Here we have various colored plastic and wooden dreidels. Dreidel is Yiddish for “spinning top”. The Hebrew letters inscribed on a dreidel are Nun, Gimel, Hey or Chai, and Shin. The letters form an acronym for the Hebrew saying Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, which can be translated to “a great miracle happened there,” referring to the miracle which Hanukkah is centered around.
The custom of playing dreidel on Hanukkah is based on a legend that, during the time of the Maccabees, 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. To play dreidel, each player begins with an equal number of game pieces, which can be 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 gimel, the player gets the entire contents of the pot; hey, the player gets half of the pot; and shin, the player must put a game piece into the pot.