Those of us who normally do not celebrate a holiday on December 25 was able to celebrate the lighting of the fifth Chanukah candle. For those who do not know the story of Chanukah: after the Maccabees drove the Greeks from Holy Land, the people went to clean up and rededicate the Second Temple in Jerusalem. When they went to light the menorah, they found a one-day supply of olive oil that was not contaminated. Knowing that it would take a week to manufacture more olive oil, the people lit the menorah for the dedication. That one-day supply of oil kept the menorah lit for eight days. Chanukah is the celebration of that miracle.
A tradition that came out this era was the play with the dreidle. A dreidle is a four-sided top with the Hebrew letters of the phrase (transliterated) &ldquot;nes gadol hayah sham” which means “a great miracle happened there.” In Israel, the last word is replaced with “po” meaning “here.” To play, players start with an ante and one person spins the dreidle. Depending on which letter the dreidle lands is what the spinner does. Using the order of the Hebrew phrase, the moves are (Nun) to give or get nothing, (Gimel) get everything in the pot, (Hey) get half of what is in the pot, and (Shin or Peh) means to pay into the pot. Yes, it’s a gambling game.
While anything can be used to play dreidle, it is traditional for parents to give children Chanukah gelt to play. Although we think of gelt as money, it can take any form of exchange. One of my favorite types of gelt is chocolate gelt. Little disks of chocolate that resembles the coin of the relm.
My wife indulged my passion for gelt by giving me chocolate gelt and a few gift cards. I had found other gold foil-covered disks that look like quarters and halves, but her choice of chocolate was better than mine. Now I have to go find someone to play dreidle—one can never have enough chocolate!
Regardless of what you celebrate, may you find happiness and peace in your celebration and a hope that 2009 is better than 2008!