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Discover a dreidel game

Make your own dreidel, a four-sided spinning top, and have a go at this traditional Hanukkah game.

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You’ll need

  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Sticky tape
  • Coloured pens or pencils
  • 10 - 15 pieces per player
  • Printed copies of the template (one per person)
  • A4 card or clean, recycled, thin cardboard, such as cereal boxes (if template printed on paper)
  • Pencils or straws
Dreidel template
PDF – 78.6KB

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.
  • Find out when Hanukkah is next taking place, so you can plan this activity during or around the festival. The date changes each year, but it’s usually sometime in November or December.

Setting up this activity

  • For the pieces, you could use chocolate coins, counters, matchsticks, pennies, wrapped sweets, marbles or anything you can find lots of!
  • You can either print the template straight onto card, or you could print on paper, and stick onto some card, such as cereal boxes.

Learning about Hanukkah and what a dreidel is

  1. Everyone could share what they know about Hanukkah. What does it celebrate? What do celebrations usually look like? Does anyone in the group celebrate it? What faith does it come from? 
  1. Ask if anyone knows what a dreidel is. A dreidel (pronounced drey-del) is a four-sided spinning top, with a Hebrew letter on each side.

Make your dreidel

  1. If the template is on paper, you should stick it onto thin card first to make it sturdier.
  2. Carefully cut around your dreidel template.
  3. You could use colouring pencils to decorate your dreidel, if you’d like to.
  4. Add glue on the tabs, or use sticky tape, to stick your dreidel together.
  5. On each section of your dreidel, draw one of these Hebrew letters. You could also write the names if you’d like to.
  1. Finally, carefully make a hole in the top of your dreidel (on the flat side, opposite the pointed part), and insert a pencil or straw to act as handle for spinning.

Play the dreidel game

Any number of players can play together, so you decide whether you want to play as a whole group or in smaller groups. 

Each group will need one dreidel. Alternatively, everyone could use their own dreidel to make the game faster.

  1. Each player starts with an equal number of pieces. It works well with about 10-15 pieces each.
  2. Each player puts one piece into the centre.
  3. The players take it in turns to spin the dreidel, using the pencil or straw as a handle.
  4. Let it spin and come to a complete stop then follow the instructions of the letter that lands facing-up.
  1. As you’re playing:
    • If a player loses all their pieces, they’re ‘out’.
    • If there are no pieces left in the centre, or there’s just one left, all players should add one piece to the centre.
  1. You can either play for a set amount of time, or until one player has won all of the pieces.

What is Hanukkah?

  • Hanukkah is a Jewish festival and it lasts for eight nights.
  • The word 'Hanukkah' means 'Dedication' in Hebrew. 
  • It’s sometimes known as the Jewish Festival of Lights.
  • Chanukah is the Hebrew spelling of Hanukkah, but it's pronounced the same way.

When is Hanukkah?

  • It’s linked to the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year, but Hanukkah’s in either November or December.

What is Hanukkah about?

During Hanukkah, people remember when Jewish people won their freedom to practice their religion. This happened over 2,000 years ago in Israel.

What's the story of Hanukkah?

A long time ago a Syrian king called Antiochus banned the Jews from worshipping God. He put a big statue of himself in their temple and ordered them to bow before it.

However, the Jews refused to obey him because the Ten Commandments forbid them to worship anyone other than God.

A small group of Jews called the Maccabees fought back against the king’s army.

After three years, they won the war and recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians.

When the Jews went back to their temple, they saw that it had nearly been destroyed. They cleaned and repaired the temple.

When they were finished, they rededicated it to God. They did this by lighting the lamp, which was a symbol of God's presence.

They only had one small jar of oil which was only enough for one day. However, miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days! That is why Jews light a candle every day of Hanukkah.

What is a menorah?

  • A menorah is a type of candelabra, which is a candle holder with arms or branches. A Menorah is used in Jewish worship. They usually have space for seven candles, but a special one is used for Hanukkah, which has space for nine candles and is called a hanukiah.
  • Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one candle on a nine-stemmed candelabrum called a hanukiah each day. The hanukiah symbolises how God looked after the Jewish people during a difficult time. Lots of Jews call this candelabrum a menorah.

What happens during Hanukkah?

  • Hanukkah is a very special time for Jews, so people often give each other gifts and Hanukkah money called Gelt. Some families give a small present to children on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.
  • Hanukkah is a great time for eating delicious foods. Some dishes have special significance, such as latkes (a kind of potato fritter), pancakes and doughnuts. This is because they are fried in oil. When they make them, Jewish people remember the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in the temple.

What is a dreidel?

  • A dreidel (pronounced drey-del) is a four-sided spinning top, with a Hebrew letter on each side. The dreidel game is often played during Hanukkah.
  • There’s a legend, that long ago, when Jewish people were forbidden from studying the Torah, they would read it in secret. When someone came along, they’d close their books and take out spinning tops, pretending they were just playing games.

Fun fact

  • In 1993, astronaut Jeff Hoffman celebrated Hanukkah by spinning a dreidel in space for the first time. It was broadcast around the world!

Reflection

This activity got everyone thinking about different faiths and beliefs within our communities. Are there any similarities between Hanukkah and any other festivals or celebrations people take part in?

Why is it important that people learn about festivals and celebrations that they don’t celebrate? People might suggest that they help us understand each other better, respect what is important to others, and teach us about history and cultures.

How would it feel if people didn’t understand and respect things that were important to you?

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Scissors

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Glue and solvents

Always supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions that could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

If you just want to play the game, you could always buy some wooden or plastic dreidels instead.

If you want to make it harder, you could find an origami dreidel to make.

Makin the dreidel and cutting out can get quite fiddly. Make sure you’ve got people on-hand to offer help, if needed, or encourage people to help each other. 

For playing the dreidel game, you can adjust the size of your groups, according to the needs of your group. A smaller group will mean people don’t have as long to wait for their turn.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

You could do more activities to celebrate Hanukkah and learn about how people in your community celebrate.

If anyone in the group celebrates Hanukkah, give them opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences with the group if they want to and are comfortable doing so.