executed any Jews who were caught practicing their religion. When pious Jews gathered to study the Torah, they had the top ready in case they heard soliders approaching. If the soldiers appeared, they would hide the holy scriptures and pretend to play with the dreidl. In Israel the dreidel is called a sivivon. The yiddish word "dreidel" is derived from the German word "drehen", or "turn".
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