Chanukah Gifts & Kids: Dreidel trivia that will make your head spinThursday, November 29, 2012 | by
The word dreidel is Yiddish, and comes from the German verb dreihen, meaning “to spin.” Dreidel literally means “little spinner.” The first dreidel players were Yiddish-speaking Jews in medieval Europe. In fact, playing with tops has been a popular pastime across western Europe since at least the 16th century.
As the dreidel became a symbol associated with Chanukah, many legends began to stem from it, like this one: When Antiochus decreed that Jewish law could no longer be studied in public, righteous Jews defied him and continued to teach Torah to their children. When they saw the king’s henchman coming, groups of students would quickly hide their books and bring out their dreidels, pretending that they had merely gathered for a bit of fun and gambling.
Dreidel-spinning has even become a competitive sport: The group Major League Dreidel hosts tournaments every year in New York City and crowns a champion for the longest-lasting continuous spin. — jns.org