Monday, 14 November 2011

Playing Dreidel

Welcome to the Etsy Greetings Team Holiday Traditions Blog Hop! The hop starts at the team blog, where you'll find a complete list of participating blogs. Start there or jump right in here! You'll find poignant stories, yummy recipes and great holiday printables. There's no time limit so feel free to browse our blogs - maybe you'll find a new tradition to start with your family!
Come December, whilst a large number of people the world over are preparing for the forthcoming Christmas holidays, those of us of the Jewish faith will be thinking about Chanukah. The eight day holiday, known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history when Antiochus, a Syrian king, tried to make the Jewish people worship Greek gods. A statue of Antiochus was erected in the Jewish temple and the Jews were ordered to bow down before him. The Ten Commandments forbid Jews to worship statues or idols and so they refused.
A small group of Jews called Maccabees rebelled, and after a three year war they recaptured Jerusalem from the Greek Syrians. But the temple was all but destroyed.
The Jews had to clean and repair the Temple, and when they were finished they rededicated it to God. They did this by lighting the lamp (Menorah) - which was a symbol of God's presence. Only one small jar of oil was found, enough for one day, but miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days.
Today Chanukah is celebrated by lighting one candle on the Chanukiah (an eight-stemmed candelabrum). Each day an additional candle is lit. After lighting the candles it is traditional to give gifts. These handmade tags, used for illustrative purposes here, are perfect for popping on those Chanukah presents.
Because Chanukah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is also traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled doughnuts) during the holiday. However, the firm favourite in our home is the traditional game called dreidel (a Yiddish word that comes from the German word "drehen," which means “to turn.” In Hebrew the dreidel is called a sevivon).
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. The four letters allude to the miracle of Chanukah. They spell out: Nes (נ-miracle), Gadol (ג-great), Haya (ה-happened) and Po (פ-here, meaning in Israel). Outside of Israel the letter ש-there, replaces the פ.
The Chanukah tradition of playing dreidel is not new. When the Jews were under the authority of the Greek Syrians, they were treated cruelly and were even prohibited to follow their own beliefs and customs. The study of Jewish Holy script - the Torah - was banned so they were forced to study in secret. The Rabbis used to take classes underground, posting some children outside to watch. To avoid the attention of the Greek Syrian soldiers, the children were told to play with the dreidel. Content that the Jews were following their orders and not studying the Torah, the Greek Syrians would go away.
In this game, an equal number of foil wrapped chocolate coins, sweets, nuts or raisins are distributed amongst the players and a small amount is put into a kitty. Each player is asked to spin the dreidel, which falls on one of the 4 letters. If it falls on the נ, it means ‘no win and no loss’. If you are lucky to have the dreidel fall on ג, you take away everything from the kitty. If your dreidel falls on ה, you can take half of the kitty. For those whose dreidel falls on פ or ש, they lose everything! The game ends when someone has won all of the tokens in the kitty.
My tags, used to illustrate this blog post, show the four sided spinning top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. I have added a Dove of Peace, a Chanukah candle, some Jerusalem buildings and a Magen David (Star of David) as decoration.
My kids often made their own dreidels when they were at nursery school, though I can't say that they spun so well! When the real game of dreidel is played, a spinning top made of plastic or wood is normally used, though there are silver or glass 'designer' dreidels available and even a platinum and diamond dreidel, priced at $1,800, is up for grabs. Perhaps you shouldn't let your kids play with that particular one!
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13 comments:

katy said...

I love your tags! And thanks for a great explanation of Chanukah and its traditions.

Cheers from FarFlungCards

Susan ~ Killam Creative said...

Great explanation, Lisa. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Cheers,
Susan

Jenna Hansen said...

Wow...a platinum and diamond dreidel for $1800? Must be a beautiful piece to put in the china cabinet. :) Love your post.

Linda said...

I enjoyed reading the history of Chanukah. I really like your dreidel tags too.

Maria J Black said...

What a lovely game, the tags are beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

Linda B said...

Lisa,
The tags are terrific. And thanks for the story about Hanukkah.

artbycarolann said...

I love all the things you make. Your Chanukah tags are wonderful.

Terri said...

Love your tags! Great explanation of the holiday and how to play dreidel too.

Anastasia said...

love your tags and its great to hear the meaning behind the Jewish Holiday, i had no idea!

Fiona Designs said...

Wonderful post and I love your tags!

Adorebynat said...

Thanks for explaining about Chanukah. I now know a little bit about it :-)

The tags are cute!

Birdcage Cards said...

I looove the dreidel game and it was such a treat to learn more about it's history.

Thank you, thank you for sharing.
-Kate ♥

ij said...

Thanks for sharing. I got the quick rundown last year from my Jewish organization and we had a dreidel off. We all got so competitive! But it was fun hearing from those who were Jewish and not Jewish some of the memories they had surrounding Chanukah. It's always great to learn about other traditions :)

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