History of Hanukkah Dreidels
Dreidels (draydel, draidel, dreydle) are four-sided Chanukah spinning tops which is used to play a game with coins or "chocolate gelt". Dreidels have become a popular Chanukah symbol. Dreidels come in many colors and various sizes. Most all drediels have a Hebrew letter on each side. In Israel, the letters are Nun, Gimel, Heh, Peh, which stand for "Nes Gadol Hayah Poh" (A great miracle happened here). For use outside of Israel dreidels display the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Heh, Shin, meaning "A great miracle happened there".
The miracle in question refers to the Chanukah story, when the small Hashmonean army led by Matisyahu and his sons. Folklore has it, that the spinning top game of dreidels were a ploy for Jews who practiced their Judaism in secrecy and used the game to cover up from the hostile helenized gentiles.
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